By Ike Adams
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The 2013 garden growing season is not over yet but it’s winding down fast here in the Paint Lick suburbs at 249 Charlie Brown Road. And it has been, easily so, the best growing season that I have experienced this young century.
Late last Sunday afternoon I hustled through the garden trying to beat the approaching rain storm but I still got drenched. Even so, I brought in a five gallon bucket full of stuff — a big mess of Bufford Caudill fall beans, Bodacious sweet corn, Brandywine and Molly Helton tomatoes, a couple of English cucumbers and half a dozen huge, thick-walled bell peppers.
So I said to Loretta I believed these were the best peppers we’ve had since we’ve lived here and she said, “Nope these are the best bell peppers you’ve ever grown since I’ve known you and please don’t be putting how long that’s been in the paper because some people think I still look young.”
My wife is becoming vain in her old age but please don’t tell anybody I said that cause it might get back to her. Meanwhile, let’s get back to the garden.
We are eating on and sharing our third crop of sweet corn of the year this week. Loretta has the same opinion of it as she has of the peppers. Back around the first of August, I told my brother Keeter I’d just planted a row of late-season bodacious and he said, “Well it might make fodder, but it won’t make corn.”
Not only did it make corn but the ears are huge and the kernels so sweet they make my false teeth hurt. I’m taking some over to Tom and Julie Miller’s in Berea to cook out Wednesday evening so that I’ll have witnesses. Even my skeptical brother will believe Julie Miller. Actually, he’ll believe Loretta but I figure two solid witnesses are better than one. That’s not to suggest Tom is not also a reliable witness, but Keeter will believe anything a woman tells him while he doubts most men if they claim to be friends of mine.
Which is why I also took our biggest watermelon of the season to Loretta’s sister, Barbara Thomas, last week. Said mellon was a Charleston Grey — one of those long, pale green jobs that the seed pack says can reach up to 40 pounds even though they seldom do. I’m not sure how much this one actually weighed but it was more than either Loretta or I could handle because Lo has a bad back and Mr. Parkinson has essentially rendered me one-handed and the mellon was way more than I could manage with just my good, right arm.
So I had son Christopher fetch it from the garden, load it in Loretta’s car and Barb unloaded it when we got to her place. Barb has a host of kids and grandkids but I’m betting she still has leftover watermelon in her fridge.
This wonderful growing season has been the result of an abundance of rain and the coolest summer we’ve had in decades. The only thing that more or less failed me this year was tomatoes. And we’ve had more than enough maters to eat on but not enough to share with everybody and his brother on both sides of the road the way we normally do. I could have fattened a couple of hogs this year on rotten tomatoes and the ones that simply burst open on the vine because they got too much water.
We also had hundreds of cucumbers and squash that got too big too fast but Keeter swears a hog won’t eat a cucumber and he’s not about to put something in his mouth that a hog won’t eat. I figure it’s the other way around — that a hog won’t eat anything that my brother turned down.
The biggest downside to this garden season, however is a huge one. Along with all the veggies, lamb’s quarter, hog weed, horse weeds, morning glories, hickory dock and probably a dozen other varieties of devilish weeds have also persisted and thrived in spite of my best efforts.
At times, when it was dry enough to cultivate, it seemed like I could hoe a row of anything, glance over my shoulder and see weeds coming up behind me. Morning glories now cover my dead corn stalks and both hog weeds and lamb’s quarter are taller than I am in places. They’ve reached the point that my one-handed miracle hoe is useless against them and they are going to seed.
I’m already dreading the fight next year but we all know that this is not a perfect world. Still, when we can get a growing season like the one that’s winding down, we can at least get some idea of what perfection might look like.