500 columns and counting: Gardener reflects on time writing

Those who know me well are aware of my deficiency in anything related to math. But in spite of this handicap, I am fairly sure this is about the 500th column I have written.

It began in 2003 with a monthly article. I was a faithful reader of the Wednesday garden column in The Blade, and asked the editor of The Advertiser-Tribune whether there was something similar available for his readers.

When nothing appeared, I sent him an article and a list of possible topics for each week of the year.

To my surprise it was printed, and for the next few months, I sent in another each time one appeared in the paper. It speeded up to about one a week, and that is the way it has continued for the past 10 years.

I really enjoy writing the column and have made many friends and visited a large number of gardens as a result.

I try to keep my writing relevant to the time of year and the weather conditions of this area. It annoys me when gardening programs are repeated so often on TV they are inappropriate for the season.

As a Master Gardener, I am not permitted to endorse any commercial product, but if there is something I would like to recommend, I drop a few hints, and readers can always contact me for my personal opinion.

I try to keep information relevant to Seneca County, making exceptions a couple of times a year for columns about places I visit on my trips back to England. And my family members make an occasional appearance, especially when the children drop pearls of wisdom.

As a former English teacher, I am conscious of grammar and spelling, although I do frequently make mistakes. I simply cannot proof-read accurately on a monitor, and so if I do not print out a column, mistakes get by me. I have several friends who are kind enough to point out errors to me immediately.

Once, I referred to poinsettias by their scientific name, Euphorbia pulcherrima, and made a spelling error. Of course, the page editor chose to use the term in a headline for all the world to see, and I got a record number of corrections on that one.

The runner-up was when I referred to the author of “Trees,” Joyce Kilmer, as she.

It is difficult to know which columns will be most widely read, or at least bring a response. I think I get most reaction when I write about slugs, squirrels, rabbits and tomatoes.

The column in Nov. 8’s paper about the Asian long-horned beetle, which I thought was simply informative and not at all controversial, brought several emailed responses from out-of-state groups that believe authorities are destroying healthy trees as they search for these pests.

I am not qualified to evaluate their claims, and will not respond to them, but I am glad The A-T is read all across the country.

(Editor’s note: So are we.)

There is no end to topics to be covered, and I have learned so much researching weather conditions, soil composition, insects, plant diseases and so many plants.

When I started writing, I said I would not be dealing with lawns or trees because I had neither in my own garden and like to write only about things I know.

Since that time, I have been a member of the Tiffin Shade Tree and Beautification Commission and have learned a lot from tree seminars and courses, as well as from my fellow members. Grass is still off limits.

I am grateful to The A-T for giving me space every week, and to the readers, especially those who respond in any way. My email address is always included at the foot of the column and I prefer that means of communication because I have trouble hearing on the telephone at times.

Please, keep in touch, and feel free to suggest topics. And here’s to 500 more columns!

Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State

University Master Gardener program. Contact her at