Gardening and Cooking Organically with

Five Lakes’ Own Rapidly Ripening Earth Mother, Soila Lohme




Dear Soila,

    Loved your recipe for beet turnip burgers!

    I lightly seared the outside of the beet patty in hummus paste per your direction, and my husband and two sons thought it was a rare cheeseburger from the corner tavern!

    That’s what they said when their plates were clean after I returned to the kitchen from picking some fresh rutabagas in case the family was ready for seconds.  But they rose from the table and said they couldn’t eat another bite, which proves that the right combination of veggies is just as filling as meat.

    What I’m really writing about is this: I’ve read all kinds of opinions and supposed research on whether or not talking to plants really helps them grow.  Can you please clear this one up for me?

Marvella Dimling

Lake Veganwood, Michigan

Dear Marvella,

    Great to hear the turnip burgers apparently flew off the plate.

    Personally, I like to be right there to share the joy with my family when they try one of these wonderful new treats, but I can’t help but admire your dedication in making the effort to have another truly fresh batch ready to go.

    As for your question, I would say the following:

    It’s okay to talk to plants.

    But if they talk to you, it’s best not to answer them.

    Just pretend you don’t hear anything, and after a while, they’ll usually give up.

    If you do talk back to them, it will never end. They will always expect you to chat, and if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time, or just aren’t in the mood, plants will take it very personally. The next thing you know they’ll have their leaves curled up like one of those ultra-thin doobies your neurotically anal college roommate used to roll that made you pull a neck muscle every time you tried to Bogie a decent hit.

    As you’ll also discover, if a plant has a word to say about anything, it has a thousand, and very little of it is interesting unless you’re really into photosynthesis and dust art, so if you start a relationship, it’s likely to be more than a little boring from your side of the watering can.

    My suggestion: Stick to a little misting now and then to show your plants you care, and for a special treat, try a stem massage very close to the soil, and keep going until you see a drop of sap ease from the leaves.  Your plants will love it and beg for more...but reserve it for special occasions, and they’ll really appreciate it.

Dear Soila,

    I recently went to a website for another newspaper, put “gardening” in the search box, and it brought me to the obituary page. 

    I guess that’s one way to look at it.

    Anyway, that got me to thinking about whether or not growing vegetables around a gravesite might be a good idea.  I mean, why not use the space I’m paying for, so when I visit my dear departed Oakley I can at least pick a few cukes?

    Seems pretty organic to me.

    Any advice?

Shiloh Dokely

One Lake, Kentucky

Dear Shiloh,

    The nineteenth century British poet laureate Alfred Austin once wrote, “Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.”

    I imagine he suffered a series of broken noses if he followed through on the offer.  And since he also wrote sonnets defending England’s abandonment of Armenians in Turkey: if you ask me, he pretty much got what he deserved.

    That said: If you were to start growing edibles where your late hubby is pushing up roses, I’m afraid Mr. Austin would call you a vampire in waiting (before beating a hasty retreat).

    Stick to flowers when it comes to cemeteries, and you’ll never have to worry about whether that great earthy taste in your red potatoes comes from a brand of fertilizer we’d all rather not acknowledge in the first place.

This month’s “Growing ‘Ganically” Notes and Observations

•Daylilies are still blooming, and so is athlete’s foot. 

•Let your geraniums dry out between waterings, and that would work for the athlete’s foot, too.

•Keep up with garden pests, including little children who tend to trample on whatever they’re asking questions about. 

•Beware of diseases like blossom wilt and neighbors who drop by without calling first.

•It's wet and rainy, in fact too wet for some things to be really happy, including my pet tarantula (or my husband, I forget which, like there’s really a difference if I’m trying to get a reaction to a new pedicure).

•You can still plant bush beans, summer squash, eggplant, parsley and carrots, but so can I, so there.

•Flower seeds to think about are lotus, datura, lobelia and freesia. Actors to think about are Ford, Depp, Clooney and Damon. Just don’t actually plant any of them--the seeds, that is--as all require too damn much care.  Have a martini instead, then kick back and enjoy thinking about all the aggravation you’ll miss, not to mention all the extra time you’ll have to dream about Ford, Depp, Clooney and Damon (in which case you might want to keep a glass of cold lemonade next to that martini...even better: forget the martini and go for a strong, tall Tom Collins, well proportioned and packed solid with ice in a muscular glass, then watch it perspire as you slowly twirl and caress it in your trembling, fevered hands).

•Container gardening gives you an opportunity to add more interest to your patios and so would a new thong bikini, so hie it over to the mall before all the good ones under $200 are gone.

•With the heavy rains, fertilizers leach out of the soil very quickly.  Compost helps.  So does a week in Cancun.

•That magnificent magenta flowered tree that is blooming everywhere now and into August, with pollen that can make your nose run like Joan Rivers’ mouth on a red carpet, is the Rocky Mountain Crabapple, often called “What tree is that?” here in the Five Lakes area.  The green, purple and yellow tree that seems to be everywhere and is also irritating you is actually your great Aunt Ilsa, who has no taste in shifts and won’t leave until you put some sherry in her iced tea.

Special note to “Getting Grafted in My Greenhouse”: An arbor vitae hedge is never as opaque as it appears, and unless your neighbor’s wife is as deaf as my drop spreader, you’re going to get caught.


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