After 2 days of running chauffeur duties, I finally got to spend some time this evening playing in the dirt. I have crowded irises (to be divided this fall), suspected tulips and five prolific rhubarb areas to rescue from weeds, and get worked into the overall landscaping plan, as well as a couple of ground covers and vines to identify before I start covering, building garden beds and planting low-water, ground cover everywhere else.
Why rip something up, cover, buy and replant when I can just save what is already here?
Who should drive by while I’m up to my elbows in mulch, but Mr. Gardener Extraordinaire (aka Mr. GE from now on), who also ran the local filling station here for over 40 years. When I was a child, he always had a cold soda for me to enjoy while he and Dad had a beer and shot the breeze when we stopped in to fill up the truck tank after a long day’s work.
I believe candy bars were handed out too, but don’t tell – Mom still doesn’t know why I wouldn’t eat supper…
Mr. GE has gardened the same plot here in town for nearly 60 years. His place is small enough that even with companion planting and rotation, he can no longer grow heirloom tomatoes or cabbages. He’s worried about the continuing bee population decline – gave me best wishes on my plans for flowers, bee hotels and a natural hive (not for me to raid, but for bees to feel at home). We agreed it was a global problem and pondered in silence for awhile, contemplating the enormity of it all.
For some time, we visited while standing by the newly mulched irises I had rescued from weeds (again – – now that we’ve gotten rain and it’s finally warmed up, the weeds are making up for lost time) and thinking someone in their 80’s might like to sit, I finally asked if he still liked a cold beer now and again – did he’d have time sit for a spell and chat?
He did, and we did and here’s what I learned:
- This place hasn’t been gardened for over 15 years or more – so I’m starting off with just about virgin soil.
- Around here, you never plant your turnips til July or so.
- Parsnips need to go into the ground in spring, left in the ground all next winter, harvested the following spring – they will be the greatest treat I’ve ever had and he knows several people who will be happy to purchase if I grow and harvest them the correct way.
- If I grow the cabbage, he’s got the all the tools, crocks and recipes for sauerkraut and his kids will show up to help with the manpower, come sauerkraut making time.
- If I somehow happen to have a bumper crop this year and can’t preserve all of it, anything I take to the local church pantry will be put to good use in a day or so.
- A few years back, the Master Gardening certificate was big doing’s around here. So he bought the book, read it, and found out he’d been gardening wrong for 60 years. Since he raised a family and kept many of the residents here in fresh veggies for the same amount of time, he threw the book in the dumpster and went back to his ‘wrong ways.’
- He was intrigued by my raised beds out of old tires idea and, having owned the local gas/mechanic station for over 40 years, believes my idea is providing a great public service to local businesses.
- Young people round here don’t always know how to put fresh veggies to use, but no matter what I grow, he’ll know an older someone that’s been hankering for garden fresh (insert veggie name).
- If I wash my carrots real good, then let them dry in the sun, they’ll keep in the crisper all winter.
- Every year, something will go wrong – something won’t grow, or won’t keep good or will end up dying. Doesn’t matter how long I garden or how good I get at it, every year, something will let me down.
He’s alone now, the kids have moved away and his wife passed on awhile back. Four walls close in on him sometimes.
I told him that’s okay, stop by anytime we’ll have a cold one and a chat…
He doesn’t often indulge in a beer much anymore or radishes –
That’s okay, I’ll make lemonade or ice tea or have on hand what he does want…
Ain’t I too busy to be stopping and chatting?
Nope, I reply – Never. Life’s too short to miss out on an afternoon chat.
What I didn’t say was, “You really think I’m too busy to stop and listen to someone who actually knows what’s going on?”
Maybe I’ll tell him next time… Which I hope is soon…