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Possumhaw: Raising a soup garden


Shannon Bardwell



"The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition." 


-- Thomas Edison  




The cracks in the ground are so wide you could put a nickel in sideways. We've been running the yard sprinklers off well water for the last couple of weeks. For the entire summer season, we didn't see dry grass or tree leaves curling, not until now. A person could get use to no watering. Sam mostly mans the sprinklers, aiming them over the grass. Occasionally I come by and point them more toward the flower beds. A few years ago, the well started drawing sand and clogging up the sprinkler head. Sam fiddles with it and gets it going. I usually slap at it 'til it oscillates again.  


The yellow-gold cosmos are about three feet tall. At sunset, they look like balls of fire. Behind them are cool-colored Prairie petunias in purplish blue. There's blue salvia, blue daze and a gardenia here and there, white petunias and pink periwinkle. It's a beautiful sight.  


Almost time to cut back the wildflowers. The catalog said wait 'til they are more brown than green then cut them down to about four inches. I'm going to leave the cuttings for more seed and organic matter. I could order more seeds since it's recommended to plant wildflowers in the fall. Would be nice if we had some rain though. Much better than well water with sand. 


I'm planning my winter garden for the greenhouse. No use planting outside, the deer would eat it all. I'll need to condition and add more soil. I plan to have kale and chard, maybe some parsley and lettuce. Perhaps even some broccoli and Brussels sprouts. The broccoli and Brussels sprouts didn't do well last time, but maybe this time will be different.  


Becky Rupp wrote a gardening story for "Green Prints, the Weeder's Digest" about the garden she raised with her son and his friends. Becky suggested the boys raise food for the community soup kitchen. One boy said, "You can't raise soup." 


"Oh, yes we can," she said. According to Becky the average tomato plant will yield 60 pounds of tomatoes in a season. (Becky must be a really good gardener.)  


Cucumbers make 20 pounds per vine. A 10-foot row of cornstalks equals 15 pounds of corn. One pumpkin seed makes 100 pounds of pumpkins, plus countless more seeds. One hill of zucchini produces more zucchini than you can calculate.  


As it ended up, the boys made a successful garden and enjoyed it so much they continued for four more years, until they all went to college.  


A story like that reminds me of the community gardens around town. A lot of food could be raised. You really can make soup out of a garden.  


Sam and I have been eating more fresh food and cleaning up our diet a bit. We thought it was good enough, but there's always better. Sometimes it hasn't been fun or quick, but like anything new it takes some adjusting. We'll see how the winter garden grows.  



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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