This May Be The Summer My Plants Survive

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I’ve lived in Indiana, Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana, South Dakota, and North Dakota. In each place I did my best to make our house into a “home.”

On the casual end of the spectrum that meant painting a wall or two. On the extreme end, it meant tearing out walls during a deployment, or overhauling a kitchen on the weekends.
No matter where we live, come summer, there is only one thing I set my mind to when it comes to creating homey vibes: plants.

Herein lies the problem. I’m convinced that there is something in me at a molecular level that causes me to be absolutely pitiful when it comes to choosing plants, choosing where to put plants, (and most importantly) keeping plants alive.
This is all quite shocking because I come from a long line of gifted gardeners. All my grandparents were fabulous gardeners. Growing up, my parents grew all the vegetables our family needed for the year. They still do this, and also grow the most beautiful annual containers and perennial beds you’ve ever seen. My sister has a knack for choosing perfectly suited landscaping plants.

Me? Every year I try really hard. I’ve tried pretty containers, window boxes, and hanging baskets. I’ve done veggies in giant pots on a deck and so called impossible-to-kill succulents in a windowsill. Each time the story is nearly the same. Things start off well, but by July things look pretty sad. Historically speaking, many of my attempted perennials have turned out to be only annual plantings.

Moving from place to place means I have no idea what grows where, when to plant, or answers to why my landscaping always shrivels. Recently I got the
answers I didn’t even know I needed. Amy Allender photo

Part of me firmly believes that I’m naturally ungifted. Another part of me believes my plant woes stem from chronically being “not from around here.”

Trusty plants from my formative years in Indiana were no good in Florida. Tips for coaxing grass to grow in Oklahoma didn’t translate to life in Louisiana. My first year in Minot gave me a rude awakening when I tried to put my plants out at the end of April and they all died of frostbite. Later I tried again, only to discover that the shrubs I’d chosen would likely not survive the depth at which the soil freezes.

They didn’t.

I’ve finally hit some kind of stride, or at least formed some kind of gentleman’s agreement with the plants in my yard. I promise not to put anything out before Mother’s Day. The plants promise not to die until after the 4th of July. I promise to only expect the hostas and daylilies to return in the spring. The invasive weeds in my backyard flower beds promise to flower just enough to pass as “ground cover.”

It’s not great, but it’s a start.

Then, last week I attended an event that completely blew me away. This was precisely what I’d been waiting for since moving to Hot Dish Land–and I didn’t even know it. Now, I can’t shut up about it.

My church hosted a DIY planter event with a horticulture and gardening representative from the NDSU Ward County Extension Office. Everyone brought their own pot, the church supplied potting soil and a variety of annuals. The program covered how to create an appealing container, and came complete with simple handouts listing NoDak-friendly plants for all types of landscaping and containers. Then at the end there was open Q&A time for us to ask all our most burning houseplant and gardening questions.

Why did my geranium stems turn red? Why are my houseplant’s leaves turning brown at the tips? Should I be putting eggshells in the soil? How often should I be using plant food?

This may sound simple, but I just sat there with my jaw on the table. This was the exact information I have been craving in all of the places we’ve lived. In all the places I’ve lived and wanted to create a bit of curb appeal, this is what I needed.
I had no idea it existed until last week. And maybe you didn’t either. Well, now we both do.

Here’s my recommendation: If you need an easy event for a group who isn’t from around here, this is it. If you aren’t from around here and want a few plants to help it feel more like “home,” check out the resources at the NDSU Ward County Extension site.

Will my planter from the event survive the summer? I’d like to believe it will because I am more well informed. But only time will tell. You’ll have to ask me in August.

For more stories about life in Hot Dish Land, and small ways to make a big difference in your mindset, join me on Facebook (@amyallenderblog) and Instagram (@amy_allender.)

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