Monday, July 24, 2017

Thoughts from the garden ~ my column from Sunday's paper

During the last few weeks after planting our garden, it looked manicured. The tomatoes had grown from small seedlings into bushy plants that required cages to keep them upright. Watching our garden grow is a favorite summer past time. It’s a simple joy that’s hard to describe to someone who’s never grown a garden. Most of the time there is no better stress reliever. But gardens are bounty or bust.

Several mornings toward the end of May, I’d walk down to the garden. Leaning against the fence with a steaming cup of coffee hooked to my finger, I’d sip while surveying our work. Closing my eyes, I could taste the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on toasted bread with mayo. A BLT in summer is like heaven on wheat bread.

One morning I noticed some of the top leaves of my heirloom tomato plant missing. Beneath the plant were tiny green balls of poop. After a few minutes, I found a hornworm as big as my index finger munching on my prized plant. The worm was enjoying an early morning meal of tender tomato leaves. His day went south. With my free hand, I plucked his squirming body from the vine. Squashing his head between my thumb and forefinger, I tossed the remains over the fence into the backyard. The chickens raced toward the tender green prize. The fastest pecked the worm up and was off to enjoy its special breakfast.

The peppers, squash, and tomatoes were doing great until the rain came. After weeks of showers, the plot was a mess. One day when stepping into the tilled soil, the mud sucked the shoes from my feet. I tried for a while to keep the garden maintained, but plants like people can’t survive with too much water. Weeds, on the other hand, seem to thrive in soggy soil. Soon the blossoms fell off the squash before forming fruit, and all our beautiful tomatoes started splitting open on the plant.

The dry days these past few weeks gave us hope that the garden would survive, but that looks doubtful. I’m thinking about plowing it under and planting another crop with bush beans, cucumbers, a few more tomatoes, and squash. The Farmer’s Almanac says that now is the time for late gardens.

Gardens for us is more of a hobby. The same was not true for our parents and grandparents who grew up during harder times. Gardens were essential. A bad year in their gardens meant bare pantries and less food on the table during the fall and winter.

I used to help my great-grandmother tend her garden when I was still in grammar school. She’d put on her sun bonnet in the mornings and wander through her garden picking what it offered up that day. By the time we finished gathering each morning, her straw baskets were brimming with vegetables. She’d be huffing and puffing from exertion by the time we carried it all into her kitchen. I asked her once why she worked so hard in her garden. Her answer was simple – “I like to eat.” That pretty well sums up why Jilda and I have a garden each year.

Ol' Hook supervising the new garden plot


  1. My garden too is largely a hobby. I grew up in family where it wasn't though. And have never, ever tasted store bought fruit or vegetables with a fraction of the flavour that home grown holds.

  2. I have 4 tomato plants, and get very excited when I get a nice red tomato that isn't split or rotten.

  3. Eeeshh! Those green horned tomato worms! Uuuuggh! The reason I dont have tomato plants anymore. However, I love tending to a small garden. I call them salad gardens.

  4. My grandmother's garden was much like yours. I have lots of great memories of summers on the farm. Now I visit the farmers markets and enjoy the harvests of others. Gardens can be like a game of cards. Sometimes you just have to know when to held them and when to fold them.

  5. I admire anyone who can grow things, particularly food.

  6. I'm sorry you are losing your garden. I know that is a lot of work even if it is a labor of love.

  7. You simply cannot beat the taste of a homegrown tomato, or any other vegetables, but like you said we are farmers by hobby and not out of necessity, I'm happy to grow a garden but even more happy that I don't have to depend on my garden to live.

    Here's hoping your late garden is more productive than this I hate those hornworms.

  8. Balls of poop? Yuck! Sorry about your garden getting waterlogged.


  9. Dear Rick, before moving to Missouri, I had a vegetable garden in Minnesota, like yours it was sort of a hobby. But oh, I enjoyed the eggplants that last year there!

    Mom used to plant a very large garden and she weeded, wearing a sunbonnet as your grandmother did. The food was essential for winter--she canned in the hot days of summer and fall--the veggies and the fruit from apple, pear, and cherry trees. How beautiful those jars of produce were. And how tasty in the chill of winter months. Thank you for bringing back these memories. Peace.

  10. What a lovely image this brought to mind

  11. I can appreciate the person who CAN grow and does. BUT, but I love that picture of Ol' Hook looking over the turned earth! And he don't even like 'maters!

  12. Oh, you're brave to squish that big fat hornworm like that with your fingers, yuck... I bet the chicken wanted to do that ugly chore for you.
    Sorry the weather played havoc with your labour of love. Better luck the second time around.
    Hugs, Julia

  13. Anonymous1:27 PM

    Balls of poop? Yuck! Sorry about your garden getting waterlogged.



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