July 4, 2010 2:08:00 AM
The square foot garden is coming along fine. I ate the five strawberries, 15 beans and one squash produced thus far; Sam said he''d stick with Cheerios. Something got to the lettuce before I did, but if zinnias and leafy cosmos were edible the Bardwells would have a cornucopia accented with one humongous sunflower.
The garden got off to a slow start, which I''m blaming on a cool spring since the soil tested rich. I diligently weeded, which was easy owing to the early rains. "The rains have minerals that are better for the plants," I said. Sam said, "The rains have H2O." Anyway, plants seem to grow faster with rain; more so than with well water.
Maw Maw and Paw Paw came to see the garden''s progress; they contributed seed. I''m proud of the appearance of the plants growing in squares. Even with low production, the garden is pretty.
Paw Paw asked, "How big are your cucumbers?" I held my fingers up indicating about 2 inches. "Well, you''ll have cucumbers for pickin'' next week." I explained the cucumbers were not that big, the plants were. Paw Paw looked confused as his garden was already harvesting cucumbers and squash, with a mess of beans on the way.
Nick Hairston accosted me on the road and invited me to see his garden. Nick is growing his garden in his old swimming pool. He said he tried raising catfish in the pool but that wasn''t very successful. His wife, Eleanor, stood at his side; her expression said a lot.
Nick''s garden has the look of a seasoned gardener. His tomatoes were man-high, his zucchini and squash were almost ready; he had eggplant, a variety of peppers and herbs. His crop grows neatly in rows and is well weeded. He said that weeding is done on Mondays. Nick has a watering system that he re-engineered from the swimming pool pump.
I remarked that my garden was not nearly that far along. "Well," he said, "I started my seed early." Eleanor added, "In the foyer."
Nick said, "Okra grows like cotton. It likes hot weather." So I replanted the okra and now that hot weather is here 11 okra plants have sprouted. Paw Paw said I didn''t plant enough beans, so I replanted those as well. They popped up practically overnight. I added some bell peppers where the lettuce had vanished. Nick said I needed nitrogen; the soil report doesn''t include nitrogen. I sprinkled Miracle Grow. Ants are a problem.
Some people have the gift of gardening; the proverbial "green thumb." I can also see that real gardeners don''t give up. They try a little of this and a little of that -- pull up, replant; always changing, adapting and growing, like the garden.
Sam said someone he can''t remember said, "Chicken manure. Nothing beats chicken manure." Nick swears by horse manure. I don''t ever remember discussing the merits of manure with so many folks.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.
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