This is my final gardening column. I have enjoyed answering your questions in the Belleville News-Democrat since the spring of 1988, when Pat Kuhl, the Lifestyle editor, asked if I was interested in writing a gardening column.
I never knew where the next week would lead me until I got your questions. I once made a statement that I would never be a teacher but ate those words six months after I uttered them.
I started out in the field of zoology, as at one time I wanted to be a vet, but later an old country doctor suggested that I take up some study offered in college that came easy to me, and I finally found my way into botany and horticulture. But my extended family of the Weisserts and Giedemans had been informally teaching me as I grew up as a youngster with farming and gardening.
I was lucky to be offered a teaching position on horticulture at Belleville Area College, which is now known as Southwestern Illinois College, in 1974. At that time, the college had no facilities for getting hands-on experience in raising plants and how to solve plant problems. However when I retired from teaching, SWIC had four large greenhouses, all built by students.
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I wanted to give my gardening readers some references to find answers on basic plant problems:
▪ “Month by Month Gardening in Illinois” by James A. Fizzell
▪ “The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening” by Rodale Press
▪ “The Garden Primer” by Barbara Damrosch
▪ The 18 volumes of the “Encyclopedia of Gardening” by Jim Crockett for reference, which can usually be found in libraries.
One gardener did ask me once how many books on plants that I have in my personal library, and at last count, I had more than 750 books that I use for answers. I want to recommend that gardeners obtain the yearly Old Farmer’s Almanac, as it can give great advice and important dates to use for gardening in the different plant zones and our area, in Zone 2 in their book, or in most botanical references we are located in plant Zone 6a.
I also recommend obtaining a yearly seed catalog for new varieties. Two of the best are: HPS, 334 W. Stroud St., Randolph, WI 53056 and Berlin Seeds, 5335 County Road 77, Millersburg, OH 44654.
Please make sure that any small children get introduced to butterflies, hummingbirds, frogs, mushrooms, and “weeds” — the younger the better. And take them on many walks in wooded areas.
I finally close with a Native American blessing:
“May the sun bring you new energy by day,
May the moon softly restore by night,
May the rain wash away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being,
May you walk gently through the world and know
Its beauty all the days of your life.”