GARDENING BY RONELLA: June brings back gardening memories
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Jun 05, 2013 | 122 122 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“What is so rare as a day in June” comes tripping through my mind on days like today. This beautiful, timeless poem by James Russell Lowell perfectly reflects my feeling on days such as today. It’s no wonder that June is the month of weddings and so many poems.

Now that I no longer am able to have the big flower gardens that I once had, I think back to other lovely gardens I have known and I think of my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Angie, and her obsession for flowers. Aunt Angie and Uncle Finus lived about 3 miles from Ma and Pa, too far for Ma and me to walk so we had to go with Pa in his mule-driven wagon. We made that short trip several times each spring and summer. They were so interesting to a little girl like me. First of all, they lived in a tiny log house on the country road and their house was beside a creek. That was exciting to me with its deep pools full of minnows and just right for wading. But the really wonderful thing about that little place was its fenced in yard. The chickens ranged outside the fence and took their chances with foxes and the like. Inside the fence was nothing but flowers with narrow paths going around through the flowers. There was no grass, just flowers of every kind. And to really add to the wonder was always a bed of kittens on the back porch. As we left, after Ma’s visit, Aunt Angie would pick a big bouquet of flowers for me to take home.

They had no garden, just a little house and a hillside so Pa would take a wagon load of vegetables from his gardens any time we went to visit them. Uncle Finus worked for neighboring farmers for daily wages and always helped Pa at hog killing time or wheat threshing. Uncle Finus had one redeeming feature: he was a fiddle player so was a welcome visitor. After all these years, I have a very vivid memory of these very dear little people and their little cabin on the creek. Mostly I remember a yard full of flowers and a little bent woman with a big smile. The last time I saw my great Aunt Angie, I was only about ten or twelve and yet I remember her clearly.

A love of flowers has always been part of my ancestry. My Ma and her mother-in-law both loved flowers and each had lived a lifetime in the old Lewis home with the big yard and handed down to me this love of beautiful plants. I always remember how Ma could often find just a few minutes to slip out to the yard and pull a few weeds.

The date to have the first ripe tomato on July 4th has always been a date to strive for. My grandfather took great pride in having a ripe tomato on July 4th, even if it was only one ripe one. To enjoy blemish and crack-free tomatoes, give the plants consistent moisture while the fruits are maturing. For the best flavor, harvest tomatoes as soon as they reach their full size and color. Don’t store tomatoes in the refrigerator. Also, don’t place them in a sunny window. A good place to put them to ripen is in an egg carton with the stem slide down. When planting a tomato, put the stem down as far as possible in the soil, leaving just a little of the leafy part out of the ground. Another trick is to lay the plant on its side and cover with several inches of dirt, leaving a little of the top of the plant above ground. The point of these methods is to have the roots grow deep in the soil to get more moisture. Good luck. Nothing tastes quite as good as a tomato fresh out of the garden.

I had a call this past week from a gardener and reader of my column who was having a problem with squirrels digging in her mulched foundation. My suggestion was to get boxes of moth balls and spread them around. She called me this week to tell me that it worked; she has no more squirrels. But birds are making nests in her garage and ruining her car. The suggestion was to get some life-size owls from a discount store or from a farm supply store and hang them in the garage. I am anxious to hear if this worked. If you can think of a better way, please let me know.

I am amazed at the new and improved flowers in the nurseries now. I hope you take time to check them out. I also notice that many places are having great sales now.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or suggestions.
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