Oliver: Memories sprout as planting season begins

Planting season always brings my thoughts back to the old homestead along Draper Road.

There, my mother would plant what to my young eyes seemed to be the biggest garden ever to be planted by someone not growing crops commercially.

Maybe the fact that I had to have a hand in weeding said garden made it grow exponentially in my mind. It might also explain my enduring love-hate relationship with digging in the dirt.

Mom’s garden was about a half-acre in size, with a variety of vegetables from year to year that makes the adult me envious. Tomatoes, green peppers, string beans, snap peas, sweet corn, squash, onions, potatoes, you name it. She even had strawberries and rhubarb. Oh, the delicious pies she’d make with those.

One year she tried to grow kohlrabi, though to this day I swear she had no idea how to prepare it. That might explain why I’m still leery of the stuff.

If nothing else, growing up around Mom’s massive garden made me realize just how much better homegrown vegetables are from the store-bought kind.

My mother would start most things from seed, in soil freshly tilled by my father. The garden was big enough that Dad bought a small tractor with a rototiller attachment to do the job.

In the wintertime, the tractor was outfitted with a plow to handle our long driveway. Come to think of it, I’m grateful my younger brother and I never had to tackle digging out the driveway ourselves.

We did, however, have to work in that gargantuan garden. Someone had to weed that thing.

Being kids, my brother and I would do everything in our power to avoid the task. That, unfortunately, never was an option.

If we wanted to play, we had to get the chores out of the way first.

Being kids, we found a way to incorporate a little fun into the tedium. Imagination and creativity were the orders of the day. A little competition never hurt, either.

We’d have contests for who could weed a row of corn fastest, who could collect the most potato bugs off the plants, who could collect the most dandelions, etc.

Most of the time it didn’t really matter who would win; it was just a way to make that dreaded chore go a little faster.

Of course, we’d also have to get creative when we’d have a little “accident” with a hoe, such as lopping off a young corn plant right at the stem. Oops.

What to do? Just stick it back into the ground and it’ll regrow roots, right?

It seemed like a good plan at the time. Sadly, it never did work.

No doubt Mom was on to us, but I don’t recall her ever saying anything about it.

Maybe she was just happy to have a little help out there, no matter how half-hearted.

These days, I still can’t bring myself to plant vegetables, in part because I know how much work goes into them.

I do have a potted basil plant. Does that count?

Well, I suppose it’s a start.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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