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Time to get that garden growing
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Forsyth County News

It’s almost planting time.

I have always loved plants, flowers and pretty much all things about a garden.

As a child, I begged my parents to plant a garden, but the most we ever grew were a few tomato plants my father had in a little area on the side of the house.

I tried to plant other things, but nothing ever grew. Of course, I knew nothing about prepping soil or what had a better chance of growing in our area.

I certainly knew nothing of zones or soil quality. Instead of a garden, I had many houseplants, something I still collect and treasure.

I couldn’t wait to have a garden when Paul and I married. Even though we didn’t know what we were doing, we planted a pretty big one for two novices.

We did have some success with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, although there were years when we didn’t have much to show for what felt like a big effort.

Raising children also throws a wrench into the extra time it takes to cultivate a successful garden, although herbs were always simple to grow and a pleasure to cook with.

The last few years, with our children no longer needing rides to soccer or basketball games, we have more time to spend in our backyard garden.

Every year, partly because we have learned from our past mistakes, our garden gets better. It helps to live in such a garden-lover community.

I was thrilled last summer when our friends, retired educators Linda and Dennis Whittle, invited us to take a tour of their garden.

All I can say is that I had a serious case of garden-envy. I love that their garden winds around. There are flowers mixed in with vegetables, raised beds and a multitude of various produce.

The water features are beautiful and I can only imagine how peaceful it must be to sit and listen to the water and feed the fish after a long day working in the garden.

Perhaps the best thing about how Dennis gardens is that he practices organic gardening. An encyclopedia of gardening knowledge, Dennis said even as a child growing up in New York City, he saw how things were grown.

“My grandparents were Irish immigrants, and they always grew potatoes, tomatoes, and rhubarb in pots or wherever they found a place,” he said.

Their green thumbs obviously rubbed off. I asked Dennis what the No. 1 mistake people make when it comes to gardening, and was a little surprised at his answer.

“People tend to over-water,” he said. “Try every-other-day watering. And I recommend using soaker hoses since then you don’t get water on the leaves which can cause fungus.”

Dennis also talked to me about the importance of using organic practices, of which I am a huge supporter.

“I have seen people buying sprays and powders that have so many toxic chemicals in them,” he said. “I have even said to people, ‘That stuff kills my butterflies and bees.”

Instead of opting for things that have been proven to harm our environment, Dennis suggests natural ingredients and alternative methods.

“I always recommend you look for a simple solution first,” he said. “If you notice aphids on a plant, just use your hose to spray them off with water.”

There are also natural solutions, such as whirling up garlic cloves with water in a blender and then putting the mixture in a spray bottle.

Dennis also said that chrysanthemums have an ingredient in them that naturally repels insects, so it’s possible to make a “tea” with them and spray plants with it.

Now all of us can benefit from Dennis’ knowledge, as well as that of all of the Master Gardeners who live in our community.

This coming Friday and Saturday is the annual Forsyth County Master Gardener Plant Sale at the Cumming Fairgrounds.

Besides a lot of plants and other gardening goodies that will be for sale, there will also be knowledgeable speakers sure to help us get more out of our gardens and gardening experience.

Wondering why it is advantageous to buy plants from this sale versus a big superstore? Just remember that these are plants indigenous to our climate and zone. No tomato plants trucked in from California.

Also, visitors can ask questions of true plant experts. In addition, there will be several speakers who promise to enhance gardening knowledge.

Dennis will be speaking about organic gardening at 11 a.m. both days. Other speakers will talk about composting, growing herbs and using them in cooking, and secrets to great landscaping.

Dennis said there will definitely be time for questions and answers, so come ready to learn to have the best garden ever.

One more thing, all of the proceeds that the Master Gardeners raise go toward sponsoring public gardens at our local libraries, as well as other places in the community.

Please support this amazing group of people. Thanks to Linda and Dennis for being such an inspiration to us and so many others.


Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at