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With the calendar page turned to March, gardeners in Orange County are reminded that spring is almost here. Many which read this column will soon retreat to their gardens for long periods of time. Once there, many will find peace, harmony and beauty. But a few, some of which I have met, will discover other, darker, qualities of the season.
 
 
 
At this season I worry about many of my dear gardening friends. When talking to them I sometimes see the early signs; the soft self mumblings, the subtle mood swings, the small nervous ticks. I suspect some of these garden comrades are only a dandelion or two away from serious floral psychosis. The annual anticipation of spring, mingled and juxtaposed with delirious expectations of plant perfection and the uncertainties of nature, drive some of my fragile friends right to the brink.
 
crazy gardener
These people need skilled help, carefully administered by trained professionals. Perhaps you know one of these people. Worse, perhaps you are one of these people. Maybe you yourself are showing some early symptoms and haven’t noticed them yet. Self diagnosis is difficult. Yet these people hold pruning shears, shovels and hedge clippers in their gloved hands. It is a dangerous time. But there is help.
 
Ring, ring . . .
 
Hello! and welcome to the Gardener's Psychiatric hotline.
 
If you are buying plants, yet have no space or time to plant them, you are obsessive-compulsive. Please press 1 repeatedly.
 
If you want someone else to do the digging, you are co-dependent. Please ask someone to press 2.
 
If you will plant anything and everything, you have multiple personalities. Please press 3, 4, and 5.
 
If you are sure the sun, rain, bugs, and plant diseases are out to get you, you are paranoid delusional. We know who you are and what you want. Just stay on the line so we can trace the call.
 
If you are sure the flowers are talking to you, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which button to press.
 
If you can't throw away a plant, even if it is dying, you are manic-depressive and it doesn’t matter which button you press.
 
If you think your garden is being attacked by evil spirits, press 6-6-6.
 
If you continue to plant only flowers with fragrance, you are nasally fixated. Please press the scratch-and-sniff button.
 
If you occasionally hallucinate and know that this year your garden is going to look as good or better than Martha Stewart's please be aware that the thing you are now holding to the side of your head is alive and is about to bite your ear.
 
If you refuse to believe the plant you are growing is a weed, you are in denial. Thanks for pressing the right button already!
 
If you are a senile gardener, after listening to all selections continue to stare blankly at the phone for the next 10 minutes while trying to remember why you called in the first place. 

Questions from Readers March 7.

Question:
 
I garden more or less organically and I read about using corn gluten as a control for weeds? Supposedly, you sprinkle the tiny granules on the soil surface and it prevents weed seeds from sprouting. Does it really work and would you recommend it? 
Betty, Costa Mesa
 
Answer:
Yes, you’ve got it about right. Corn gluten is a completely natural and organic byproduct of agriculture. It looks a bit like corn meal. Several years ago it was discovered that when applied to soil it was very effective at preventing weed germination. But like any pre-emergent weed product it is only effective on weeds that sprout from seed and, of course, it needs to be applied before the seeds germinate. And yes, it is completely organic and safe to use anywhere in your garden. I recommend it.
 
Corn gluten is now available in many nurseries and garden centers.

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar.


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