Sally, The Gardening Guru,  Sally is a life-long Michigan gardener.



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Sally's Summer Garden


The Garden Lady



Green words

“We must make our garden grow.”

“Work keeps us from three great evils: boredom, vice and want.”

--Voltaire, "Candide" 1759


What’s new?

The Noodleheaded Sprinkler, voted the “Best New Product of the Year” at the International Garden Tool Convention,” looks something like the headgear of a jester at a New Year’s Eve party. Twelve flexible “noodle” nozzles that can be bent to send water to any desired spot ensure target watering. The device waters 15’ away and an Extend-a-Riser is optional for about $14. The Noodleheaded Sprinkler is $22. Needless to say, think what kids can do with it!  If you cannot find the sprinkler in local stores and nurseries try www.GardenTalk or Walt Nicke Company (978-887-3388) for information.



Celebrate August with a plant for the workplace. Whether on vacation or not, shop for a plant that will enhance your desk area. If you have some light from a window, Boston fern, Kalanchoe and Aloe vera are good choices. If you have a darker office, ask the florist or nursery for Calathea or a peace lily, which can take shade.  For lazy folks who have bright office light, Tillandsia is tiny and needs only air, no watering or soil. A misting once in a while helps it, however.  If your office is windowless, but bright, it is right for Lily turf. Bottom line: nursery staffers will help you choose.


Did you know that…

Gardeners, campers and hunters often have similar needs. The end of summer is a good time to consider gift shopping at sales for items like jackknives, small but sturdy spades, durable polyester “pop-up” bags and pocket chain saws that will not only do a quick prune in the garden, but also clear enlarge a space for the tent.


Old Timer’s garden tips

In the heat of August, “Plan your preserving, ladies, and try to have your fruit ready early in the morning before the heat of the day Do not undertake to do too much at a time.”  --An old untitled cookbook


Reading on the garden bench

Tired of garden articles whose garden articles feature Arizona deserts or Hawaii’s tropical plants?  Consider Midwest Living.  Its gardening articles are tailored to Michigan and its neighbors, and the articles are clear with all needed basic information. For instance, an article on Crape myrtles not only explains why the flower is perfect and easy for Michigan, but also it tells where to get Crape Myrtles.  Consider buying a copy of the magazine—or better yet a subscription.  Bonuses:  Traverse City is often a subject, and reading about the Midwest makes us feel good about our home territory.  (Note: The Garden Lady lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.)


Short season gardening

Now time to ensure an early start to your gardening season.  Scout nurseries, order from catalogs and online for plants and bulbs that are” early spring risers.” Look for winter hardy plants, for instance, Canadian Bred Explorer roses and others with superb hardiness. Buy spring flower bulbs that come up through the snow and plant herbs like sorrel and lovage, easy perennials that are the first to greet spring.


“I do not have to lean or squat,

To garden in a lovely pot.

A basket full of marigold

A mini-garden to behold.

Color in a window box

A bright array of Four O’ Clocks

Pale water lilies in a bowl

Are ample garden for my soul.

--Sally D. Ketchum

Garden Party


Green words

“Sowe Carrets in your Gardens, and humbly praise God for them, as for a singular and great blessing.”

--Richard Gardiner, Profitable Instructions for the Manuring, Sowing and Planting of Kitchen Gardens, 1599. 


What’s new?

We’ve mentioned garden stools that rock—great for seniors, now we’ve found three-wheeled stools that move along the row with the gardener because the wheels are parallel to the garden row. A tool tray under the seat is an extra. If you can’t find these at your nursery, try for further information.


Herb of the month


Better known and very popular in Europe, sorrel is rather rare in our gardens.   Americans might try it in their herb gardens.  Sorrel is a perennial, but, from seed, is ready for cream sauces (great for fish!), soups and salads in only 50 days.  The tender young leaves are best.  Sorrel (“Oseille” in French, sometimes “Dock” in English) is one of the first herbs up in spring.  It has an acidic, sharp flavor that some say it is reminiscent of citrus.



(An extra Idea for May!)

The first of May. Children hang a small bouquet of flowers on the doorknob of their mother’s room in manner of the old tradition.  Mother’s Day is on the 14th.  A “bouquet of vegetables” is great fun for youngsters to make and pastel flowers are always welcome.  An inexpensive basket with a few seed packets of mother’s favorite plants and a new trowel, always handy, makes a pleasant and useful Mother’s Day gift.


Did you know that…

Red and redder vegetables are the healthiest.  Beyond beets, botanists have developed more and better red lettuces, chards and even carrots. Even pink grapefruits are healthier than yellow ones.  Look through the lettuces—the new “Revolution,” also “Red Velvet,” “Red Fire” and classic “Red Sails” on seed racks. Further, all are pretty enough to put into the flower gardens and planters!


The Old Timer’s Garden Tips…

Cutworms on the tomato plants? Three prevention tips: 1. Let weeds grow a little way from the plants to give the worms alternative food.  2. Mix crushed eggshells in the soil around the plants.  3. Mix salt and ashes together in equal parts and sprinkle around stems.


Reading on the garden bench

The $64 tomato: How one man nearly lost his sanity, spent a fortune and endured an Existential crisis in the quest for the perfect garden.  William Alexander, Algonquin Books, $23.  If you’re just considering a garden, this book might enlighten you, that is to say you might prefer to take up golf or hang gliding this summer.  If you are an experienced gardener, you know Alexander’s analysis might be exaggerated, but is basically true.  Tempting offerings of garden items, large or small, inexpensive or costly, fill the stores and are never-ending. Experienced rural gardeners insist that wildlife prefers the expensive plants.


Short Season Gardening

Although they are written for gardeners who would like to sell vegetables and flowers on a small scale, Mel Bartholomew’s Cash from Square Food Gardening and Andrew W. Lee’s Backyard Market Gardening have marvelous ideas to make the most of not only small patches of land, but also of Michigan’s short season. Horizon Books will search for these books if you cannot find them. They are great for inspiration and innovation.  Check out other books in the store’s gardening section.

"Adopt the pace of nature;

her secret is patience."


Author and Gardener

Sally D. Ketchum


Super Student/

Happy Kid!

A Practical Student Success Guide for Everyone

by Sally D. Ketchum


Sally Ketchum is a Michigan food and garden writer. She works in a large kitchen garden, two herb gardens and borders with English roses. 


Sally is also the author of Super Student/Happy Kid, a practical student success guide for everyone.





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