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Patience is a virtue, especially in gardening

Apple trees average five years from the date of planting, depending on type. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 3
Perennials often require three years to develop into full-size robust plants. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 3
Don Kinzler, Growing Together gardening columnist for The ForumMichael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 3

Remember long, long ago when receiving mail meant waiting patiently for the Post Office to deliver it? Now I think my email is slow if it takes 15 seconds to open my inbox. Fast, smooth and hassle-free is what we need.

Where does gardening fit in the new order? Do we really still have to wait years for an apple tree to yield fruit? Can't plants change with the times and upgrade to high-speed efficiency?

Gardening is a refreshing throwback to a quieter, more patient time, which is part of its charm. An acorn still takes decades to form a pleasant shade tree. Landscapes only grow as fast as Mother Nature permits. There have been strides in quickening the pace, like fast-blooming annuals and early season tomatoes, but mostly we wait, as plants take all the time they need.

When are we going to be there?

• Most perennials take three years to form a robust, well-established, generously blooming plant.

• Depending on the variety, apple trees require three to nine years for a substantial harvest. The average is five to seven years from date of planting.

• Newly seeded lawns require the better part of a year, by the time solid turf establishes and we're able to control weeds that emerge along with grass.

• Rhubarb and asparagus should grow for two full years before harvesting the third.

• Raspberries take two or three years to establish a well-fruiting patch.

• Strawberry plants might yield a small bowl or two the first year, with full harvest the following years.

• Tree growth varies by type, but eight to twelve inches per year is common. Starting from a five-foot-tall spruce, expect to wait about 20 years until it reaches 25 feet.

Ways to hurry nature

• Grass encroaching on young trees and shrubs slows their growth by half. Prevent grass competition by placing wood mulch in a three-foot diameter circle, three inches thick and kept three inches away from the trunk.

• Fertilize trees, shrubs and perennials with a well-balanced fertilizer in spring.

• Promote deep, vigorous roots by watering thoroughly and less often, rather than frequent, light sprinklings.

• Monitor closely the watering needs of landscape plants, trees and perennials during hot, dry, windy weather patterns.

• Remove weeds from perennials, rhubarb, asparagus, raspberries and strawberries. Weeds, including quackgrass, have been investigated for producing soil chemicals that diminish other plant's growth.

• Modify soil with compost, peat and other organics to improve root growth.

Value of patience

• If we recognize that it's part of gardening, patiently waiting becomes tolerable and eventually enjoyable.

• Realizing that plants take time to develop their height and width prevents the overcrowding that comes from making landscapes look full immediately after planting.

• Gardening slowly builds within the gardener a lifelong accumulation of experience and knowledge from quiet observation of plants, their growth and habits.

• Plants change gradually, prompting us to wander frequently through the yard and garden just to observe and enjoy.

• A yard and garden planted with patience is an ongoing life's process. Gardeners are never "done," and that's how it's meant to be.

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

He also blogs at growingtogether.areavoices.com.

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