Gardening Matters

As I write this column, it is the middle of January and it is 72 degrees. It has been in this temperature range most of the time since Christmas. As my sainted Grandmother Gallagher might have said, “That just ain’t fittin’!”

This weather has brought about the absolutely earliest I have ever seen spring flowers bloom in all my Medicare-eligible years.

I took a picture of a little white narcissus blooming in my driveway garden on Dec. 24. I thought it was a fluke occurrence, some genetically misfiring bulb that just couldn’t wait to bust forth. But I have continued to see blooms in all sorts of our neighborhood nooks and crannies. This past week I was in downtown Atlanta, near Georgia State University, and found this little hillside just awash with daffodils.

The other day I read that moose, especially first year moose, in Yellowstone National Park were being killed by apparently horrendous swarms of ticks. The problem was significant enough to threaten, per the story, the future of the moose herds in Yellowstone. The warmer weather in that part of the country has prevented the usual winter kill-off of the tick population. Besides the possible tragedy of losing all those moose, I will have to say that being bled to death by ticks seems to me like a terrible way to go. No one, moose nor man, should have to die like that.

Over the past seven years, I have tried my best to avoid taking a public stand on the matter of climate change and the warming trend that has been creeping up upon us all.

I want to use this column to encourage people to get out and enjoy gardening, whether it be a large-scale organic vegetable plot to feed the family or a simple couple of pots on the stoop to pretty-up the front door.

Thus, I have avoided taking a stand on these more contentious issues such as climate change. But it has gotten to the point that I just feel a bit ashamed for remaining silent on such a crucial and obvious situation.

Our Defense Department is busy developing contingency plans to deal with rising sea levels that will flood army and navy facilities near our shores and cripple their operations.

Governments worldwide and at all levels are trying to develop plans and find the money to address the problems of flooding, crop failure, ocean warming, severe drought, increased numbers of tornados and more powerful hurricanes that have been developing in recent decades. I could go on with all sorts of dire warnings, but I am not trying to be an alarmist. This is serious stuff that we all need to be aware of and to urge our leaders at all levels to help address the problems. ‘Nuff said for now.

Meanwhile it is seed catalogue time. Yay! I love getting seed catalogues, especially the kind that include gardening education as part of their sales approach. I’ll read about seeds that I have no intention of buying, let alone planting, if they have some short bit of garden lore, planting advise or cultivation tips. It’s amazing what you can learn that just might apply to your bean patch or herb garden. I first learned about compost tea from just such a little newsy item is some long forgotten catalogue.

Winter is not over and let us not take this recent spate of warm weather as a signal to go out and do our spring planting. We still must wait for the usual times to plant our seeds or seedlings. Meanwhile curl up with a catalogue or two and try to endure the coming February.

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for more than 35 years and has probably killed at least one of each kind of plant he has tried before getting another one to thrive. He is a gardening volunteer at the Dunwoody Nature Center and works closely with members of the DeKalb Master Gardeners group. He can be reached at

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