I was walking in the park one day earlier this week when I saw a woman cutting across the grass, this way and that, no rhyme or reason that I could tell other than she was avoiding the sidewalk, and she reminded me of me.
A rheumatologist once told me that our bones and joints were not made to walk on concrete. The wear and tear shows up in creaky knees as we age. If you take to the good old terra firma or a sandy beach, you avoid not only the pounding that the hard surface inflicts, you get a better workout.
So I go off-road occasionally, albeit feeling guilty, growing up with the idea of Don't Walk on the Grass and all. Seeing someone else this particular day walking off the path reinforced me, and the next sunny day that came along, I walked wherever the sun was, along the outer edges of tree shadows, taking as many hills as I could, because we don't have many here in Wichita Flats.
And I paid attention to the grass. There was lots of short brown grass, of course, but also some light green grass. There was grass that hadn't been mowed short enough, conjuring visions of snow mold. Fortunately, we haven't had the long-lasting snow cover that northern Kansas has endured this winter. Megan Kennelly, an assistant professor at K-State, said she'd noticed snow mold on campus and gave this refresher:
Never miss a local story.
The grayish mold occurs where tall grass gets matted down in snow for a long period of time. The antidote is to rake through it to get it to dry out. The turf will recover eventually.
Kennelly gave this advice to prevent snow mold: Next fall, in your last mowing, be sure to mow to a height where the grass can't mat, about 3 inches for fescue. And don't fertilize too late in the fall, which causes the grass to be overly lush going into winter. Don't let leaves pile up on turf either.
On my sunny walk I also saw some tufts of wiry weeds, and some tender green whorls of weed shoots, close to the ground, reminding me that if daffodils and hostas were already making the scene, weeds were, too. They basked in the 50s and — along with us — didn't see another Arctic blast and snow coming.
No, they didn't see it coming. "I'm ready for spring," people have been saying the last couple of weeks, like it wasn't still January. I have a feeling that, while all of us will enjoy a warm day wherever we can get it, we're not quite ready for spring. Or weeding or mowing, anyway. We should be planning, though:
* An idea from the Square Foot Gardening Guy: Plant your vegetable garden so you can see it right outside your kitchen window. Not out your kitchen window in the very back of the yard, but right outside it. This way you can watch it grow and notice any problems, he said. And I would add: Be inspired to go out and pick something while you're cooking.
* I saw the annual ad for blueberries in the coupons section of The Eagle last Sunday, and it made me think of blueberry questions I fielded last year, and about two readers in particular who told me about their blueberry experiences.
"I have had seven blueberry bushes for at least 10 years and harvest a big crop of them every year," Betty Terbush reported. "They do have to be sheltered from the hot south wind, but are mostly very easy to grow. We did build a cage around them so we could enjoy the harvest more than the birds did, but that was the biggest problem we've had."
And Zach Kowalski did some research and ordered nine bushes from Waters Blueberry Farm outside Kansas City last spring. He reported back to me in August:
"I put about half of the plants in an area that gets full sun all day, and I wasn't diligent with the extra watering needed, so I've had some browning of the leaves and some dieback on some of the branches. My other plants received a little shade, had a soaker hose wrapped around them, and look awesome. I was able to get a few cups of berries off of them this year and have hopes for greater success next year. I definitely think having a soaker hose on a timer is the way to go here when the days get hot and dry."
* New York gardener Margaret Roach of awaytogarden.com recommends sowing spinach seeds any time now that you can get out and scratch at some earth. You also can dormant-seed grass anytime this winter.
* You don't have to fool with seeds to have a vegetable garden. I used to start seeds under lights in the house, but I don't anymore. I do sow seeds directly outside in the ground or in pots if they are the type that come up quickly. Tomatoes are not of this type. That's OK, because garden centers carry so many tomato varieties anymore that I would have to have a really strong reason to try a certain variety that could only be obtained from seed.
But if you'd like to grow some really cool varieties that might not be available in already started plants, know that you won't have to start worrying about it until late February at the earliest, more likely mid-March. I'll be writing more about that.
* I'm seeing more and more small-garden, container-vegetable collections in seed catalogs. Some key words in the varieties' names: bush, baby, miniature, pot, container.
* I wrote about houseplant care last week but failed to mention fertilizer. I asked Alan Stevens of K-State for his recommendations, and here's what he said:
"I think all houseplant fertilizers are pretty much the same. I would recommend the use of a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 2-1-1 or something close to that. Apply it once or twice a month from March through October, and no fertilizer through the darker winter months. Slow-release fertilizers work well and are ideal for those who wish to simplify life. It needs to be distributed evenly across the soil surface."
* Tell me if this doesn't sound good: A beginning beekeeping class will be part of the spring meeting of the Kansas Honey Producers' Association on March 5 and 6 in Hays. The sessions will treat basic beekeeping and more advanced topics. The cost is $30 per person or $50 per couple by Feb. 26, $10 more after that date. Children under 18 get in free.
For more information, contact Robert Burns at 913-831-6096 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope the sun comes out today. Now, if I can just remember not to walk on the frozen turf...