Monsoon Gardening

Reader Contribution by Phil Nichols
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It’s been a tough year for gardeners here in the Ozarks hill country. A month of near constant rains drowned many first plantings. I’ve replanted two and three times already and aside from some minor successes the only crops that have really done well came from the first trench row that I managed to get in ahead of the monsoon. We just finished a delicious bowl of ham and beans, cooked with fresh collard greens (from that row). Radishes turned out great and curly mustard (I’m letting it go to seed for saving) was a great add to the outstanding iceberg lettuce salads from that row. Nice crisp young turnips simmered in water with a chicken bullion cube and bacon have also been gracing our table. The only thing that didn’t do well in that row was spinach; don’t know what to say about that one spinach has always been a tough sell in our clime.

This past weekend finally turned out dry enough to work the soil, so I cranked up the tiller and went to work. Since my bush beans and okra both succumbed to the boggy conditions in the garden and we are forecast for yet another week of downpours, I took a cue from the three hills of melons that I planted a couple of weeks ago. They withstood a torrential onslaught and still managed to keep my watermelon seed high and dry enough to germinate. So I hoed up two long hills for the okra and beans. We’ll see.

My first planting of corn (trench rowed) was really spotty so I kept shoving seed into the ground in an effort to get the four rows filled out. It hasn’t been a raging success but it’s starting to look like corn anyway. Not too sure that the seed I saved last year isn’t the problem. Rather than taking seed from the best ears, I used the nubbins and tag ends. If the crop makes this go round I’ll be a bit more selective; Penny wise and pound foolish.

I also made a succession planting of my saved seed Bradford Melons. The literature I received from the Bradford family last year gave instructions to create a hill, dig out the center, pour in good composted manure and stand back; once the melons start to vine, weed as necessary until the vines cover the area and then stay out till harvest time. I’ve got nine hills now and will plant six more. With any luck I’ll have some old-timey tasting melons for this year’s farmer’s market that come ripe over a period of weeks rather than all at once.

On the way into work this morning, I pondered why, at 71 years of age, I’m still willing to fight weather, varmints, insects and old age to dig in the dirt. Unlike my ancestors, we certainly don’t have to have the produce to survive. I do enjoy bringing wholesome organic vegetables to our table and it pleases me to deliver them to neighbors who can no longer work the earth but there has to be something more that makes the sweat, toil and frequent disappointments worth the trouble. Still pondering that one.

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