JoAnne Skelly: Gardening dreams?

A warm December day has me dreaming about gardening. The book “My Garden Helper — What to do Each Month and How to Do It,” circa 1933, caught my eye. The first line reads, “Gardening is easy. The beauty of it is that you can do the job on as small or as large a scale as you like, from a flower pot to a park.” I like the illusion that gardening at the park level is easy.

For winter activities, it recommends enjoying the beauty of the winter landscape, watering if it’s dry, reading seed catalogs and drawing up garden plans. The watering I can handle, but seed catalogs don’t appeal to me, and whenever I draw up garden plans, I lose them.

“My Garden Helper” continues its winter list by telling me to spray my trees with dormant oil spray, learn all the names of the evergreens in my yard and begin pruning. If I get really ambitious, I can take hardwood cuttings and propagate more plants to take care of. Now I’m in trouble. I have never sprayed dormant oil in my 38 years of gardening, and my plants have always been fine without it. I already know the names of my evergreens, so that is off my list. I always resolve to prune in winter, but I take care of one tree and lose interest. Plant propagation fascinates me, but I’m not interested in the care of the cuttings for months until they are big enough for planting. Besides, I have no more room in my yard, where would I put new plants? Maybe this book is not for me!

I do take care of “my singing neighbors,” the birds, already, so I don’t need encouragement for that, although where I’m going to get pie crust crumbs to feed “meat-eating birds” is beyond me. Do I want meat-eating birds? Shades of Alfred Hitchcock!

I like the advice to walk around the yard. I dislike the suggestion to go get rocks from locations where frozen soil will let me drive now for a rock garden I don’t have. I don’t carry rocks anymore.

How is this for an ingenuous 1933 sentiment? “The entire family will yield to the gardens’ magic touch. After an hour’s work in the garden, father or mother will find appetites enormously quickened, with a sense of increased vitality.” I might add, “After three hours of work, everyone will be dragging their behinds.”

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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