The Expert on Vegetable Gardening
During my lifetime I’ve considered myself fairly competent and intelligent in most matters. There are some areas in which I excel and others…well, to put it bluntly, I suck. Gardening was one of those areas.
Of course, growing up in the Ozark Mountains made me an expert in the fine art of cultivating a proper vegetable garden, although I had never even held a hoe. Off and on during the 1950’s, I had lived on my grandparent’s farm, perched atop a mountain in the Ozark foothills and had watched as the old timers prepared their fields for planting. I had observed, not participated. Even so, you would’ve thought I’d learn a thing or two. But then, I was smarter than those country hayseeds. I was “a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll”, so to speak.
What I Wanted
Raised as A Military Brat
My dad was in the U.S. Air Force, therefore I was raised as a “military brat”, never staying very long in one place. That may have been good educationally speaking, but I was never able to put down real roots anywhere. If I was in the North, people asked what part of the South I was from. If I happened to be in the South, I was called a “Yankee”.
After I married the girl of my dreams we moved to Crawford County, Arkansas where I had purchased an acre of land adjacent to my grandparents. The land was unimproved, so we had our work cut out for us.
A friend down the dusty country road from us helped clear my little plot of dirt by cutting down some trees with a chainsaw. Things were starting to come together and I could visualize rows of fresh veggies growing across my little piece of heaven.
What I Got
Planting season rolled around and grandma started getting her garden ready to plant. I decided it was time to start mine also, but I wanted it on my land. I asked grandma for seed and she asked where I planned to plant it. “On my property”, I exclaimed. She, along with my wife gave me a confused look.
My wife, an experienced gardener in her own right, and grandma, a seasoned pro, promptly explained my land wasn’t ready for planting. However, nobody could tell me that. Hadn’t I just cleared a bunch of trees off of it exposing enough ground to pop a few seeds into it? Couldn’t they see how rich my soil was after being unattended for 50 years when great granddad last cultivated it? No…it was more than ready.
What I learned later was all those trees, plus the stumps, had roots crisscrossing beneath the surface. Those roots were draining nutrients from the soil needed by anything I would plant.
Grandma, a country-wise woman who had spent her entire life there on her 40 acres, knew the best way to learn something was to just jump in and start. So, after a few minutes of trying to convince me to plant somewhere else she and my wife gave up and let me “do it my way”.
“I’ll show them”, I muttered to myself as I headed over to my plot. I proceeded to pull weeds and till the ground where I intended to deposit seed. My idea was to conserve space by planting seed close together, thus maximizing its’ potential. Anyway, it made sense to me at the time.
I planted a cup of seed for each variety of plant. There were green peas, Crowder peas, cucumbers, yellow squash and water melon. I watered and tended the patch daily.
Harvesting time came and Grandma and my wife picked bushels of fresh produce from their garden. They had so much excess they hauled a lot of it over to friends and neighbors.
What did I get? I got exactly what I had planted…a cup of green peas, a cup of Crowder peas, one cucumber, one yellow squash and one water melon. The melon was about the size of a softball.
My garden became the butt of many jokes in our small mountain community. My wife never let me forget about “how smart and intelligent” I was for years to come. Grandma and she even took pictures of it to show anybody who wanted a good laugh. The following year my garden turned out fine. Grandma had taught me well.
But now it was time to start building a home. I had no doubts I could make one. After all, I had watched grandfather and all the other old timers build theirs.