Father of the Garden

If my father was alive today, I am sure he would still be growing vegetables. Although potatoes seemed to be his favorite vegetable (he even ate them raw!), he grew a very large and diverse garden and though my mother was the harvester and my sisters and I were enlisted to help with the preservation of the crops, it was his garden. He tilled the soil in the spring. He planted it and he tended to  it. It was so large that he irrigated by digging ditches along each row of plants and filling them with water, just like my uncles did on their farms, but I remember him most evenings out there with the hose. He had grown up always having a family garden, as most people of his generation did, and he seemed to enjoy providing food in this way. Of course, then as now, growing food and “putting it up” allows for nutritious food and savings at the market.

Our yard was pretty barren of plants so my father “harvested” young trees from the roadside. I don’t think that is a good idea here but perhaps in Nebraska, one could still do that in some places. One of them was a weeping willow. My father also loved to prune (I think he passed that on to me), that weeping willow was never allowed to weep; it always had a flat underside much to my mother’s dismay.

I would love to be able to talk to him about some things: First I’d show him all of the potato varieties now available. He probably would be put off by the blue varieties and maybe the red-fleshed ones. But I think the Yukon Golds would please with their light yellow somewhat waxy flesh that makes very good potato salad! I would tell him that the fingerling types are my favorites and perhaps roast some for him with olive oil and rosemary.

Next we would need to talk about tomatoes and we could discuss the attributes of the black ones like Black Prince, Japanese Black Trifele and Black Krim; the orange ones like Valincia and Orange Blossom, the striped ones like Striped German and Pineapple and the white ones like Great White. We would need to talk about some of the older varieties like Mortgage Lifter, Burbank Slicing, Abraham Lincoln, or Box Car Willie. He would probably like Brandywine and the French Marmande. I would ask him if he knew about Nebraska Wedding. We could talk about the zillions of small tomatoes; the cherries, the grapes, the salad-sized, the pear-shaped the minis and I could show him the Totally Tomatoes catalogue and he would be amazed at all of the varieties.

I would ask him why he grew bush peas and beans. I like to grow them on trellises. I would tell him that there are now bush cucumbers and squash that produce as much fruit as vines but are much easier to have in the garden.

I think there were fewer varieties available in the seed store when I was a kid and that undoubtedly limited him. We could surely spend a lot of time together looking through my numerous vegetable catalogues and discussing all of the varieties that were not around in his time.

We could talk about irrigation and I could show him soaker hoses. Their ease of application and usefulness would be significant, I think. Once put in place, they last for many years and can be hooked up to the outside spigot for easy watering. No more digging irrigation ditches like he did.

And then I would take him to the farmers market. I am sure he would spend great amounts of time talking to the farmers and seeing all of the amazing things they bring each week. I am sure he would like seeing the resurgence of local farmers growing food for people in their own area. He would probably visit them at their farms and might even volunteer to help out, which was what people did when I was a kid.

And then I would take him to work with me and we could talk about pruning!!

For gardening discussion call Jeanelle Myers at 631-434-5067.

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