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Master gardener speaks on the wonders of plants, roots


“It’s a biochemical world,” Judy Code, Master Gardener of Northfield, stated at her presentation Thursday, Sept. 28, at the Northfield Public Library. In her talk, “How Plants Communicate with Us and with Each Other,” Code went into specifics about the elements of plant care, nourishment and survival.

Code made the topic of botany informative and interesting, using stories and personal experience so the audience could truly connect with and understand the information. Focusing on trees – a subject many are familiar with – Code was able to show the importance of caring for and listening to plants. She used anecdotes to make the presentation interesting and relatable, ensuring her passion for plants was clear to all.

Judy Code earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Drake University before acquiring her master’s degree in Neurobiological studies. She also received the Master Gardener Certificate from the University of Minnesota. As Master Gardener, Code is in charge of Floral Bloom and Tidiness for the Northfield area, along with being the Vice President of the Garden Club.

Code based the majority of her talk off the book, “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben. Reading this book, Code learned many particulars about how trees

survive and thrive. She recommends Wohlleben’s book to everyone in order to understand the secret inner-workings and the significance of trees. While the focal point of the presentation was on trees, like the book, most of the information discussed in the presentation can be related to other plants as well.

The biggest emphasis of the presentation was on the importance of roots. Roots are the brains of trees and send information between trees and other plants.

“Trees are talking to each other under the ground,” Code said. Code told the story of how “mother” trees can exchange carbon dioxide with new saplings through their roots, promoting the growth of new plants. However, trees cannot nurture each other if they are different species. While planting varying species of trees stops the spread of diseases, it also stops the communication between the plants.

Not only do plants communicate under the ground, but they also communicate above ground. When attacked by insects, some plants release a scent into the air which attracts predators, like birds, to the insects. Similarly, the leaves giraffes eat can generate a toxin which stops the giraffe from eating the leaves, thus saving the tree. By doing this, plants are protecting themselves and communicating with other species in nature.

One of the biggest concerns Code expressed was the issue of people planting trees in the wrong areas. One should never plant trees in cement and always remember that trees will grow and become quite large.

“Most mistakes are made by landscape designers who don’t think about the plant,” Code said. While planting trees near the sidewalk or in front of buildings may be beautiful at first, the tree will grow and will need space to expand its branches and its roots. If the tree is unable to do this, the tree will never reach its full potential and may cause problems with the surrounding structures.

Trees need room to spread their roots. Roots are the stabilizers of trees and spread in every direction. Roots can grow as wide as the tree is tall and therefore need room to do this.

“Location, location, location. How will the plant like it?” Code said. When planting anything, remember to think about the different sizes of plants, how the plants grow and where the best places to plant the plants are.