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John Arnold tends to his broccoli John Arnold tends to his broccoli in his Rossford garden.
John Arnold tends to his broccoli in his Rossford garden.
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Published: Saturday, 8/25/2012 - Updated: 3 years ago

John Arnold: Been gardening since he was 6


Name: John Arnold, nursery sales at The Andersons, living in Rossford.

Garden specs: 75-by-135-feet, basically the entire lot.

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When did you start gardening: Mom and Dad had to force me to help as soon as I figured out how much work it involved at about 6 years old and clear through high school. Oh, I probably enjoyed it a little bit but not always. We had a double lot on the edge of Fostoria. One year we canned 188 quarts of tomato juice in a weekend. We also had a 100-foot-long, 6-foot wide stretch of zinnias along Stoner Road; we saved the seed heads in paper grocery bags and planted them the next year. The first garden of my own was when we purchased our first home in Gibsonburg in 1988. Despite one of the worst summers for drought, we had good produce (and I had a large water bill).

What do you grow? Vegetables, flowers, conifers, and "weirdos." The backyard is anchored by a purple flowering plum of the Thundercloud variety with almost black leaves. It's diseased and I'm probably going to lose it. Below it is an apple sapling grafted with three types of apples. My conifers include several varieties of false cyprus. spruces (columnar blue, globe blue, dwarf Japanese white, Fat Albert), weeping European larch, Canadian hemlocks, Hollywood juniper. Also, gold star Korean dogwood, tiger-eye sumac, mountain laurel, Japanese stewartia, and a new tricolor beech.

Goldstar Korean dogwood at Arnold's home. Goldstar Korean dogwood at Arnold's home.
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Favorite plant: The one I would least like to lose is an 8 1/2-foot-tall bonsai pyramidal yew I've been carefully pruning for 12 years.

Give us a tip: To increase the likelihood of mums returning the following year, plant them in summer rather than in the fall so the roots can become well established. In late fall, cover them with mulch or leaves to protect from the freeze/thaw cycle. The best survivors seem to be yellow or white mums. They prefer to be on the dry side; too much water will cause root rot. Another tip: I no longer till my soil because that biomass helps retain moisture. In the veggie garden, I put down brown (unbleached) grocery bags and top them with less than an inch of grass clippings.

Hours spent gardening: 10 to 15, maybe. Desired: 20 to 25-plus.

Annual expense: $200 to $800, depending on what's needed.

I'm proud of: I think I have about the last autumn purple ash left in our neighborhood. I get the trunk sprayed with Safari when the buds pop in the spring, along with my crimson frost weeping birch.

What I've learned gardening: The desire for these huge expanses of manicured lawns with perfect, plush grass is wrong headed; a waste of perfectly good soil and a drain on fresh water resources which in the not-so-distant future are going to become extremely important. We're already paying the price for widespread use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides associated with 'the perfect lawn.' I don't use chemicals.

I'm interested in permaculture which aims to design beautiful plantings that are ecologically sound and also provide abundant vegetables and fruits. And I'm a fan of companion planting, such as putting plants that need nitrogen (my apple tree) next to ones that harvest nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots (Dutch white clover), or the nitrogen-fixing purple-robed locust next to the Jane magnolia.

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