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I’m Getting Taller
by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

January 26, 2014

A short time ago I had the pleasure of chatting with the folks from Probus club for Quinte West. For those of you who are not aware of these clubs (there are three in our immediate area: Belleville, Quinte and Quinte West) they are a motley collection of retired business professionals who like to meet and socialise with others who shared similar business experiences. They are non-profit and non-fundraising groups.

Okay, perhaps motley is too loose a term to apply to these well turned-out folks- with the exception of Peter who was turned out by the snack table. Gentle Reader, we’ve had it shouted in our ears ad nauseum that we, as a group, are getting older. Mind you, if we had cranked up the hearing aid to just below the “whistle” level, shouting would not have been necessary.

Yes we are getting older and with that wonderful state of affairs- I might contemplate the alternative but not yet consider it- adjustments need to be made.

One of the maxims that has cropped up is, “If you can’t garden down there, then bring the garden up to you.” This can be accomplished with constructing raised beds or using containers- which really are nothing more than raised beds on a smaller scale. I put it to you that way because if I left it at containers you would think of them as such, limited to ornamental annuals on either side of the front porch. Then you would go to the closest plant selling store to buy some white alyssum, red geraniums and a dracaena spike. You would swing by the Farmers Market for a few veggies and, by ten in the morning; your Saturday gardening effort would be complete. That would be sad. Older GR, I don’t want you to give up on gardening, I want you to approach it from a different perspective.

It really doesn’t take much to create some raised beds. I’m not suggesting you reconstruct your entire flower beds as that would be expensive and not really practical. However, perhaps in the back or side yard; there is room for a raised bed measuring 3 feet across and 3 or more feet long. At this width you should easily be able to reach to the centre. This is your garden for both vegetables and fresh flowers for the house. It is the spot for your herbs. I suspect you have convinced yourself (well maybe your doctor helped a bit) that certain additives or sauces aren’t the best for you. Savory, thyme, parsley, sage, oregano, basil are just a few of the plants that will add zest to your food and let your palate use all of the taste buds. Don’t forget rosemary.

Let’s get back to those wonderful sweeping beds that are chockfull of perennials and augmented with annuals. Do you find yourself thinking of the upcoming chores with trepidation? Folks, if you are fretting overly much than it is time to let it go. We’ve all had to adapt to changes and this is one of them. Here’s a good plan that makes the best of the situation. Keep the foundation plantings. Enlist the help of the local garden club to dig up your perennials- just advertise “free” plants and I can guarantee that no gardener will be able to resist. Spread down shredded pine bark mulch over the beds. Now a bit of fun- search out a few containers that match the décor of your house. (Ladies, that means shopping!) Find an insert that fits or make one up with a bit of wire and coco fibre. Local garden centres offer custom arranging or you can put together your own ‘bouquets’. You can change them to match all of the seasons or even festive occasions.

For those of us who are still not ready to gently retire from tending our patch of good earth, there are more aids to elder-gardening coming onto the market. The most important accommodation is handle length on tools. Shovels with short handles that are meant to be used from the kneeling position; the same for rakes. Loppers with shorter handles but the same sized blade as a pair of secateurs. Perhaps the best thing we have going for us is time- there is no rush so we can take several days to do our work. By the way, there are good things about aging. One of them is that I find I’m actually getting taller. How do I know this? When I was a younger chap I could bend down and touch the floor easily but now…..

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