Ron Kujawski | Garden Journal: Mother's Day treats, chores


Arguably, Mother's Day had its beginnings in the mid-1800s as a work day to promote sanitation and lower infant mortality. Following the Civil War, the day was celebrated as a pacifist movement and, in subsequent years, was sporadically associated with a variety of causes, including temperance.

It wasn't until 1914 that President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation declaring the second Sunday of May as Mother's Day, a day to honor motherhood ... I'll drink to that. While the day has since been decried as having evolved into crass commercialism, it doesn't diminish the reminder we sometimes need to recognize and appreciate the devotion and sacrifices our mothers have made on our behalf.

For some reason, I always associate Mother's Day with flowers. Perhaps, it is because so many flowers in our gardens and woodlands are coming into bloom and I associate their radiance with my late mother and all mothers. Therefore, I have no qualms about buying and giving flowers as Mother's Day gifts. On the other hand, if Mom is a gardener, a gesture of your love would be to help her we these tasks:

• Mow her lawn. Avoid cutting grass too low. Mowing low or scalping the lawn is a sure way to encourage weed invasion. A cutting height of 3 inches is ideal since taller grass will shade out many weeds. Also, taller grass plants will develop a deep root system which helps the lawn survive summer droughts.

• Dig up dandelions in lawns if they are annoying and if there are only a few plants. When digging up dandelions, get as much of the root as possible since new plants can regenerate from root segments left in the ground. Otherwise, spot treat dandelions after their first flush of flowers with an appropriate weed killer rather than spraying the entire lawn.

• Look for bright orange, jelly-like globs on the branches of Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). These colorful structures are galls of cedar-apple rust. Though they do little harm to the cedars, they do release spores which infect the leaves of apples and crabapples. Prune off the galls and bury them.

• Keep an eye out for emerging asparagus spears. Mine just began to poke through this last weekend. Harvest spears when 6 to 8 inches tall by snapping off each spear at ground level.

• Tempt fate by sowing seed of sweet corn. Just beware there's still a chance of frost and the fact that Mother Nature does not like to be toyed with. Placing a floating row cover over the planted area will offer some protection. Plant sweet corn in blocks of four short rows to insure good pollination. Don't sow all corn seed at once. Stagger sowings at two-week intervals.

• Make your first, second or third sowing of beets, carrots, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, bunching onions, arugula, leaf lettuce and spinach. These are crops best planted in small amounts, but at regular intervals of two or three weeks for continuous yield. Since radishes, leaf lettuce and spinach don't like hot weather, this is the last sowing of spring for these vegetables, but sowings can start again in early August for fall harvests.

• Give Mom a break from watching you stress out over gardening tasks. Take her on a hike at a nearby nature preserve and hunt for spring wildflowers. On such treks, I always carry a camera in case I find it necessary to shoot some of these untamed species of flora. However, never do I attempt to bring home any specimens for my trophy-less trophy case. Wildflowers are best left alone to fend for themselves in the wild.


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