I came home from a bike ride a couple of weeks ago to find Bro. Art unloading his John Deere tractor in my driveway. “Where do you want this garden?” he asked as he was walking off the porch with my bicycle pump.
I looked around a little surprised to see Sis. Pat and Sarah walking around and pointing in the back yard. “This trailer tire is a little low, I’ll have to check it when I get back home.” Bro. Art said. I huffed and puffed on the pump while he surveyed the property.
“I don’t need a very big plot Bro. Art.” I finally said, thinking I didn’t need a plot at all.
“Well what all you want to grow?” He asked.
For a split second I thought about the vegetables that I really enjoyed eating. “I guess some squash, green beans, and peppers.” I said. “And tomatoes.” I’m not sure why I said tomatoes. I hate tomatoes. Maybe hate is a strong word, but I don’t eat raw tomatoes. But I said it clear as day. A garden in Alabama isn’t complete without tomatoes.
“Ok. I’ll plow you up this little patch right here. You can put your corn on the North end.” He said, pointing around on the ground. “You can plant your zucchini and cucumbers right here, and okry over there. You like okry?”
Bro. Art proceeded to plow up a piece of ground about four times the size of what I thought we needed.
So that’s how I got back into gardening. Although I’ve been around gardening most of my life, I’ve never been an active gardner. I can’t remember Pop not having a garden. Up until now, my role in the garden has always been purely muscle. I once planted an acre and a half of watermelon seeds by hand. More than once I’ve stuck my finger into a rotten potatoes while digging up the same potatoes I helped plant-a feeling that you won’t soon forget. I’ve staked and strung about fifty miles of tomatoes. I’ve picked countless acres of corn. I’ve shoveled goat manure every kind of way you can imagine in the name of gardening. Now that I’m an adult I wish that I would have paid more attention to the details of gardening. Especially since I can no longer rely on the knowledge and experience of my father. Dad would have been excited to know that I’m planting a garden.
“My grandfather had a farm. My father had a garden. I have a can opener.”Jimmy Tony
Like Bro. Art, Pop has always planted a much bigger garden than he might have needed. It is probably safe to call Pop a small scale farmer, and not a gardener. “It’s a gamble.” He told me when I asked about when to plant. You never know how much of the crop is going to come up.
Dad started a garden at our house when I was a teenager. I remember a conversation that is a little embarrassing to share with you.
“Dad, I’ll cut the grass, but I really don’t want to work in the garden.”
He chuckled, “That’s alright, I wasn’t expecting you to help. This is my garden.” I was surprised when I realized that he wasn’t upset with me. I think he knew what it was like to have to work in the garden without a choice, and he didn’t want that for his kids.
As silly as it may sound, one of the main reasons I did not want to work in the Dad’s garden was my hands; I wanted to keep my hands clean. And I still do. I don’t like lotion, or long fingernails. I think it’s a guitar player thing.
It did not take long for Sarah and I to get more than a little excited about gardening. We went to Chambers Garden Center and bought some seeds and plants. I got Better Boy tomatoes because that’s what Dad always planted.
A funny thing happened when got back home and started putting the plants into the ground. I was more concerned about the plant than keeping my hands clean. I looked down and my hands were covered in dirt. I had to laugh at myself.
Two days after I planted my garden we had a large storm pass over us, dumping buckets of rain down on my tender plants and seeds. A tornado touched down just a few miles South of our house that night. I sat in the closet with my family and listened to James Spann guide us through the storm. You can laugh if you want, but I was worried about my garden. Will this rain wash away my seeds? Did I plant to early? Can my plants withstand this storm? What if nothing comes up? I think this may be what gardening feels like.
There are somethings that I can tell you about and there is a good chance that you’ll appreciate them, but nothing can compare to experiencing them for yourself. Such is planting a seed and watching it spring up out of the ground. I wish my Dad were here to see my garden. I know he would be happy to offer advice and guidance, but I think he’d be even more proud that I did it on my own. With a generous dose of help from Bro. Art of course.