QUESTION: “Find a vine with attractive fall color that attracts wildlife, grows in full sun, tolerates urban conditions and has a fast growth rate. Then describe how that vine grows upward – with twining stems, with thorns, with twining petioles, or with adhering holdfasts?”

OR: “I want to fertilize my lawn at a the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. I bought a 30# bag of fertilizer with an analysis of 20-0-10. How much nitrogen is in the bag and how big an area will the fertilizer cover at 1# per square feet? a. 20 lbs nitrogen, coverage 20,000 sq. ft; b. 10.5 lbs. nitrogen, coverage 10,500 sq. ft; c. 6 lbs. nitrogen, coverage 6000 sq. ft.; d. 1.5 lbs. nitrogen; coverage 1500 sq. ft.?

Yes. I know I haven’t posted for over a week. Eleven days and counting. And thank you for calling and emailing to see if I am okay. Actually I have barely left this desk in the interim – mainly to sleep and bathe. I have crumbs stuck in the keyboard. I have computer screen neck syndrome. I need a new bottle of Liquid Tears.

I am one fourth of the way through the Minnesota Master Gardener Core Course. And it has proven to be a challenge.

And by the way. Just for the record. I got the two sample questions wrong. The correct answers should be: with adhering holdfasts, and 6 lbs. nitrogen, coverage 6000 sq. ft. Who knew?

But then, I’ve also learned a lot so far. I know I will never buy another shrub or tree from a nursery without politely asking if I might tip it out of the pot to see if there are girdling roots lurking inside. In the past, having been confronted with the condition at home before planting, I have simply poked and loosened, thinking that would solve the problem, rather than hacking away at the outer one inch and removing any large girders.

I know now that I didn’t water my Malus florabunda ‘Red Barron’ (note the proper use of nomenclature with genus, species, and cultivar of the crabapple!) with the proscribed 1 ½ gallons each day for the first two weeks, and then every 2 to 3 days for the next two months. And I didn’t pull back the mulch I applied to a distance of 12 inches from the trunk! Consequently, I’ll be anxiously hovering over him in the spring.


And in the spring, I’ll also be busy gathering soil samples – 5 to 10 randomly selected trowels-full, from 6 to 12 inches deep, labeled and sent to the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory, 135 Crops Research Building, 1902 Dudley Ave., St. Paul MN 55108.  Just thinking of that sticky clay layer beneath the peonies I planted in the fall gives me the willies.

So that’s what I’ve been doing these days. Cramming more horticultural knowledge into my 70 plus brain than I could have imagined and worrying my way through quizzes while I quaver at what the Big Test might possibly contain.  And wondering what in the heck will I do for my 50 “payback” volunteer hours.

But yesterday I got my University of Minnesota Extension, Master Gardener Intern, West Ottertail County badge in the mail. We’re supposed to wear the badge whenever we “advise or mentor.” Wish me luck. I promise to stay in touch.


This entry was posted in education, favorite things, Gardening, Master Gardeners, minnesota life. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. M Edmonds says:

    Good Luck! I know you will do just fine. You are every bit as able as the other 3 over 70 master gardners that I personally know.

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