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30 fun yard and garden facts

Did you know that 1 teaspoon of soil has more microorganisms than there are people on Earth? Now you do, thanks to "Growing Together" columnist Don Kinzler.

Tomatoes were considered poisonous by Europeans until the 1880s.
Forum file photo
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FARGO — If you place a horseshoe around an oak tree’s side branch that’s 4 feet above ground level, and the oak grows at the rate of 1 foot per year, how high off the ground will the horseshoe be in 30 years?

If you answered 34 feet, you were deceived by an old tree question trick. The horseshoe will still be about 4 feet above ground, because trees grow in height from the tip of the central leader upward, not from the tree’s base. A side branch that’s 4 feet above ground will remain at that level — unless, of course, you prune it off.

Here are 30 more fascinating yard and garden facts.

  1. One teaspoon of soil has more microorganisms than there are people on Earth.
  2. Vanilla beans come from a variety of orchid.
  3. Many common fruits are in the botanical rose family, including apples, pears, cherries, strawberries and raspberries.
  4. Tomato fruits were considered poisonous by Europeans until the 1880s and didn’t become popular until the pizza was invented in Naples, Italy.
  5. Research shows plants respond to sound, being affected by the wavelength vibrations from music or voices.
  6. The fastest-growing woody plant in the world is bamboo, which can grow 3 feet per day.
  7. Tulip bulbs had a higher value than gold in Holland in the 1600s.
    Tulip bulbs were worth more than gold in Holland in the 1600s.
    Forum file photo
  8. Most fruits have their seeds on the inside. Strawberries, however, have their seeds on the outside.
  9. Daylilies aren’t true lilies because they grow from fleshy roots instead of bulbs.
  10. There are more than 80,000 species of edible plants on the Earth, but 90% of the food humans eat comes from just 30 plant types.
  11. The word pineapple was coined by Europeans who thought the fruit looked like a pine cone on the outside and an apple on the inside.
  12. A cluster of bananas is called a hand.
  13. Oak trees are struck by lightning more than any other tree type.
  14. Cranberries float because of a small air pocket inside.
  15. Apples float because they’re composed of 25% air.
  16. The first type of aspirin, painkiller and fever reducer came from the bark of a willow tree.
  17. The Amazon rain forest produces half the world’s oxygen supply.
  18. The science of calculating a tree’s age by examining its rings is called dendrochronology.
  19. Potatoes were first cultivated in Peru 7,000 years ago.
  20. Some scientists believe the scent chemicals in freshly mowed grass can relieve human stress.
  21. An herb is specifically from plant leaves. A spice is from the seed, bark or root.
  22. The difference between a peach and a nectarine is that nectarines don’t have fuzzy skins.
  23. Peanuts aren’t nuts, but legumes are more closely related to beans and lentils.
  24. The most expensive rose in the world, called Juliet, cost $3 million to create by famed rose breeder David Austin.
  25. The flower name gladiolus was coined by ancient Romans who thought the leaves looked like their swords, which were termed gladius.
  26. One of the original wonders of the world was a garden — the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
  27. The first greenhouses were built in ancient Rome so the emperor could eat cucumbers year-round.
  28. Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are the most popular homegrown vegetables in the Unites States.
  29. Lawns date back to the Middle Ages and were mowed by hand. Aristocrats paid servants to trim the open spaces around their castles with hand scythes to allow sentries a clear view of invaders.
  30. Nearly 1,000 jasmine and 12 rose flowers are said to go into a single bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume.
Daylilies aren’t true lilies because they grow from fleshy roots instead of bulbs.
Forum file photo

Webinar series

North Dakota State University Extension again will host the Field to Fork "Wednesday Webinar" series beginning Feb. 16. Experts from across the region will provide information about growing, preserving and preparing fruits and vegetables safely in this seventh annual webinar series, which has reached thousands of people.


The webinars will be held online from 2-3 p.m. through April 20 and will also be archived for later viewing, but participating in the live webinar allows for interaction with the presenter. The Feb. 16 session will discuss how to turn any balcony, patio or small space into a vegetable garden, and the Feb. 23 webinar will offer tips on growing a great vegetable garden.

The Zoom webinars are free of charge, but preregistration is required. To register or find a full schedule, visit

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at

Don Kinzler
Don Kinzler, Growing Together and Fielding Questions columnist.
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