Sow There! Get your garden groove on before the weather stays warm May 4, 2017

Steve, the super-stud and his 6-hp lawn mower.
Steve, the super-stud and his 6-hp lawn mower. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

I can be incredibly ungrateful. Sunday was my birthday and frankly I wasn’t feeling it. My Dad had decided I should celebrate my birthday for the entire month of April. Every day for a week before the “big day,” he called to sing happy birthday to my answering machine. Sometimes I would stand in the living room and listen to him croon without picking up the phone.

I wouldn’t say I was dreading my birthday, I just wasn’t looking forward to it. My Dad and his lovely wife Lynda would have none of that. They insisted on squeezing in a quick visit to Chico.

Dad and I have a long-standing joke that if he ever rolls into town on short notice, he shouldn’t expect me to clean my house. I’ll gladly run an electrical cord out to his van and he can use the bathroom at a nearby coffee shop.

On this visit, the birthday-wishers stayed in a hotel.

Mom and her beau pulled the same trick, insisting on breaking through my cone of moodiness. I’m really lucky my folks are so pushy. Who knows, I might have spent the entire weekend bingeing on ice cream and listening to Adele songs on Pandora.

Mom wins the pushy parent contest this year. When she saw that my yard was so overgrown it could qualify as an urban wildlife sanctuary, she returned a few days later with her boyfriend and a lawn mower.

“But I have a big project in school due that day,” I protested. “Could you bring the lawn mower in mid May?”

“You don’t even need to answer the door,” Mom persevered. “If we don’t come soon, the weeds will be too high for Steve’s (6-horsepower) lawn mower.”

The kindness had the impact my folks had hoped. I realized my parents rate among the best I could hope for, and certainly better than I deserve. The best birthday present is to know you are loved.

More gardening to come

Consider yourself warned. Those higher-than-average temps that hit this week were a hot reminder to get your garden groove on. Saturday and Sunday should be the perfect weather for inviting friends over for a barbecue or planting the remainder of the vegetables you plan to grow this summer. If you’re smart, you’ll also install drip irrigation that can be operated by remote control from your pleasant perch in front of the air conditioner.

Sunset’s Northern California garden check list,, says the time is now for planting seeds of cucumber, eggplant melon and squash directly in the soil. If this week is any indication, it should be a long, hot, and possibly fruitful summer.

Most folks in Chico plant their tomatoes as soon as they feel a tingle of a warm breeze. If you’re behind the trend, get those beauties in the ground.

Recently, I was cleaning my desk at work and came across some hand-written notes by the late tomato expert Mike Morgenroth. Mike was the guy who sold the little yellow envelopes of tomato seeds at the Saturday Farmers market. Back in 2012 he invited me to his growing grounds for a tomato pep talk. (The article is still online here:

Among Mike’s sage suggestions was to avoid drowning tomatoes. Instead, water with a drip system about once a week, and only when the surface of the soil is dry.

He also added gypsum and compost to just about anything he grew. Gypsum is calcium sulfate dihydrate. Most soil in Chico is low in calcium, he advised about two years before he died. Lack of calcium can lead to the dreaded blossom end-rot. His wisdom on compost was to add compost to anything you plant. He said about 10 percent additional compost (10 percent of the soil in a raised bed, for example), should do the trick if applied every year.


There’s plenty to do this weekend – Richardson Spring open house, Endangered Species Faire, working in your yard and the Pioneer Day Parade in downtown Chico, to name just a few. I also got a call about the Friendly Garden Club’s plant and bake sale at the Orland Fairgrounds Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Karen said shoppers should also bring their questions. Club members will be ready to share their know-how.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.