1980 with my 4-H projects
Fast forward about 25 years and here I was living in the house and tending to the yard where all of this gardening had taken place. The garden tools still hung in the same spot in the garage and I knew without having to look too deeply what garden chemicals and fertilizers occupied Dad's garage shelves. Not only that, my parents left at the end of July that year and there were still tomatoes and corn growing in the garden. Suddenly I was expected to take care of the garden and deliver the vegetables to my dad at the assisted living home. I agreed to do the best I could not to let the tomatoes die, but didn't make a lot of promises about supplying them with a winter's supply of corn on the cob. I had no clue how to freeze corn.....I had been a silk remover, but tried to stay away from the kitchen when the freezing and canning was going on. I did the best I could and delivered Dad several rounds of tomatoes.....but for the most part, I told the neighbors to take what they wanted.
The following January, Dad started asking me if I was going to grow anything in that garden. I sort of fumbled with my words, trying to quickly think of reasons why I couldn't. Then Dad, in only a way a dad can do, said "Boy I sure would like to have some tomatoes and corn this year." Darn. It is hard to tell him no.
Seemed like winter passed quickly and before we knew it (I say we, because by now I had gotten Jason involved....I needed manpower) Jason was learning to use a plow without killing himself and I was trying to figure out why there were so many different varieties of corn and tomatoes? Wasn't a tomato just a tomato? What the heck is early corn, sweet corn, or heirloom corn? Doesn't it all look the same? Of course my best source of information became my dad. Sometimes there was more information than I was able to absorb, but slowly, it all came together.
I was now a gardener. Not only was I growing corn and 2 varieties of tomatoes, but we also had potatoes, green, red, and cayenne peppers, eggplant, zuchini, squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, onions, green beans, crowder peas, marigolds and zinnias. I was a very proud first time gardener. Of course as I have learned gardening, is that there are successes and failures. My tomatoes grew beautifully and so did the cucumbers and potatoes. The zuchinni and squash were also big producers. I had fresh cut zinnias on my table everyday for 2 months. For some reason though, my green beans never even got going and although the corn grew as it was supposed to, I harvested it too early out of fear it was about to be taken over by corn ear worms. I have bad childhood memories of silking corn and one of those darn worms would come crawling out. The corn was still better than store bought and we had corn on the cob all the way up to Christmas. Yes, that means I also learned to freeze it just like mom used to do. Well, almost like Mom used to do. I also made pickles and salsa. I was proud of what I had accomplished, but more than that I knew that I was hooked. I LOVE GARDENING!!! Turns out, sitting for hours picking potato bugs off of plants and watching them drown in a jar of gasoline is rather therapeutic. And those corn silks? Well I passed on that joy to my own children who actually did it with smiles on their faces.
I started planning for this year in December as I imagined a true green thumb would do. I poured over seed catalogs and planned on how to expand the size of my garden so I could try new things. The UK gardening guide has become my go to garden book. I read a lot about raised bed gardening, and all about the differences in varieties of vegetables. My dad, as always, is a good source of information although he still can't wrap his mind around why I need to have raised garden beds. I am hoping to show him the merits of this method by the end of May when we have fresh spinach, lettuce, radishes, carrots, green peas and turnips. These are vegetables he never had a lot of success with. I have at least doubled the planting ground that my dad was using 2 summers ago in addition to the 3 raised beds that Jason built for me. I also started 3 varieties of tomatoes and my cucumbers indoors. I watch over these tender seedlings as if they were children.
I realize that just like last year, there will be successes and failures. I plan on growing peanuts and popcorn and am not exactly sure if I have all of the information I need to have success. I am also expanding the space which means I may be dealing with ground that isn't as fertile as it will need to be. Knowing how to fertilize and when to do so is still something I am learning through trial and error. Yet, this girl who once got a headache just thinking about garden hoes and dirt couldn't be more excited!!!!
Some of my "babies"--tomatoes and pickling cucumbers--4 weeks old.
Cherry tomatoes, 4 weeks old
Spinach and carrots sprouts outside in one of my raised beds.
Outside, a pea sprout. I planted 50 peas and so far I have 25 sprouts---not too bad...I think?
*Please excuse my sideways pictures. I rotated them, but for some reason when I uploaded them to the blog, they were still sideways. I am technologically challenged sometimes.