Posts tagged shrubs

In search of grubs, and how to treat crabgrass and arborvitae

Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, wrote the following about three of the most frequently asked questions to the Linn County Master Gardener Horticulture Hotline. The HortLine is available to answer questions from 9 am.. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday  and  9 a.m. to noon on Fridays at (319)447-0647.

 

    One of the commonly asked questions in the spring concerns when to apply pre-emergent crabgrass killer.  Master Gardener Susan Long has this response:  Typically, the blooming of the forsythia or the redbud is a good indicator of when to apply pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide.  Pre-emergents must be applied before the crabgrass germinates. Ground temperatures must be a minimum of 50 degrees. If the material is applied too early, crabgrass seeds that germinate late in the season will not be controlled.  If applied too late, some crabgrass will have already germinated.  In central Iowa, this is usually mid-April to May 1.  However, if the weather warms up early or stays cool longer, then adjustments must be made based on the conditions.  Having a thick, healthy lawn that is fertilized, watered and mowed certainly discourages the growth of crabgrass. 

    Susan also answered a question about arborvitae having brown leaves due to winter burn and whether it will recover and/or should be pruned:  Avoid pruning browned, burned areas from evergreen trees and shrubs in the early spring since these branches may still have viable buds that will produce new foliage when growth resumes.  The brown will eventually fall off.  If the buds did not survive, then prune dead branches back to living tissue.  The affected trees and shrubs should look much better by late June or July.  There is no need to fertilize affected evergreens.  However, if the weather this spring is dry, periodically water evergreens to encourage new growth and speed their recovery.

    Another caller wondered what causes a lawn to be torn up at night.  Lawns that have grubs attract raccoons, skunks, and crows which turn over large patches of turf in search of the grubs.  The best time to treat is early in the summer when insecticides have the best changes of working.  The entire lawn may not need to be treated, rather treat grub “hot spots” determined by observation or sampling.  Presently trichlorfor (Dylox or Bayer 24-Hour Grub Control) and Sevin are the fastest-acting, most effective homeowner insecticides for curative grub control.  These must be watered in completely after application.  In many cases it may be preferable to repair the damage through seeding or sodding without treating.  If the old, loose sod is still green it may reattach with adequate watering.

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Spring pruning tips

Richard Jauron, extension horticulturist at Iowa State University, offers the following on spring pruning of berries and other small fruits:

Small fruits that are commonly grown in home gardens include raspberries, grapes, gooseberries, currants and blueberries. For maximum production, small fruit crops need to be pruned in late winter/early spring (March/early April). Proper pruning procedures for raspberries, grapes, gooseberries, currants and blueberries are outlined below.

Raspberries
The pruning procedures for raspberries are based on the growth and fruiting characteristics of the plants.

Summer-Bearing Red Raspberries
Remove all weak, diseased and damaged canes at ground level in March or early April. Leave the most vigorous canes, those approximately 1/4 inch in diameter when measured 30 inches from the ground. After thinning, remaining canes should be spaced about 6 inches apart.

Also, prune out the tips of the canes that have died due to winter injury. Cut back to live tissue. If the canes sustained little winter dieback, remove the top 1/4 of the canes. Cane-tip removal or “heading-back” prevents the canes from becoming top heavy and bending over under the weight of the crop.

Red raspberries sucker profusely from their roots. Plants should be maintained in a one- to two-foot-wide hedgerow using a rototiller or spade. Remove or destroy those shoots that emerge outside the one- to two-foot-wide hedgerow.

Fall-Bearing Red Raspberries (Two Crop System)
Follow the same pruning procedures as described for the summer-bearing red raspberries. This pruning option provides both a summer and fall crop.

Fall-Bearing Red Raspberries (One Crop System)
Prune all canes back to ground level in March or early April. While the plants won’t produce a summer crop, the late summer/early fall crop should mature one to two weeks earlier. Also, total crop yield is typically larger using the one-crop system versus the two-crop system.

Maintain the plants in a one- to two-foot-wide hedgerow.

Black and Purple Raspberries
Remove the small, weak canes, leaving only four or five of the largest, most vigorous canes per clump or plant. Cut back the lateral (side) branches to 12 inches in length for black raspberries and 18 inches for purple raspberries.

Grapes
Grapevines produce fruit clusters on the previous season’s growth. Before pruning, a grapevine may have 200 to 300 buds capable of producing fruit. If the vine is not pruned, the number of grape clusters would be excessive and the grapevine would be unable to ripen the large crop or produce adequate vegetative growth.

To maximize crop yields, grapevines are trained to a specific system. The most common training system used by home gardeners is the four-cane Kniffin system. The four-cane Kniffin system is popular because of its simplicity. In the four-cane Kniffin system, the canes of the grapevine grow on two wires, one located three feet above the ground and the second six feet high.

If using the four-cane Kniffin system, select four canes on the upper wire, two going in each direction. Also, select four canes on the lower wire. To aid identification, some gardeners tie brightly colored ribbons or strips of cloth on those canes they wish to retain. All remaining one-year-old canes should be completely removed.

Going back to the upper wire, select two of the remaining four canes (one going in each direction). Prune these canes back to one or two buds. These short one or two bud canes are referred to as renewal spurs. The renewal spurs provide the shoots or canes that will produce next year’s crop. Prune the remaining two canes on the upper wire back to eight to 13 buds. The number of buds left on the fruiting canes is determined by plant vigor. If the grapevine is vigorous, leave 13 buds per cane. Leave only eight buds per cane if the grapevine possesses poor vigor.

Prune the four canes on the lower wire the same as those on the upper wire. When pruning is complete, no more than 60 buds should remain on the grapevine. When counting the number of buds on the grapevine, include both the buds on the fruiting canes and those on the renewal spurs.

Gooseberries and Currants
Gooseberries and currants produce the majority of their fruit on 2- and 3-year-old shoots. Shoots that are 4 years old and older produce very little fruit. After the first growing season, remove all but six to eight vigorous, healthy shoots. The following year, leave four or five 1-year-old shoots and three or four 2-year-old canes. After the third growing season, keep three or four shoots each of 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old growth. A properly pruned, established plant should consist of nine to 12 shoots. Pruning of mature plants consists of pruning out all 4-year-old shoots and thinning out some of the new growth.

Blueberries
Blueberry plants are shrubs like currants and gooseberries. Blueberry yields and fruit quality decline when blueberry shoots (stems) reach 5 years of age. In late winter/early spring, prune out any dead or diseased stems. Also, prune out stems that are 5 years old and older. Allow one to two new shoots to develop each year.

The pruning of small fruits really isn’t difficult. It requires a basic understanding of plant growth and pruning techniques, proper pruning equipment and (sometimes) a little bit of courage.

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WMT Lawn, Garden & Home Show and “daylily delights”

Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, offered the following on upcoming events this week (March 2009) –  the WMT Lawn, Garden and Home show and a presentation on daylilies:

 

     Not your humdrum educational series, here are four exciting gardening presentations available in mid-March.  The timing is perfect as now is the time to get motivated for outside endeavors.

     Daylily Delights is the title of Zora Ronan, Linn County Master Gardener and daylily grower extraordinaire’s presentation on the art of selecting and growing daylilies on Wednesday, March 11th from 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the Linn County Extension Office Conference Room, Suite 140, 3279 7th Ave., Marion.  Zora will first focus on criteria for judging or picking the perfect Daylilies.  The second part of her lecture will be devoted to All the Pretty Faces-Forms and Colors.  Zora has an extensive daylily garden at her home and plans to have a garden walk in mid-July.  This class is FREE and open to the public.  Registration is requested.  Call the Extension Office at 319-377-9839.

      Linn County Master Gardeners will be staffing a booth Saturday and Sunday, March 14th and 15th at the 2009 WMT and Mix 96.5 Lawn, Garden and Home Show at Hawkeye Downs, Cedar Rapids.  Horticulture information, composting advice and ISU publications will be available.  Additionally, Master Gardeners will offer the following three lectures:

·          New and Unusual Annuals and Perennials for 2009 is presenter Deb Walser’s lecture about adding spice to your gardens.  Annual and perennial gardens are not just Geraniums, Daylilies and Hosta.  Mix it up by adding unusual annuals and perennials in the same bed.  Deb will introduce some of the most unusual annuals and perennials that will be in the nurseries near you this year.  You will be surprised by some of the same, but in a new way.    Come and get new ideas for this spring and add some spunk to your garden on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

·         At 2:30 on Saturday, Becki Lynch will let you know why Ornamental Grasses have become the hot plant in the past five years. Becki will provide design tips to place these four season interest plants on your property, from large to small and sun to shade.

·         Gene Frye will discuss selecting trees and shrubs for Iowa.  He will discuss the why, when and how to maintain woody plants and recommend tools to use on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. 

 

 

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Home and Garden Show and much, much more

The following is from Claire Smith, Linn County Master Gardener:

 

The 2009 Winter Gardening Fair – what an event!  The new Kirkwood Center for Continuing Education is a phenomenal building—one floor, great traffic patterns and lots of light.  A two-track program offered something of interest to everyone with the slightest interest in all things flora.  High energy keynote speaker Janet Macunovich used her photographer husband, Steve Nikkila’s talents to the max to delight all with “Continuous Color in the Landscape”.  

Bummed that you didn’t attend?  Let us share with you multiple other educational opportunities.  Linn County Master Gardeners will be presenting several FREE educational opportunities at the Hiawatha Public Library.  Classes include Pruning Trees and Shrubs, February 18th; Houseplants, February 25th; Starting Garden Transplants, April 1st; Garden Lighting, April 8th; Revitalizing Your Garden, April 15th; Container Gardens, April 22nd; and Lawns Green with Envy April 29.  All classes commence at 6:00 p.m. 

The WMT Garden and Home Show is March 14th & 15th at Hawkeye Downs.  Master Gardeners will be available throughout the show to answer questions and offer suggestions. 

Another highlight is the Creative Gardening Series.  The evening programs are FREE sponsored by the Master Gardeners.  Dates are March 31st, April 7th and 14th.    A hands-on program on April 18th, with different options available is offered, also.  The hands on classes will have a fee.   Additional information will be available on this blog soon.

  Several hundred plants will be for sale at our annual Plant Sale on May 16th at the Linn County Extension Office, 3279 7th Ave. in Marion.  These are plants from Master Gardeners’ personal gardens.

Master Gardeners will be available to offer information about growing conditions and locations.

Mark your calendar for the Master Gardener’s Garden Walk on June 13th.  This is a wonderful opportunity to visit five gardens, each unique in its own right. You’re encouraged to ask lots and lots of questions and glean ideas from each flower bed, pond, and landscape.

Linn County Master Gardeners provide a cooperative venture with the Linn County Fair from July 8th-13th.  On August 22nd, Master Gardeners will participate in the Garden and Art Show at Brucemore.  

Feel free to call the Horticulture Hort Line at 319-447-0647 for additional information on any of these opportunities.  And call the Horticulture Hort Line to hear research based answers to any plant questions you have.

 

 

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Flood advice

Landscape designer and author Janet Macunovich, who will be keynote speaker at the upcoming Winter Gardening Fair at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, wrote this advice in 2005 after she and her husband, garden photographer Steve Nikkila,  experienced flooding at their home in Michigan.  Janet passed this along as advice for Iowans who were flooded last year.  She writes: “Although it’s been a year since Cedar Rapids’ devastating flood, I am sure what’s in it is still applicable, as gardens can’t be the first thing we think about after such a disaster, and they take time.”


Special to those with flooded gardens.
I’m thinking this week about gardeners in the path of Hurricane Katrina who were fortunate enough to be spared flooding within their homes, or who cleaned up from minimal interior damage only to find that their yards were not similarly spared.

Three times in the last five years, my own yard has been under 18 inches to several feet of water that poured in from uphill areas when over-taxed storm drains failed. Luck the first time, and then fast sandbagging during subsequent floods, kept the water in our slab home to under a foot. Yet all the relief I felt after removing the interior mud disappeared when I realized how much debris, piled soil, displaced mulch and gullies had been deposited, plowed and cut by the force of so much water moving through my garden.

So my heart goes out to you who are recovering from flood or trying to help one of those gardeners reclaim their beds. I hope when you conquer the despair and the anger and start the reclamation that some of the following notes may make your work easier.

Use the triage approach of doctors working in disaster situations. Spend the time you have on the most important and permanent plants in your yard, even if it means losing some others. Rinse off evergreens so their needles and leaves can return to full photosynthetic power. Then they can produce enough energy to make internal repairs or grow roots to replace those lost to drowning. Pull soil away from the trunks of trees and shrubs. Banked soil traps moisture against the bark and can incite rot the plant will be unable to repair. Cut back water-battered shrubs, even if this means removing major limbs. Chances are such a plant will grow back much more quickly than you imagine but even if it revives slowly it will be at a better pace and to a better end than if you left it alone. That’s because a few clean cuts take less energy to seal over than dozens or hundreds of breaks.

If a large tree has shifted and is leaning, do not try to brace or straighten it. Call in an arborist and be prepared to hear you have to remove it. Submerged soil floats, removing the weight that was anchoring the tree’s surprisingly shallow pan of roots. Many trees topple in a hurricane not from wind but when water renders weightless the anchor that was counterbalancing the tree’s top. A tree that doesn’t fall but only leans may remain in that position once the water departs but it will never be as stable as it once was, and may be a serious hazard in the next storm. Nothing you can do to the trunk will change that.

Don’t scoop up and reuse mulch that floated and piled up wherever the water slowed in its path. That mulch is no longer an asset in weed control but a liability, since it is full of weed seeds that came with the water. Instead, gather and pile that mulch high enough (three feet or more) to make a hot compost. The heat of active composting will kill weed seeds.

Right now and for the next couple of seasons, be extra vigilant about applying and maintaining a mulch layer. Mulch over the mulch you already have, even if you would have waited until next spring to renew it. If you normally go without mulch during the growing season, it will be better to make a temporary change. Over years, your attention to your garden had reduced the number of weed seeds in the top layer of the soil, so weeding had become less of a chore. The flooded garden, however, has been loaded with seeds from other places. Some may be weed species brand new to your experience. Be ready for them — suppress them before they can start.

Don’t hesitate – cut down all herbaceous plants that were battered. It will simplify removing debris and shifting flood-piled soil. The cutback is unlikely to kill them when it comes this late in the season.

Before you start digging and raking, determine just how much soil was deposited over your perennials. Most can emerge successfully through about an inch of extra soil. Bulb plants can manage even when buried 3 or 4 inches deeper than before. Where a heavier layer of soil covered an area, consider keeping it as a raised bed. Dig up a few perennials, divide them and replant the area with those starts at the new level.

Resist the urge to use collected debris to fill gullies that were gouged by fast moving water. Where the water moved fast enough to scour and cut this time, it will move quickly if it comes again. Such areas need to be filled and tamped down using uniform, dense material such as sand and gravel that will make a smooth, heavy, low-friction surface. Water will slide past. In contrast, junk makes a loose fill that presents a myriad of edges to rushing water. That water will pluck things loose, quickly making depressions that will then become a new wash-out.

Include damage to paved surfaces in your damage report to FEMA. You may find some help in resurfacing not just the driveway, but walks or patios that crumbled and washed away when their bases flushed away.

Expect your reclamation to take years. Higher expectations can sap your soul. Accept that some things will die or need replacement, even though they survived the flood itself. Try to think in terms of opportunity to try new things, rather than dwelling on the losses.

Give yourself a view that will fuel your heart rather than your depression. Start your clean-up in an area close to your window or door, even if this makes no logistical sense. A sitting area is ideal. Bring that space back up to your old standard, even if that means letting chaos reign elsewhere a little longer. Each time you see that spot or sit with some comfort in it, you’ll feel better, and be better able to keep moving outward from that refuge.

 

Janet publishes a free weekly gardening newsletter based on questions people ask. She offered to answer anyone from this area who might want to know more after reading her flooded-garden advice.
You can reach Janet by email at:
JMaxGarden@aol.com

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Winter Gardening – part II

The following is Part II of information on the Winter Gardening Fair 2009 by Linn County Master Gardener, Becki Lynch:

 

One week closer to the Fair!  I want to highlight some of the topics and speakers we are offering this year. 

 

First, we have numerous repeats of seminars about those beautiful perennials and other plants and trees that some could not get into last year – Daylilies, Lawns, Garden Lighting, Hillside Gardening, Pruning Trees and Shrubs, Ornamental Grasses, Using Herbs, Composting, and Prairie Gardens are just a few.

 

Second, we’ve added additional seminars specifically about Vegetable Gardening, a topic people requested last year in our evaluations.  Vegetable Gardening Problems and Solutions, Tomatoes, Peppers, and Salsa, Food Preservation, and The Kitchen Garden are all available.

 

Third, we’ve added a variety of new seminars that range from Bee Keeping, Tree Identification, Rain Gardens, House Plants, Tropical Plants, and Ponds, Gardening with Kids, to Everlastings – to name a few – Whew!

 

And finally, we have hands-on seminars that allow you to learn and participate directly in making garden related items:   The Garden Journal, Plant Propagation, Creating Nosegays, Terra Cotta Fountains, and Toad Houses are all examples.

 

And that’s not all – I urge all of you to go to www.extension.iastate.edu/linn to look at all the offerings available.   Simply click on Winter Gardening Fair on that page to see the full program, and instructions on how to register.

 

Overall, we have a selection of over 45 individual seminars, something for everyone!  The Fair will be held on February 7, 2009, with a back-up date of February 21, just in case of bad weather.  Hope to see you there!

 

Linn County Master Gardener, Becki Lynch.

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Attracting birds and other wintertime tips

The following Q&A is from Iowa State University Extension’s garden experts:

I recently purchased a Norfolk Island pine.  How do I care for it? 

 

The Norfolk Island pine is a popular houseplant. During the holiday season, many individuals turn their plants into living Christmas trees by decorating them with miniature lights, ribbons and ornaments. The Norfolk Island pine thrives indoors when given good, consistent care. Place the Norfolk Island pine in a brightly lit location near an east, west or south window. Rotate the plant weekly to prevent the plant from growing toward the light and becoming lopsided. 

 

Thoroughly water the Norfolk Island pine when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch. Discard the excess water, which drains out the bottom of the pot. From spring to early fall, fertilize the plant with a dilute fertilizer solution every 2 to 4 weeks. A temperature of 55 to 70  degrees F is suitable for the Norfolk Island pine. Winter is often a difficult time because of low relative humidity levels in most homes. Raise the humidity level around the Norfolk Island pine with a humidifier or place the plant on a pebble tray. Low relative humidity levels, insufficient light, or infrequent watering may induce browning of branch tips and lead to the loss of the lower branches. 

 

Which trees and shrubs provide food for birds during the winter months? 

 

When attempting to attract birds to the landscape, trees and shrubs that provide food during the winter months are extremely important as natural foods are most limited at this time of year. Trees that provide food for birds in winter include hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), hawthorn (Crataegus species), eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and crabapple (Malus species). Shrubs that provide food for birds include red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), sumac (Rhus species), roses (native species and Rosa rugosa), snowberry (Symphoricarpos species), nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) and American cranberrybush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum). 

 

Can I dispose of my wood ashes in the garden? 

 

Wood ashes contain small amounts of several plant nutrients. The nutrient content of wood ashes depends on the type of wood burned, the thoroughness of its burning, and other factors.  Generally, wood ashes contain 5 to 7 percent potash, 1 percent phosphate, and small amounts of other elements. However, the largest component of wood ashes is calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is a liming material. Liming materials raise the soil pH. 

 

The soil pH is important because it affects the availability of essential nutrients. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14. Any pH below 7.0 is acidic and any pH above 7.0 is alkaline. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. Most vegetables and perennials grow best in slightly acidic soils with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Plants may not perform as well in soils with a pH above 7.0 because of the reduced availability of some essential nutrients. 

 

Avoid applying wood ashes to garden areas with a pH above 7.0. Applying wood ashes to alkaline soils may raise the soil pH and reduce the availability of some plant nutrients. An application of 10 to 20 pounds of wood ashes per 1,000 square feet should be safe if the soil pH is below 7.0. If the soil pH in your garden is unknown, conduct a soil test to determine the pH of your soil before applying wood ashes to flower or vegetable gardens. 

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Assessing the beds

The following is by Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

 

Euoooooooo!  I sure don’t like little four legged critters running unexpectedly across my feet!   Now I ‘m not afraid of little four legged critters.   I just don’t like them not giving me any warning.

               A chipmunk apparently had plans to create a winter habitat in a pile of leaves under my peony bushes.  The little fellow and I had to come to an agreement that he and I are not sharing that space at the same time.   I’m raking the leaves out of the way to eliminate the unwanted habitat and potential damage to flowers and shrubs in the bed.  Removing diseased leaves and branches at the same time will help reduce diseases next season. 

My peonies are going to stay all together this year.   They seem to be doing fine.  I am going to move the Iris though.  They’re located in a rather out of the way bed and will be much too beautiful in the spring to not be enjoyed.  Iris can be dug and divided right now and do not need to be planted deeply in the soil but do need to be kept moist after transplanting. 

But then the decision must come, where do  I transplant them.  Now is a perfect time to pour a cup of coffee, wander through the gardens and assess the beds. Examine each bed from several angles.   Be critical. Keeping a seasonal pictorial journal using a digital camera is such a great idea.  Pictures don’t lie:  do you need more height, more color, more  diversity?  Several Master Gardeners routinely keep a garden log.  Now, you may not want to be as involved in your gardens as a Master Gardener, but even placing some markers next to your plants and keeping your purchasing receipts provides a record of what you bought when and from whom in case the plant(s) is performing fantastically or not so much and you want to add or eliminate that species. 

Trees and shrubs can be transplanted now, too.  If a “honey do” on your list involves moving a large tree or shrub, a word of advice is to telephone One Call and determine where your underground utility lines are located.  Safety first is always a great motto.
Did you know that weeds often set their seeds in the fall for the coming year?  Continue weeding until Jack Frost arrives and plan next spring to plant a ground cover where weeds now reside. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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Becoming a master at gardening

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener Coordinator Bev Lillie:

 

  Attention Linn County Gardeners – Iowa State Extension offers classes that will enhance your gardening skills and knowledge.  Classes start Sept. 11 for those interested in becoming a Linn County Master Gardener.

   Classes will be completed by the first week in November. During this time you will receive 40 hours of education including: Botany/Soils, Vegetables, Landscape Trees and Shrubs and Plant Pathology and Entomology. 

   A day will be spent on campus at Iowa State University in Ames visiting various segments of the Horticulture Department. 

 

   Cost is $125.00 per person.

  For more details call Bev Lillie at: 319-377-9839.

 

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Lawn care fun

One thing I haven’t missed with this late spring is mowing the lawn, although that time will come soon enough with our regular rain and warmer temps.

Read on for a fun story my sister passed along about the nature of lawns:

The Gardeners

 

Anyone with a lawn or garden should get a kick out of this.

 

GOD: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

 

ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

 

GOD: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to

temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

 

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

 

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

 

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it– sometimes twice a week.

 

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bail it like hay?

 

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

 

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

 

ST. FRANCIS: No, Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

 

GOD: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

 

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

 

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

 

ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

 

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.

 

ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

 

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

 

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

 

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

 

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

 

GOD: Enough. I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

 

ST. CATHERINE: Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about . .

 

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

 

  

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