Tag Archives: gardening

Men and their gardens

5 Jun

I come from a long line of earth tenders. A very long line.

That’s Mister Bua you see there, grandfather to several of my cousins. He and Mrs. Bua lived in the ground floor apartment of Uncle Joe’s house on Berriman Street in Brooklyn. A general contractor by trade, my uncle bought the property because it had enough room for his red dump truck and assorted building materials, space for lots of family cookouts in the summer, plus a good-sized garden where he could grow vegetables.

The tree that Mister Bua is tending is a fig tree, a healthy one too. The trellis on the left is for a squash-type vegetable that we call googootz (here’s a link that explains), and the vast majority of the plants that I see are tomato plants.

I do not see a single weed. If you are at all familiar with vegetable gardening then you are likely as awestruck by this as I.

In a week or two I will have my own garden, a 24’x24′ plot of earth, fully planted. Like my uncle and Mister Bua, along with many other men I grew up admiring for their skill and loving for their generosity of spirit, tending to a garden in summer is a need, not a choice. If I didn’t have to nurse my fig trees (four now), tomatoes (a couple dozen plants, at least), googootz (always a crapshoot), garlic (230 or so this time around) and assorted other things I really do not know what else I would be doing from mid-June until September.

I know this may sound silly, or at the very least quaint, but looking at this photograph of Uncle Joe’s garden makes me all kinds of weepy. Go ahead and click on the picture, enlarge it and really take a good long look. Mister Bua, a sweet man with a kind heart, is exactly where he wants to be at this moment and doing exactly what he needs to be doing. Every single thing coming out of the ground is lush and beautiful, tended to by men who care deeply for them. Hell, even the sheets drying patiently on the clothesline, possibly Cousin Ursula’s, Mister Bua’s granddaughter, make me nostalgic.

Things just could not be more perfect.

Time to plant the tomatoes

20 May

Nobody asked me but… I decided to throw a couple cents into this season’s tomato-planting discussion. (Whaddaya mean, you weren’t discussing it! You have looked at a calendar, yes?)

My best advice on getting tomatoes started is this:

Buy plants that are around a foot tall and that have plenty of suckers growing from the lower portion. This one is around 11 inches, and has plenty of leaves and suckers throughout the entire plant.

Why is that so important? Because the first thing I’m going to urge you to do is cut off all that beautiful growth, about halfway up the stem, in fact.

Then dig a deep enough hole to bury the stem to the first sucker that’s left.

Yes, your plants will look pretty scrawny compared to when you bought them at the garden center. But your odds of having a more productive plant just got a ton better than had you dropped the plant into the ground as-is. What’s happening here is that all those areas where you pruned will develop into a more substantial root system for the plant, which makes it stronger and, in turn, able to produce better fruit.

One other thing: Tomato plants don’t require frequent watering, so unless you live in a dry climate, try and leave the things alone until they need moisture. Under normal conditions I only water my tomato plants (20 or 30 of them, and all different varieties) a couple times a week.

I’ll shut up now.