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Old yard and garden advice still valuable

Many old-time gardening tips remain relevant today such as information in this gardening book published over 80 years ago. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service1 / 2
Don Kinzler, gardening columnist 2 / 2

Although I was born and raised in North Dakota, my grandparents on my dad's side lived in New Jersey, known as the Garden State.

Gardening was a big part of their lives, and Grandfather Kinzler actually died in his vegetable garden. All in all, not a bad way to go.

My grandparents taught me much about gardening. Many years ago, they gave me their favorite gardening book, which is now more than 80 years old, published in 1935 by garden author Roy Biles. The book is full of yard and garden wisdom, and it's amazing how valuable the advice remains today.

Following are a few quotes from the "Complete Book of Garden Magic":

• In locating shrubs in a border, try to remember that they will grow to considerable size in a few years. Plant them at the proper distance apart and fill in between with temporary plantings that can be removed when the permanent plants reach larger size.

• If the architecture of the house is good, it is a shame to screen it from the street with too much shrubbery. If the house doesn't look good and it would cost too much to remodel the exterior, then tree planting may be used to screen it.

• To do a lawn any good, water should penetrate four inches or more. Light sprinklings do more harm than good; they are about the worst treatment you can give your lawn.

• Data compiled from golf courses show that grass requires at least one inch of water weekly. Rainfall in the north central states is about four inches per month. Were these rains nicely spaced, little watering would be necessary, but it is usually flood or drought. Constant vigilance is necessary to carry over dry spells.

• Planting preparation is important. You may plant with poor preparation and fool yourself and your neighbors, but you can't fool the plants.

• The larger the non-grass area around a new tree, the more quickly it will grow. If possible, mulch around trees with two inches of strawy manure. (Update for 2017: substitute shredded wood if you're fresh out of strawy manure.)

• Select only those plants which grow well in your locality. Buy the best of them, and be sure that they are hardy.

• Pinch back the tops of perennials as they grow to produce compact plants. In dry spells, water them thoroughly rather than often.

• No matter how varied an assortment modern food markets can offer nowadays, and no matter how high the quality of frozen foods that are becoming increasingly available, a garden can supply us with fresher vegetables than we can buy.

• Apples should never be pulled off the tree so as to break the twig. Instead, hold the specimen in the palm of the hand, the stem firmly between fingers and thumb, and give a twist. If it is ripe, the stem will separate from the twig without damage to either twig or apple.

• For perennials, the general rule is to transplant them in spring or early fall, whichever is farthest away from their season of bloom.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at

He also blogs at " target="_blank">