Difficulties of gardening
Growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables has been one of my passions and a part of my life since I was a young boy growing up on the family farm in Clay County.
However, I must admit success is sometimes beyond the grower’s control.
For example, a wet winter extended far into spring this year and delayed the planting of early-maturing vegetables such as greens, cabbage, potatoes, squash and tomatoes. Following an extended period of hot, dry weather, growers now have to water their crops to prevent them from dying.
I credit my parents for instilling in me a strong work ethic and a healthy appreciation for farm life, even though it was a hard way to make a living.
My father was a full-time farmer who excelled at growing produce and peddling it to residential and small business customers on a house-to-house basis. He also grew corn and cotton crops to feed a large flock of laying hens and livestock and provide the necessities for a family of nine.
My siblings and I stayed busy hoeing, plowing and harvesting the row crops. It would take us one day to pick the vegetables that would be carried to market the following day. A special treat was to accompany my dad on one of his trips to town, stand on the passenger side running board of his pickup truck and announce the arrival of home grown watermelons, cantaloupes and tomatoes to prospective customers.
I maintained my zeal for gardening even after I left the farm, even though I chose journalism as a career and worked in that field for more than 50 years before retiring in 2016.
Some of the gardens I worked were small but fruitful. My first one in Hartselle, 1962, is especially memorable.
It was planted in the backyard of a rental house on Barkley Street. Cultivation was done with a hoe, rake and push plow. Wow – what work! However, the veggies that landed on our dinner table were very tasty.
Fast forward to 2017, and I decided to expand the size of my garden on Bethel Road with the idea of selling the veggies not needed by our family at the Hartselle Farmers Market. Clearing additional space and increasing my investment in seed, fertilizer and other supplies paid dividends. Despite a wet spring, we harvested bumper crops of squash, cucumbers and tomatoes and had no problem selling the surplus at the farmers market.
Already, we are looking forward to a new growing season and to returning to the market in 2019. Red potatoes and squash are ready to harvest, and tomatoes aren’t far behind.