Gardening with Micki: When gardening, you need facts

One of the most unusual Christmas presents I received was a manuscript by a budding author who asked me to read it and critique the manuscript about gardening. It wasn't a "how to" book like most of those nesting on my garden care bookshelf. It was really a novel — a novella — about a woman who loved gardening.

Although I didn't ask, I think it was truly a novice writer's autobiography. The lead character seemed quite similar to the "wannabe" author who asked me to read her story. I didn't mind the task. After all, I spent most of the holiday season in a hospital or at home, nursing wounds from a fall in my home. You've seen the television commercial — "Help. I've fallen and I can't get up." That was me several weeks into the holiday season.

I often critique new writers' work. Having taught writing classes at three universities in Oklahoma and Colorado, I didn't mind surveying a new writer's work. Reading is, after all, good medicine. The time at home, with no deadlines, also gave me an opportunity to survey my art collection, mostly all garden related. The signature piece of art was a surprise gift from a long-time artist friend now living and painting the Arizona landscape. That painting is a Santa Fe scene with a stucco house in the background and three pots of red geraniums in the foreground.

The budding writer's advice on gardening just didn't ring true to me. Having grown up on East Side Boulevard with a grandmother who could not read but loved to garden, I learned early on to define the difference between facts and fantasy, especially when it pertains to gardening.

So, these are true facts you might want to remember if you want to insure a healthy spring and summer garden. By the way, from my kitchen window I saw a clump of daffodil stems peeking up from the ground. So, I know the dainty crocus will also soon be emerging in the back garden under the cherry laurel tree.

Tips for spring garden care:

• Keep your plants moist to preserve winter's mulch.

• Add organic matter to your soil.

• Have an irrigation system in place.

• Mow your lawn at a high setting. The taller grass will shade your turf.

These are all great garden tips from Jeff Bradenbert, author of "How to Cheat at Gardening and Yard Work."

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