More common than Big Foot sightings in North Dakota are Gardener sightings. Not gardeners, but Gardeners, with a capital G. There's a difference.
It's not that people are deliberately hunting for Gardeners with binoculars or digital cameras for scrapbooking. Still, you might just run across one in a crowd, and you need to be able to identify a true "Gardener." Here's how.
There are many ways to identify Gardeners versus gardeners. It's like observing the male species of songbirds, colorful and noticeable, instead of the more subdued color of females. Just saying that gardeners blend in a wee bit more with the landscape than Gardeners do.
If someone says, "I planted tomatoes, but my chickens scratched them out of the ground." Pass them by. If you hear someone say, "I can't grow radishes." Turn around and look elsewhere. Besides comments like these, if a gardener plants in the spring and harvests nothing in the fall because they were too busy boating or something, yeah – sorry.
Here's how to tell a Gardener, remembering you can't tell them much.
Real Gardeners do not have green thumbs. Most of us do have cracks in our hands that fill with soil. Over time those cracks deepen, and who knows what insects or nematodes live in there. On a side note, there are many beneficial minerals in the soil absorbed through our hardworking hands. Forget about manicures; Gardeners' nails are clipped short and unpolished not to attract too much attention.
Gardeners can often be seen at the crack of dawn in PJ's or robes with a hose in our hand watering flower beds or small gardens. If you notice a robe hanging on a hook with a visible watermark around the hem, you have found a Gardener.
Another sign are jeans with slightly darkened knees. That’s because we can’t wash all that soil out of those pants which are commonly worn when down on our hands and knees pulling weeds from rows of tiny plants. Far be it for us to hold off weeding cause we got our dress jeans on.
And speaking of dress clothes, have you ever observed someone in dress clothes weeding the flowerpots in front of a hotel? Your first thought might be the hotel hires the best-dressed groundskeeper in the whole country. NOPE, that's a Gardener. Somehow weeds, even those that do not belong to them, compels a Gardener to assist in pulling them out so the flowers can live.
Instead of sporting a sleeve tattoo, Gardener's arms are a lovely tan color. Well, tan until your reach the middle of the bicep – aka farmer tan. As we age, blemishes and scratches create the unusual roadmap of years pruning gooseberries or repair irrigation lines.
Only a true Gardener will pay $4 for a package of 25 tomato seed, start them indoors in March, plant outside in May, water, weed and fertilize for two months to taste that first red fruit; but won't pay a penny for a grocery store tomato in winter.
Gardeners have sheds of tools, an abundance of zombie-killing tools such as pitchforks, rakes, serrated trowels, hoes, etc.
Most of us make no plans for Memorial Day weekend because
a. either you didn't put your whole garden in yet and the danger of frost in North Dakota has finally passed (we hope) or,
b. you lost some stuff to that last sneaky May Freeze, and you happen to have some extra tomato plants and cucumber seeds and need to get them in the ground.
Gardeners are a competitive bunch. If you overhear someone talking about a better method to mulch at church on a Sunday morning or bragging about the size of their radishes harvested before Memorial Day weekend, that's a Gardener talking. Always looking for a better method of growing the largest first crops of the seasons, a Gardener is always happy to share their latest "discovery."
Finally, Gardeners are daredevils when it comes to selecting seeds. They will go to great lengths to find vintage seed packets, heirloom varieties and seeds from other continents to try. Then they plant in good faith and hope for the coming harvest. In the end, all Gardeners realize there will come a time in their life when they too will be scoured by winter's wind and buried in the soil with the hope their life-long work will sprout some new variety of "Gardener."
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.