Saturday, April 24, 2010
Spring is here and the garden is underway. It is not so easy as it was. Tom has a hip replacement which doesn't seem to slow him down any; I have degenerative arthritis in my back, which slows me down plenty and hurts like h--- when I bend over. We both do a lot more of the work crawling along on hands and knees than we used to, but, oh well.....
Last week we planted over 65 heirloom tomatoes. It went like this. Tom prepares the garden plot which he has created over the years in a large corner of our small back yard. It consists of a base of clay, which is the natural soil; several thin layers of compost, bought at great expense over the years; three or four years of homemade compost, supplemented of late with big ol' red compost-producing wriggler worms. All this is tilled several times with the tiller-which-will-not-start. Tom and Jeff own the tiller together. Sometimes Tom can start it; more often Jeff can. Most times Dukes Equipment does and they each have it for a weekend to till their garden.
Then Tom buys all the plants. I usually go with him, but not this year. He goes to the Farmers' Market, Lowes, Home Depot and the little locally owned shop on the corner of St. Andrews Road, where he buys a mixture of flowers to plant in our pots on the front porch and back deck, the herbs we cook with, and the vegetables we plant in the garden. This year it is going to be four rows of tomatoes, two rows of field peas of several varieties (at my special request), three rows of okra, and a row of peppers--banana and jalapeno.
Next Tom prepares the ground. He scoops out a little hole for each tomato plant about 6 inches apart and fills it with a dab of compost. Then it is time for me to come help. Down each row and back up the next. I, with my watering can, fill the hole; Tom rips the plant out of its plastic container with soil ball intact, carefully places it into the hole and pats the soil around it. I sprinkle a bit more water on the delicate plant and we go to the next. Up and down we go. Up and down. It is hot. I worry about getting sunburned because I forget to put on sunblock. My back hurts and I drop to my knees. I am pretty sure I am going to have to call it quits before we finish. I grit my teeth and keep going because I am tough. I close my eyes and pretend I am a slave in a cotton field and will get beaten by the overseer if I quit before we are through. Pretty dramatic, huh? Finally, we finish the last row of tomatoes and quit for the day.
Next day are the field peas, planted from dried peas. Tom has gone to three places, including the one all the way out in South Congaree, trying to find the kind we especially like. Since he doesn't know the name, he can only go by the picture on the seed packet, and the way they look in the bin. The ones we like are little and dark orange/brownish and aren't mealy when they are cooked. You know the kind! So he plants them and this time I do not help. I take a nap instead. I feel only slightly guilty.
Finally are the peppers and the okra. The okra are planted from seed this year. They are especially hard to get started. If we get impatient and plant too early, the warm weather turns cold one more time, the temperature goes below 50 and the plants all die. We start all over again. We have done this. Our country cousin from Tennessee who grows a vast garden and orchard has given us advice about how to be successful planting okra--making the seed germinate faster and better. Some folk freeze them he tells us; some soak them in hot water for a time; some soak them in cold water overnight; some soak them in water with a small amount of Clorox added. (I think it was Clorox. It may have been vinegar or ammonia or hydrogen peroxide--oh dear!!) So the year we talked to Farmer Tommy, Tom divided his seed into five sets and tried all four methods, plus the control set, which we planted without doing anything to. We could tell no difference. Except the set we soaked in Clorox (or whatever) died. This year Tom does not experiment. He just plants. I do not help with the okra. I take a nap instead. I feel only slightly guilty.
And so the planting is done. Let the growing begin.