A Life Long Love (of Gardening)

raised-vegetable-bedI grew up on an 80 acre farm. My father rotated corn, soy beans, and wheat, so I knew enough about gardening to be (as they say) dangerous. My family fell on hard times just after my father bought the land. A car accident left him with two cracked vertebrae and a mountain of hospital bills. This was the in the 1970s, and it was a hard decade for us, as my mother learned to make soap, as well as clothing, for herself, my father and us three boys. And we learned how to garden. And boy did we garden – over a full acre of sweet corn, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, beans, lettuce, cabbage, squash, onions, peas, beets, and many herbs. We would pick wheel barrels full of sweetcorn and tomatoes, and bushels of beans almost every other day!

What we couldn’t sell at the farmer’s market we ate or canned for winter use, and even what some would call waste was given to the chickens and pigs. I can never remember a time when we didn’t have enough to eat.

Then I went to college and then a university 150 miles from the family farm. I worked forty hours a week or more to pay my way through, and never took a dime from folks for my secondary schooling. I had grown used to the food in the college cafeteria, and quickly forgot how good fresh vegetables and fruits are.

Later I got a fairly good job, married and eventually moved into a condo. The condo association allowed flower beds, but for nine years I grew a small garden with a few tomato plants, beans, cucumbers, and potatoes (all heirloom varieties organically grown). I really enjoyed gardening and especially the fresh vegetables, and even gave tomatoes and cucumbers to some of my neighbors.

Then one day we got a letter in the mail from the board of our condo association (no direct communication, just a cowardly note) that said to cease and desist. I was heartbroken, as I loved to garden and even more loved the fruit of my work.

A couple of years later a friend of mine was retiring from his job. He is about ten years older than I, and we started talking about gardening. He had a large back yard, and decided to turn a corner of the yard into a garden. I helped him amend the soil, pick out heirloom varieties of seeds and potatoes, and we planted the first garden he had ever had in his life.

That first year was OK, but we live in Michigan, were there is a lot of wildlife, particularly deer, woodchucks, and other small creatures who tend to love heirloom and organically grown food as much as we do. So the first two years were about learning how to keep out the pests.

Then three years ago I told him about square foot gardening, and how we could build raised beds and then fence everything in to help from losing most of the veggies. He enlisted the help of his stepson and father-in-law, and between the four of us we built 10 8’x5′ beds two feet off the ground. My friend found some plastic owls that have sensors that detect movement and spay water from attached garden hoses, which he attached to the fence on either end.

I have had one bed to plant, and I have been planting three tomato plants, four cucumber plants, an eight foot row of beans, and then carrots and potatoes in the remaining space. I trellis the cucumbers, and stake up the tomatoes. We have been getting the tomato plants to grow over eight feet high! From this one bed, I get twice as many tomatoes, cucumbers and beans as my wife and I need and the rest I take into work. My workplace lets us bring in extra garden produce and my fellow workers give money to the local food bank for any veggies they want.

So in conclusion, I have come full circle as a gardener, and have brought in a friend who is using gardening not only as a hobby, but a way to keep him from getting (as he says) fat and lazy.

Thanks to Jim Craft for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest.

We have over $2,097 in prizes lined up for the Fall 2015 Writing Contest, including all of the following:

– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $382 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $288 value
– 1 free 1 year membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $239 value
– A Worm Factory 360 vermicomposting system from Nature’s Footprint, a $128 value
– 2 large heirloom seed collections from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, valued at $103 each
– A Metro-Grower Elite sub-irrigation growing container from Nature’s Footprint, a $69 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $59 each
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $43 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $46 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $33 each
– 4 copies of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, valued at $31 each

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