The Enthusiastic Gardener

From toil to solace to teacher to … trouble.

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I grew up in southwest Ohio, the second of seven children. Our family’s vegetable garden covered over an acre. In early March my dad would purchase Kennebec seed potatoes. Mom would always say, “We need to have the potatoes in the ground by St. Joseph’s Day” (March 19). On the Saturday morning just before that day, two of my sisters and I would sit in the basement cutting out the eyes of the potatoes. After lunch, we’d drop the eyes in the ground and cover them up.

It seemed that as soon as the potatoes were planted, it was time to put out the onion sets, radishes, peas, and carrots. As Spring progressed, we put acorn, zucchini, and other Summer squash seeds in the ground, as well as green beans, pumpkin, and corn. We planted tomato and pepper starts right before Memorial Day.

And that was just the planting—we kids considered weeding the worst chore! I remember hoeing the sweet corn, chopping down thistle. Every once in a while, a young cornstalk was in the way—and down it went. Afraid of getting into trouble, I’d replant the stalk and hope my parents wouldn’t notice. The stalk would eventually die. Hopefully my parents would think that the deer ate it.

I always tell my audiences I do not have any formal training. I’m just an enthusiastic gardener.

Finally I went off to college and the garden chores ended.

In my early 30s when I was going through a difficult divorce, I returned to gardening. I took a small plot of yard, turned the soil over with a shovel, added some compost, and started planting. Just like when I was a teen, I started with potatoes, followed by radishes, peas, and so on.

I remarried and moved into big farm country, where my new husband planted a small garden plot and a few sour cherry trees.

Happy Gardener

After my husband passed, I expanded the garden: it became the solace for my grief. I read and studied, went to garden seminars and on garden tours, joined an herb society, read books, and planted blueberries, elderberries, and espaliered apple trees. Then I started giving garden talks where I would share my knowledge of vertical gardens, terrariums, and picture frames filled with succulents. I gave a few talks on growing, drying, and cooking herbs. I had all this activity in my life and I was in my element—all because of the garden. I always tell my audiences that I do not have any formal training in horticulture, botany, or as a Master Gardener. I am just an enthusiastic gardener.

Recently I asked my parents if they’d noticed that I chopped down a few cornstalks while weeding the garden. They answered, “No, we were too busy managing all you children, working fulltime, and canning. We didn’t notice a few stalks of corn.“

Whew. I thought for a moment I was going to be in trouble. Some 30 years later.


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