Gardening Humor

Collection Notes

Your plants are doing well, but how is your gardening humor coming along?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you must have a sense of humor. What can you do but laugh at yourself when you’ve spent the afternoon lovingly baking a pie and realize as you're about to put it on the table that you forgot the sugar? Or you park your newly washed car under a tree full of bird nests? Yes, it’s annoying, but it’s funny, too. At least, it will be funny when you tell the story in a couple of weeks. But gardening humor is different. READ MORE

Bill Dugan


“The Waiting is the Hardest Part”

As I have previously recounted in these pulse-pounding pages, the amazingly talented Hall of Fame ballplayer Rogers Hornsby (third-best batting average in all of baseball history!) was once asked by a reporter, “What do you do in the off-season?  READ MORE
Old men Raking leaves

The Chinaberry Tree

I am 68 years old. You could say that I’ve been around. Yet not too long ago, I did something I’ve never done before. I raked the street.  READ MORE
Spitting Turnips

Pee in Your Garden!

Back when I had a real job, my coworkers loved it when I brought veggies from my garden to share. At least they said they loved it. Unless you think they were just being polite in thanking me for all that free zucchini?  READ MORE
farmer in the field

An Autumn Gardener’s Motto

Goodness, the vegetable garden is finally—well almost, if truth be told—put to bed for another year. It is the exact same thing I’ve been doing for years: piling on top of the raised beds scads of mulched leaves, turning that over and leaving it rough, and then piling more leaves on top.  READ MORE
Slug drinking soda

Slug Chug

Mom, someone littered in your garden!” roared Lindsay after noticing a beer can near the raspberries she was sampling in my garden. “How rude!”  READ MORE
old man and turtle tending the garden

The Last Tomato Story

It was many years ago (Several? Decades? Where are my car keys?! Have Evil, Key-Stealing Squirrels become tired of planting black walnuts in every one of my garden beds and achieved forced entry into the house?) that a much younger me had had good success with many plants—and rationalized that the others were their own fault.  READ MORE

150 Plastic Forks

I looked out over my front yard, about a quarter of an acre of gardens and woodsy areas. It was early Spring and the only thing showing, so far anyway, were my white plastic forks. We had moved from the Ontario suburbs to our country dream home the previous Summer.  READ MORE

The Vines in the Pines

I grew pumpkins this year. Yes, I know. I did it, anyway. Life just doesn’t seem as sweet when you only do things that make sense.  READ MORE

My Horseradish Folly

To understand my egg-in-the-face horseradish mishap, first you must know about gefilte fish. Gefilte fish is an ethnic food that originated with Jewish folk of eastern European origin.   READ MORE

A Milk Can Man

Once my husband’s military tour ended, we moved from Ohio, my home state, to his, California. My folks and I then started calling each other every Sunday night at 6:00 to share news about family and friends.  READ MORE

The Hedonist’s Garden

In the Springtime, gardeners everywhere rhapsodize about that glorious season of rebirth when the earth comes alive, bursting with new vitality. This is all wonderful, but there has to be a flip side. If Spring is the time of rebirth, then Autumn must be the season of redeath.  READ MORE

Naked Ladies

There was a big commotion next door the other evening. That struck me as odd. Just minutes before, I’d had a pleasant enough conversation with my new neighbor in the checkout line at the grocery store. I’d met her and her husband a few days earlier when I went over with a fresh hummingbird cake.  READ MORE

I Always Have Tomorrow

I am a goof. Being 73 may have something to do with it, but un-fortunately, I think I’ve been rather unorganized most of my life. Take the other day. I was simply heading towards the green-house to transplant a few penstemon seedlings I had started a couple of months ago when I noticed an empty space on a tree limb—and remembered its bird house.  READ MORE

10 Things I Learned from Gardening

A watched bud never blooms. And taking its picture every day doesn’t help. It’s good to let go of things that are not healthy. Bees are friends. And often funny. But wasps are jerks. Things need space to grow. Unexpected guests can be unexpected gifts.  READ MORE
Crazy Woman Potatoes Featured high res image

Crazy Woman Potatoes

One of my earliest memories is my father using a pitchfork to remove straw that had been placed on the garden bed over Winter. He talked about new life and respecting all creatures. I was barely 3 years old.  READ MORE

Fruit of the Womb

When I think of my father, I picture him tending to his plants. Or, at least, hands on his lower back, gazing down at them. One of my most cherished childhood memories is of his evening trek out to the garden—in his underwear. Yep. Just his underwear.  READ MORE

The Metal Pig

The metal pig belonged to a neighbor. You could tell it was heavy because the wind and snow didn’t budge it. Ensconced next to a broken cherub, a squirrel, statues of cats, and even one of a rat, it made the alleyway special.  READ MORE


Most of my gardener friends work in their flowerbeds in the morning. But until I recently retired, my work schedule dictated that gardening was an evening pursuit. I would head out back after dinner to bustle among the bushes until it was too dark to spot another weed.  READ MORE

One Disastrous Mistake

Highland Lake Inn in Flat Rock, North Carolina, was built as a private home in 1845 and named Solitude. It has shed many identities, lodged its share of famous people (like Joanne Woodward), and harbored its share of spirits on its way to becoming officially “historic.”  READ MORE
drawing of person in the garden

The Obsessed Gardener

It’s hard for me to say exactly when gardening stopped being just a healthy pastime and became an all-consuming passion. One day I’m fertilizing a few tomato plants, and the next thing I know, an eighteen-wheeler is unloading 50 yards of compost for a 3,000- square-foot cutting garden.  READ MORE

Quick Mulch Job

I'd like to offer a warning about the myth of a “quick mulch job.” I should know that mulching is never as easy as I expect (isn’t this a universal law for every project?), but I recently proved it—yet again.  READ MORE

A Four-Year-Old’s Sunflower

One day, my neighbor’s four-year-old daughter checked a picture book out of the library. The book told a story of how a simple seed turned into a beautiful flower.  READ MORE

It’s Better to Give

My dad loved to garden. He tried to grow everything that he could find in a seed packet. He planted the usual green beans, peas, corn, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce.  READ MORE

Snowed Peas

Boy—I’m showing my age with the classic duo in that headline, eh? Hey, kids—go ask your parents (please God, don’t make them have to go ask their grandparents, oh please, please! I’m still a kid! Really—I’m just a little old for my age!) who Mutt & Jeff were and get back here.  READ MORE

To Mow or Not to Mow

After my husband left, I was forced to take over his one chore—mowing. I figured, if he can do it, how hard can it be? We had just bought $800 worth of Bahia sod and, by golly, I wasn’t about to let that investment wither and die.  READ MORE

Brick by Brick

Imagine a backyard full of blueberry bushes, plum trees, wild grass, and a profusion of flowers, with a curving brick walkway that carries you along a path half hidden from view.  READ MORE

The Miracle of the Ladybug

As I was sewing in my room the other night, I heard an insect repeatedly flying into the overhead light. I was trying, unsuccessfully, to ignore the annoying tapping—when the tink-tink of bug on glass abruptly stopped.  READ MORE

The Power of One Pepper Clapping

I must needs be pounding out these wascally words in the barely-of-Spring, whence I am (or should that be was? Or even will be, if you consider I’ll probably be equally—if somewhat differently—horticulturally foolish again next season [one thing that sets us gardening types apart from normal people is the wonderful personality trait that allows us to return to our donnybrooks with the dirt year after year.  READ MORE

Mom Loved Spring

Mom loved spring. “There will always be another spring,” she would say. In the gloomy days of January she’d tell me, “Along about Valentine’s Day you’ll begin to hear the birds sing.” Right on schedule last winter, the cardinals started shouting at each other from the treetops, their territorial pronouncements unfazed by southwest Ohio’s fouler-than-usual weather.  READ MORE

Sentiment and Fruit Trees

Yesterday I chopped down a peach tree I’d planted when my eleven year-old son, Huxley, was born. The boy is tall, skinny, and well adjusted. The tree not so much.   READ MORE

Not My Day

I pulled into the driveway after work and got out of the car. It had rained again, the sixth day straight here in eastern North Carolina, and the humidity enveloped me like a sweaty blanket during a hot flash.  READ MORE

The Amaryllis and the Pussycat

It’s early December and I’m out driving when some folks at my public radio station call me with a Big Idea: Let’s send poinsettias to five stations that are on the fence about picking us up—they really like my weekly gardening show...  READ MORE

The Unbearable Sadness of Junipers

Though gardeners never lack for companions, I fear that all too many are short on curmudgeons. It doesn’t take long to figure out why. While companions are sunny, hearty characters who compliment your color choice of petunias and assure you there is no more chance of spring frost, a curmudgeon will notify you that a late winter storm is just around the corner.  READ MORE


I began homesteading during the 1950s. As a member of the “make it do or go without” generation, I quickly developed into a compulsive seed saver. Over the last 40 years, many of the flowers growing in my gardens have come from seed scavenged from roadsides, old foundation holes, or other people’s gardens.  READ MORE

The Buck Stops Here

When we bought our country home near Bloomfield, California, we were warned about the wildlife: Deer will eat all your 2.5 acres, possums will destroy your garage, and the raccoons are rabid and will eat you!  READ MORE

The Watermelon Weeding Chair

When my son, Arnie, was 15, he decided to grow watermelons—those smaller, round, sweet ones. I pointed to a patch of ground behind our big garden and said OK. He’d had years of weeding experience helping in the family vegetable beds, so he knew what he was doing.  READ MORE

Like White Roses in a Wet Spring

That’s ‘Spring’ the season, not ‘spring’ as in a body of water (which would HAVE to be wet or it wouldn’t BE a spring, come to think of it…) whose contents when packaged in small, cheap, toxic plastic containers retail for more than gasoline ...  READ MORE

Hey! Who Threw Tomatoes at My Car??!!!

First, I am pleased to announce that I have planted my peas earlier this year than ever before and certainly earlier than anyone in my native Pennsylvania would consider even remotely sane. As always, this is not my fault.  READ MORE

The Gardener’s August

I have long been in love with The Gardener’s Year, that most beautiful of garden reads. (Indeed, I first ran an excerpt from it back in GP#4!) How odd its existence! The author was a Czechoslovakian playwright and science fiction writer—he invented the word “robot”!  READ MORE

My First Carrots

My sisters and I were the children of gardening parents, and it was ordained that we should all be gardeners. As infants, each of us watched the rest of the family garden from under the hood of a battered old wicker carriage.  READ MORE

No-Crow Go-Crow!

What does it do? What does it do? Everything! With its GPS tracking system and 2GB of RAM, it always knows its exact location. I program hiss volume and wriggle and rattle speeds with my computer through a USB port, and infrared motion-detecting software enables night patrols.  READ MORE

Wrestling with Rain Barrels

I am late to gardening. When we first left the city, our front yard was lawn, lawn, lawn. At some point, I decided to redo the yard in a different image. The grass went, and I added Plants. Shrubs. Perennials.  READ MORE

I Hate Cutting Grass

During the early 1950s, my wife, Peggy, our four small children, and I lived in Ithaca, New York. Like all households, we had the chores of doing laundry, cooking, shopping, looking after the house and grounds, and getting up at night to comfort a crying child.  READ MORE

The Plant That Was Held Prisoner

Before I get to this week’s Exciting Episode, I have to brag about my tomatoes. Almost everyone I spoke with said that this past year’s tomato harvest was awful. Mine was so good I had to go down into the basement.  READ MORE


I need help. I am a Maine gardener. I don’t mean I need help because I attempt to grow fruit and vegetables in Maine—in the mountains, no less. That’s a sickness for which there is no cure.  READ MORE

Tomato Heartburn

It’s hard to imagine the words ‘casual’ and ‘leukemia’ together, but the pastor of my local church was extremely casual early this Spring when he casually told me in a very casual tone of voice that his youngest daughter had leukemia, wanted to grow some of her own food, and could I possibly come by and give them some gardening pointers.  READ MORE

Some Too-Exciting Evening

When I worked at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, I had the distinct privilege of giving Mr. Ed Bass, a prominent local philanthropist, an evening tour through the garden. A night tour is always special, and this evening proved no different. Swaying shadows, exotic scents, and strange noises added an eerie quality to the jungle…  READ MORE

Nocturnal Hunt

I have a small vegetable and herb garden at the back of my house in Houston, which includes a couple of basil plants. They were doing very well until I noticed that huge chunks were being gouged out of the leaves. I know from experience that the best time to find culprits in a garden…  READ MORE

Grilled Peaches

“How did it come to this?” is admittedly a question I have asked out loud more than once. But this was the first time it was at 3:00 a.m. on a freezing cold April night as I feverishly try to turn the frosted-to-the-metal knobs of an ancient Weber grill ...  READ MORE

Lining-Out Space

I belong to not one, but two garden organizations that have plant sales. As an officer in each, I am Expected To Have Things For Sale. The trouble is that anything good propagates and grows slowly.  READ MORE


My home state of Washington is justly famous as the birthplace of Boeing, Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, Bing Crosby, and about a gazillion apples. But the state never has received proper recognition for our biggest accomplishment: the Mega Slug.  READ MORE

The Bronx Farmers

No more pesticide-laden food for us. That became our mantra when our first son was born. It was time to start a garden, grow our own earth-friendly food, and cook everything from scratch.   READ MORE

Dad’s White Rose

Dad flower gardened with enthusiasm and curiosity. It didn’t matter if plants were pass-alongs, came from purchased seed, or were just happy accidents—he enjoyed them all. Dad’s color blindness made for some entertaining combinations.   READ MORE

Get Off My Lawn

I never thought I’d be that guy. You know the type. The type of guy who is obsessed with his lawn. Not like partially obsessed, I’m talking full on Google-knows-everything-about-you stalker type obsessed. I’ve seen Gran Torino with Clint Eastwood.  READ MORE
two men carrying a plant

Holly Go Heavily

Many years ago, the extremely horticultural expert (his license plate was in Latin and he had crossed out ‘make’ on his owner’s card and replaced it with ‘genus’) of a very well-known company that specializes in high-end perennials must have picked up the wrong list of garden writers (List One: For plant trials; List Two: For criminal trials) and so came out to my house to deliver two brand new specimens—a holly and a lilac.  READ MORE

One Little, Two Little Dead Little Peach Trees

I know that some (OK—most to all) of you think that this stuff is funny, because it meets the Mel Brooks definition: “If I personally fall into an open manhole, it’s tragedy; but if somebody else does, it’s comedy;” but meanwhile, I’m the one falling into the manholes. Oy!  READ MORE

The Nurseryman’s Lament

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for every customer who comes into our nursery here in Rochester, Washington, whether they are there to browse, tour our display garden, or buy plants. Many are like kids in Disneyland, laughing and oohing and ahhing nonstop.  READ MORE

Our First Tiller

My husband and I both grew up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Now you have to understand that in eastern Kentucky, a garden is an essential part of life. Not particularly because you need a garden to live—raising a garden is just something you do.  READ MORE

Old Lady Hetch

Old Lady Hetch loved to garden. But she was getting on in years, so she always offered to pay the kids on my block a few dollars to help out in her yard. Most part-time jobs for us 12-year-old boys ended with the last snowfall and wouldn’t start up again until the golfers emerged on the local fairways.  READ MORE

In Love with Daphne

Daphne, Daphne, Daphne…for many years the name conjured images not of a beautiful flower but of Jack Lemmon in the movie Some Like It Hot. What can I say? I’m a movie buff.   READ MORE

The Stink Plant

One summer, when I worked for a small-town newspaper here in West Virginia, Don and Willalea Kelley invited me to their home to cover what Don calls his “stinking plant.” Don, a board member at the local senior center, is especially proud of his blueberry bushes and also, apparently, of his exotic lilies.  READ MORE

Filching Fruit in France

I knew I would get into trouble when I agreed to lead a tour through the south of France this past summer, and I thought I had already achieved my goal when my wife left her hairbrush behind.   READ MORE

Molehill Mountain

Whine. Whine whine whine. The puppies were whimpering downstairs. I squinted at the clock: 6:02 A.M. Ugh, I mused. Maybe they will go back to sleep. I closed my eyes. The whimpering continued.   READ MORE

Exploding Forsythia!

Many things are my fault. The forsythia is/are not one of them. They were here when we moved in. Actually there were more forsythia(s) then in the front of the house but we wanted to see the front of the house so I ‘dug one up.’  READ MORE

Growing Closer Together

My father was a hobby grower. At least he wanted to be a hobby grower. One year he decided to make wine from the grapes he’d grown on a trestle in the backyard. The resulting creation was a bitter, pulpy drink that he named Chateau du Puck, in honor of my involvement in little league hockey.  READ MORE

Picking Corn

One of the things I miss most about my dad is his wonderful and slightly quirky sense of humor. I often think of my dad when I eat sweet corn.  READ MORE

Saved by the Arugula

Back when I was the editor of Organic Gardening magazine (which was back when there was an Organic Gardening magazine to edit [boo hoo]), many of my editorial columns were a personal “garden report,” which in the hands of a real gardener would have recounted inspiring celebrations ...  READ MORE

Battered Zucchini

I grew up in a fishing village in Newfoundland, on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. My parents eked out a meager crop of potatoes, cabbage, turnips, and carrots, but that was all they ever grew at our cold and rocky home.  READ MORE

Fish For Fertilizer

As a parent of five children, I have become accustomed to settling arguments. Teaching Carla (13), Michelle (12), Christopher (10), Shawn (8), and Norma (5) how to work out disputes has been an ongoing battle.  READ MORE
Girl fell into a sinkhole

A Sinkhole in the High Desert

St. Patrick’s Day had come and gone, and my peas were in the ground. Still in the ground. Not a one had sprouted—and I’d planted them two weeks ago. That day, I’d first done the usual soil preparation with the help of my not-really-a-gardener husband, Michael.  READ MORE

Of Bulbs Major, Minor & Light

I always tell people that if they want to really show off their garden to plan to do so in the month of June (that’s still Spring, isn’t it?). Certainly not now: The weather’s been dreary since we dropped into the twenties (the cold ones, not the roaring ones) the first week of November, which is not officially ‘the cruelest month,’ but it might as well be, since it’s only going to get darker and colder for another six weeks before the Winter Solstice lures you into a false sense of imminent escape.  READ MORE

Fruit Hoarder

I am out for a walk in early June in Seattle when Anna, our neighbor on the corner, alerts me about her pears: “There’re going to be a lot of pears this year,” she says, aiming a stream of water from her garden hose at a rosebush.  READ MORE
My Peppered Past

My Peppered Past

The grand (or not so grand; your choice) illusion of GreenPrints is that we grizzled veterans are asked to write a seasonally appropriate story every quarter, months before that season actually appears. So, full disclosure: I am two-fingeredly pounding out this attempt at a Summertime story on March 20, the first day of Spring.  READ MORE
Mulch Mountain

Mulch Mountain

When I saw the bright and shiny Facebook ad that proclaimed “FREE MULCH—DELIVERED!” my heart almost skipped a beat. All too well, I remembered mulching my flowerbeds last Spring. It took many trips to the hardware store in my trusty blue minivan to buy enough bagged cypress mulch to get the job done  READ MORE
Man mowing lawn


Gardening wasn’t really my family’s thing. My parents grew up in New York, my mother in Queens and my father in Brooklyn. Their idea of gardening was repainting the concrete slab in the back of the house green to look like grass.  READ MORE

Lemons in my PJs

oday, I met our new next-door neighbors. It did not go well. I live in Upland, California, which is considered part of the Inland Empire. Like most of California, our region boasts crowded freeways, coffee shops, grilled fish taco stands, and more than our fair share of crazy and offbeat people, a category which—as the…  READ MORE

“Where Have All the Fireflies Gone?”

Those of us who have achieved a certain age remember Summer and Fall in ways that no longer exist: Collecting empty soda (pop) bottles to take back to the store for the deposit. (Two cents for a regular empty; a nickel for a quart size: two of them and you could buy a comic book!)   READ MORE

Down for the Count

ham! Blam! Pow! It’s over, ref! Stop the fight! I’ve seen enough! It’s been going on all Fall. Nature has been pounding my garden, hammering away, trying to knock it down for the count. It hasn’t been a pretty sight. Or an easy fight, for that matter. Oh, sure, some plants practically turned yellow and…  READ MORE

The Golden Hammer & the Green Thumb

When I was young, I worked for my brother-in-law one Summer digging ditches. Bill was a plumbing contractor and—like most, if not all, construction men I’ve met—Bill had a well-muscled physique to go along with his macho attitude. He could do one-armed push-ups and pull-ups easier than most of us can do with both arms—and with someone helping.  READ MORE

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