Hidey-ho, there, novice gardeners! It’s Memorial Day, danger of frost is past and it’s time to plant gardens in the Upper Ohio Valley. Mr. Brown Jeans is here to help you get started.
Your dream is of a coronavirus garden providing your grateful, admiring family, friends and neighbors with an abundance of fresh, delicious, healthful vegetables. If, however, your garden ends up a tragic tangle of noxious weeds, rusty tomato cages and failed intentions, at least it got you out in the sun, which kills the virus.
But let’s be hopeful and imagine that when the second wave of COVID-19 hits, and another lockdown is declared, and they close the borders with Mexico and California, and the food supply chain fails and public order begin to break down, with lawless bands of hungry scavengers roving the streets, you’ll just smile from behind your locked gates because you have your coronavirus garden and your gun. . . you do have a gun, right?
It may not come to that. Well, time to get started.
First you have to dig up the back yard. That lush grass you’ve been pampering for years is a weed now. Spade it up. Put your back into it. Turn that soil. Good job!
Now you need a cultivator. You would have to spend most of your coronavirus government relief check on a new tiller, so borrow one instead. Someone you know or are related to has one. If he balks at lending it, sneak in and get it at night or when no one’s at home. If the owner complains, plead a misunderstanding or say you have to feed your family, and remind him, “We’re all in this together.”
NOW YOU NEED garden stuff: agricultural lime, fertilizer, and manure, manure, and more manure, because the soil behind your house is Ohio Valley yellow clay and stones. The Jolly Green Giant couldn’t grow a decent potato in it.
Spread manure, lime and fertilizer on your newly tilled garden, then empty a whole bag of manure into a barrel and fill it with water. After it steeps a few days, you have an Italian “tea” that you will ladle daily around your plant roots. I learned that from Angelo Ferrazzano, a lovely man who taught at East Liverpool High School. With hard work and his Italian gardener genes, Angelo created a wonderful terraced garden on the steep hillside behind his Bradshaw Avenue home.
You’ll never be the gardener Angelo was, but don’t dwell on that. Those who know you have very low expectations. If you grow anything edible they’ll be astounded.
Now it’s time to plant your seeds and vegetable sets. You did get seeds when you got the fertilizer at Smith Feed, didn’t you? If not, the feed store still may be your best option at this late date, though God only knows what odds and ends are left – rutabaga, okra and such.
Seed catalogs began arriving in the mail before Christmas, and Honey ordered our seeds back in January and February. Order seed online now and “sold out” comes up every time.
(Wasn’t the governor of Michigan nice, though, forbidding in-state residents to buy garden seeds last month, thus saving them for the rest of us?)
If you can find them, Blue lake green beans are great. Get Detroit red beets, curly kale, and any kind of cucumbers and zucchini or yellow squash. Don’t forget onions. Onion sets will grow in a plot the size of your wallet.
You love sweet corn, but you need room to grow corn. Local farmers will have plenty for you to buy toward the end of July. You don’t have room for pumpkins, watermelons or cantaloupes either, bucko. They spread out.
RANDY DELPOSEN doubtless saw the garden craze coming, so he’ll probably still have some decent varieties of broccoli, tomato and green pepper sets at Randy’s Raisings. Or, there’s always Friday at the Rogers sale.
Gosh, Mr. Brown Jeans almost forgot potatoes! Yes, potatoes are cheap at the store, but new potatoes from the garden, fried with onions and squash, is a dish without which your life is incomplete.
When I was a boy, an older girlfriend of my sisters named Susan Grace was helping my parents plant the garden. She was puzzled when she saw them cutting potatoes in half to plant them. “But, they’re already potatoes,” she said. My dad laughed over that for years.
Buy five pounds of red Pontiac or white Katahdin seed potatoes from the feed store. And yes, in a pinch you can plant potatoes from the supermarket. If the potato is large, cut it in good size pieces, making sure each has at least one eye in it. (Little known fact: potatoes can actually see with their eyes.)
Cultivate, pull weeds, and use your hoe to pull loose dirt up around roots. Give plants a frequent drink from your Italian “tea” barrel. Buy extra ibuprofen.
Who knows? Maybe coronavirus will make a gardener out of you after all.
Today’s breaking news and more in your inbox