I get a chance to meet all kinds of interesting people being in the retail business, because I’m in the business of helping gardeners. And a Mississippi gardener is not just any ole gardener. Gardeners from Mississippi have a deep passion for what happens in their gardens.
That passion comes from way down deep and was often usually passed down from their parents and grandparents. Sometimes I’ll be with a fifty, sixty, or seventy-year-old person still reminiscing about the way their grandfather used to plant their garden at a certain date, or never plant in spring until after a certain date.
These ideas apparently stay with us, and we continue to use and pass those garden secrets along to anyone who will listen. I love those legends, and after years of hearing all these passed down secrets, such as how to know if it’s going to be a cold winter, a wet spring, a late spring, an early spring or how to keep deer out of your yard, I began to write down some of the more interesting ones.
I began to mark my calendar to test some of the theories. To my surprise, I found out that most of these passed down Almanac secrets were correct… sort of. I used to scoff at the one about never planting before Good Friday. That one never made sense to me, because Easter can be in March or late April. How could anyone wait until late April to plant just because Good Friday hadn’t come yet?
It surprises me every time, but believe it or not, on those years when Easter falls late on the calendar, we have a cold snap just before Good Friday. I’ve learned a lot from my years of listening to customers’ stories about their ability to foretell weather. Observing the behavior of bees in the late fall or noticing that the hides on the white tail deer are thicker during the fall bow hunting season could mean we’re in for a cold winter. I believe in all these family passed down secrets because I choose to. It’s more fun that way.
I also like to pass those secrets on to anyone who will listen. I especially like to pass those secrets on to the younger people that are beginning to garden their own places, especially if they are not from around here. Somehow the advice seems more sagely to someone who was transferred down here from somewhere totally different, which is just about anywhere but here.
By sagely, I mean like when the checkout lady at Kroger can tell you when you are pregnant whether you are having a boy or a girl just by looking at you while you put your groceries on the conveyor belt. If you’re real nice they’ll tell you in advance if it’s going to be a good girl or a bad boy.
I guess what I’m saying is that this is something I love about living in Mississippi. I love that we are steeped in superstition. That deep, rich history gives Mississippi a heartbeat that can’t be found anywhere else. It has affected the way we dress, talk, eat, garden, sing, dance, celebrate, act on Sundays and raise our children. These are all the important things, all very Mississippi.
Mimi and I have visited other places in our country, close as Tennessee and as far as California… all great, but none like here. I feel the heartbeat and soul of our state the loudest when I return from one of those other places. I’m glad to be home, I’m glad to see our green, water abundant, quirky home. I think we forget how lucky we are to live in a state that doesn’t have a lack of water to do the things we do.
Water in abundance is why we can garden freely like we do. I shudder to think if someone were trying to tell a Mississippi gardener when they can and can’t use their water. The bumper sticker would be more like “I’ll stop watering when they pry the water hose from my dead, cold fingers.” We are kind people and very charitable, until someone tries to change the way we garden or cook.
Sometimes when I’m looking at the national weather map I believe that we live in a very special weather pocket, especially right here in the middle of the state. Some years we are a couple months into spring when other parts of the county are still getting feet of snow. We miss most of the big weather events. Hurricanes give us little more than lots of rain, and the coldest wettest temps seem to graze middle Mississippi and head north to Memphis Even the ice storms seem to mostly go around us.
These big weather events are hard on a gardener. Snow, hail, late freezes, big winds, floods although close, mostly don’t happen right here in the center. Okay, we do have relentless heat, but most of us have figured out that gardening early in the morning and late in the evening is not so bad. We find something else to do in the middle of the day in August and September like eat something good and read a book while we wait for the shadows to get long so we can get back out there.
This time right now is my favorite season in Mississippi. It’s a great time to clean up, make sure the yard is getting enough water, and eventually add more plants once the rain begins to fall.
I love planting in the fall. It’s so much easier on the plant to go into the ground in fall, going into winter dormancy than in late spring going into summer drought. We get into the habit of planting in the spring, but it’s a little more stressful on the plant going right into the hot summer. It works if you are diligent about watering. I like to let mother nature help me. She can be so kind when you work with her instead of against her.
It’s time to start nursery shopping so you can get your inspiration going. The nurseries in the Jackson area always look their best in the fall. It’s hard not to look great when you have mums, pansies, snapdragons, cabbage, pumpkins and crotons to dress your nursery up with. There is excitement in the air. Wives tales are swirling. Weather changes are happening.
Don’t hang your tools up yet…just one more push and you’ll have your place looking great all the way through to next April. The easiest season of the year is here. I hope you’ll come to Garden Works and all the other great nurseries and celebrate fall with us.