This winter my grandson, Austin, told me he wanted to plant a garden at the farm. I dismissed it as the bravado that comes from reading seed catalogs while sitting too close to the fireplace on a snowy, January evening. Now comes spring and he has ordered a vast number of seeds—new gardeners always over purchase.
I scanned the seed packets spread across my dining room table. They included Amish melon, Amish snap peas, Black Sea Man and Emmy tomatoes, Parisian Pickling cucumber, 2 varieties of beets, 2 of kale, and 6 of peppers, some of which had very “heated” names.
There were packets of eggplant, arugula, spinach, bok choy, mustard greens, and radishes. When I didn’t recognize any of the varieties, Austin explained that most of them were heirloom seeds.
Now I haven’t put a spade to soil in more than 25 years so, admittedly, I’m a bit rusty on technique and varieties. Much has changed in the world of home gardening since I hung out at the feed store in Rolla, swapping stories with bib-overall farmers about plants, varmints, and fertilizers.
In my gardening days, we were interested in whether a plant was treated with enough chemicals to make it resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium, nematodes and other annoying plant diseases. But gardeners are more suspicious of chemicals nowadays—as well they should be.
I couldn’t resist giving him some “seeds of wisdom” from my long years of cultivating the hardpan in Phelps County. I advised on best varieties, gardens implements, and planting times—potatoes go in the ground on St. Pat’s Day; lettuce as soon as the snow’s gone; and tomatoes on May 8, the last frost day in these parts.
Making a Paper Seed Cup
So far, my grandson has planted tomato, eggplant, pepper, kale, and basil in newspaper pots he created. Some of the seedlings will be for his St. Louis City garden and others for the farm. I noticed one herb named borage.
“Borage?” I asked. “What’s borage and do we need it?”
He explained that the annual plant has blue flowers and leaves with the flavor of cucumbers. Both the flowers and the leaves are edible.
“Borage attracts pollinating bees, improves the flavor of tomatoes, and deters hornworms,” he said.
“. . . and cures warts?” I asked factiously.
“Maybe,” he replied, and returned to sprinkling seeds in a paper cup.
While I admire his exotic selections, I reminded him that my main interest was in getting some beefsteak tomatoes, that take only one slice to cover a sandwich.
“I’m not a fan of tomatoes the size of marbles or even golf balls, I want a serious slicing tomato,” I said. He smiled and assured me I’d have some.
More to come. . . .