Steve Bender

Where to start with your green-thumb this year.

No doubt about it, 2017 is shaping up as the greatest year for gardening ever! If such positivity shocks you coming from uber-cynical Grumpy, receiving three bottles of 15-year old Glenlivet single malt Scotch for Christmas may be implicated. Santa, you’re OK.

Exactly how are we going to go about making this year totally excellent? Here are some major themes sizzling the neurons in my outlandishly huge brain right now.

Stop complaining whenever it rains day after day or three weekends in a row. I did that last spring and the Big Guy got even by slapping Alabama with a late summer-autumn drought in which not a single drop fell on my garden for more than 80 hot days. Point made, Big Guy.

Do not tell your next-door neighbor that his dyed-red mulch is ugly. He may respond by replacing it with rubber mulch or blinding white gravel, both of which are magnitudes worse.

Stop obsessing over the fate of non-native European honeybees. Despite Chicken Little predictions, they’re not going to disappear. Yes, they’re essential pollinators for such crops as apples, cherries, avocados, blueberries, almonds, peaches, cucumbers, and citrus, but these make up only a small part (around 10%) of our food supply. Grains don’t need honeybees; neither do tomatoes. Plus, plenty of native bees are effective pollinators. Put away that melatonin.

‘Bradford’ pear is on the way out. Most of the older ones that haven’t been splintered by the wind will be in coming weeks. And people are realizing that there are many good alternatives to this weedy, short-lived tree with malodorous flowers, so better garden centers don’t sell them.

You can still have a lawn if you hate lawn care. Artificial turf has improved so much that you can’t tell it isn’t real grass unless you kneel on it. It never needs mowing, watering, thatching, fertilizing, or weeding and stays green year-round. I wouldn’t cover a large expanse with it, because it gets hot in the summer sun, but for smaller lawns, it’s a viable option. Especially where it doesn’t rain much.

Millennials are the most ignorant gardening generation in history and need our help. No bit of horticultural info—like plants need light, water, and soil—is too basic. So start them off with easy successes, like caring for an already planted container you bought at the garden center. These newbies also like to plant things they can eat. Encourage them to try veggies and herbs that are sure bets, like salad greens, radishes, basil, and thyme.

Get outside and leave your phone behind. Immerse yourself in nature and remove yourself from the grid. See, hear, feel, smell, and taste the world. You’ll feel much better than before.

Ask The Grump! No question goes unanswered on his Facebook page.