Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Garden: Champaign 1995

Since I was a kid, I liked growing things. I liked trees and bushes and flowers, I liked fruits and vegetables. I liked gardens. My father was a plant person, a back yard gardener. Nothing huge or overtly anal, just your regular vegetable garden, maybe some vine fruit, and lots of trees and flowering bushes. I'm about the same (or was): nothing fancy or overdone, just a nice patch of vegetables and plants for the yard.
It was in Champaign--the second time around, when my kids were little--that I had my greatest garden. My only garden, really.
Champaign has world-class soil. I mean dark, rich earthwormypoop soil. It's fine and black, no rocks, and you can grow about anything in it without much effort. We were on Miller Street then. First Daughter was a three or four years old, Second Daughter was only one or two and I had worked at Agriseed in Savoy, a genetic crop lab, where they had given me all sorts of seeds because, each year, the employees there planted a big garden out in the land they owned. So, that's what got me going with my garden.
That first year I had broccoli and onions and garlic, kale and spinach and corn, bell peppers, jalapenos, red chili peppers, eggplant, leeks, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes tomatoes tomatoes. I mean, I did care for those plants and they grew huge and abundant. We ate a lot of fresh veggies and I still recall having the girls pick them with me. And over the subsequent time--by 1995--I had it down pat, growing two seasons of spinach and kale along with lots of peppers, broccoli, carrots, leeks and such. I also grew giant sunflowers: huge Russian sunflowers that would get to be seven feet tall or more, with wide Frisbee-sized disks for flowers that i would let turn to seed and which the birds and squirrels came to eat up in the fall. I also let groups of wildflowers grow in the back yard, so that there was a mowed path between patches of black-eyed Susans or daisies or whatnot. The girls would go out and play among them. And there was a big blackberry vine that I let grow in the corner, so we had fresh blackberries at times . . . That was good. I miss that garden. I don't miss too much about Champaign, but the garden definitely is one thing.
I don't have a garden anymore. Oh, I've got tons of plants, trees, vines, year round flowers, I've had citrus trees and an avocado, coconuts and pineapple plants. Banana plants. But I haven't had a good old fashioned vegetable garden. I tried for a bit, but south Florida is not the same as Iowa or Illinois. It's kind of an old fashioned seasonal thing as well.
But, we'll see. maybe I'll try again. Or, maybe, I'll again live in a place where a summer garden will grow.

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