Read an Excerpt
A Heartwarming Day in the Garden
By Linda Kaullen Perkins
My gardening fever had started way back in January with the arrival of the first seed catalog. Finally, on this spring-like Saturday, I could turn my attention to our gardening spot. Last year's treelike weeds saluted me with round, sticky burrs—the kind that could deliver paralyzing pain to human flesh. These monsters had to be destroyed by fire.
My husband, the other half of the Weed Warrior Team, had just received an emergency call from his employer, the railroad. It was up to me to tackle the garden spot alone. What could be so hard about that?
With rake and matches in hand, I walked to the scraggly brown plot next to the orchard. My horse, ears pointed, peeked around the corner of her shelter. 'Hi, Ginger,' I called. She lumbered around the shed closer to the fence for a better view.
My first attempt at starting a fire fizzled like a dud firecracker. I raked some debris into two small piles and tried again. Two little fires sputtered, burned a few minutes, and puffed up in a trail of smoke. At this rate, I would never get these weeds annihilated.
Instead of raking up piles, I lit lots of little fires and waited to see if they would spread. Before long, flames licked the air and started taking off in several directions. Within minutes, uneasiness crept over me. Why hadn't I taken precautions before starting my burning project? I ran toward the house, which by now seemed miles away. I struggled with three hoses coiled like snakes outside the basement door. At the spigot nearest the garden, I attached a hose and ran with the other free end. The hoses stretched many yards short of my goal. I needed to find two more hoses. Nothing like planning ahead. Since I was halfway between the garden and the house, I debated: should I go check the fire or go back to the basement and get more hoses?
Once more, I raced to the garden spot. To my horror, fire whipped over a large area. I started stomping around the edges. 'Where did that wind come from?' I shouted. 'It could burn the whole orchard. Or the horse's shed! Do horses really run toward fire?'
I had to get more hoses. My heart pounded as I ran to the basement, flinging open the door. I sped past the phone and grabbed the hoses. I stopped, backtracked to the phone, and reached for the card with the phone numbers for the Volunteer Fire Department.
'I have this minor grass fire,' I said, trying to keep panic out of my voice. 'I could use some help. Please ask someone to bring one little truck. Don't bring that big truck!'
One little fire truck, eight pickups, and twelve farmers later, the fire was out.
'Now remember, gentlemen, you don't need to mention this to anyone.' Of course, they knew who I meant when I said 'anyone.'
Later that afternoon, my husband walked in the door with a smirk on his face and said, 'What have you been up to today?'
'You already know,' I said. 'Who told you?'
'You mean when I got flagged down on the blacktop?'
I made a face.
He hooked his thumbs in his overalls. 'Let me put it this way,' he said. 'Someone offered three words of advice.'
'And what were those words of wisdom?' I asked.
'Junior told me to hide the matches.'
By Sally Clark
Sometimes you wonder why people do the things they do, until you walk a mile in their shoes or dig a season in their garden.
After my grandparents died, my husband, two children, and I moved into their tiny four-room house in a small town of about five hundred people. My grandfather had always planted his vegetable garden on the east side of the house between the house and the road, barely five feet from a moderately traveled street. I wondered why he didn't plant his garden behind the house, between the apricot trees and the peach orchard, away from the dust and traffic of the road.
Although we were city folk, my husband, Mike, enjoyed working a vegetable garden. As soon as the ground warmed, he cleared and planted the long, sunny rows my grandfather had tended years before.
One day in early spring, Mike cut plastic milk jugs in half and placed them around the young tomato plants to protect them from the spring wind. As Mike worked the garden, Bunny Weinheimer slowed his pickup truck and pulled up next to the chicken wire fence that separated the garden from the road. Bunny was the owner of the local grocery store.
Bunny rolled his truck window down and shook his head. 'Don't you city boys know that's not where milk comes from?' he asked with mock concern.
Mike grinned. 'Well now, Bunny, you see that row of milk jugs over there? Those are male milk jugs. And you see this row over here? These are female milk jugs. I think it's gonna work.' My husband was never one to be outdone.
With a broad laugh, Bunny drove his truck down the road. He licked his finger and stroked it downward in the air, scoring one for the city boy. It seems my grandfather chose his garden space to cultivate friendships as well as produce.
As spring turned into summer, I watched from the kitchen window as other pickup trucks slowed and stopped beside what was now my husband's garden. Every truck seemed to have a beer cooler in the back and a driver who was happy to offer Mike a cold one. To encourage the friendships, Mike stopped working, leaned on whatever rake or hoe was in his hands, and welcomed the conversation. He was a light drinker, so when the pickup pulled out of sight, Mike poured the beer out onto the garden.
Years later, after our children were grown, our son had his own garden. One day, I caught him pouring beer onto his tomato plants.
'What are you doing, Son?' I asked.
'Watering the tomatoes,' he answered.
'Sure . . . that's what Dad did. I thought you were supposed to feed tomatoes beer.'
I laughed. 'Well, honey, Dad was just trying to grow friends, but I guess it never did the tomatoes any harm.'
A Garden for Every Season
Does your heart skip a beat at the thought of planting new flower beds? Does the smell of freshly tilled ground make you weak in the knees? Does the thought of cooking with your own herbs and vegetables excite you?
Passion for gardening touches each of us in a different way, and in The Ultimate Gardener, you'll meet others who share your zeal. Laugh at anecdotes of gardeners who try to cut corners and end up making extra work for themselves and pets who fail to realize that gardens are off-limits. Share the joy every gardener feels when those first tiny sprouts pop up each spring or their prize tomatoes make it through a midsummer storm. Whether the garden is a tiny rooftop terrace or acreage as far as the eye can see, every gardener will recognize the infatuation with growing things that winds through each and every story.
And no matter how successful you might be with your own garden, you're certain to glean a few new ideas from the passionate gardeners who generously share what they know about designing a small-space garden, soil preparation and starting plants from seeds, growing amazing herbs and low-maintenance roses, and many other subjects near and dear to a gardener's heart.
You'll be inspired, too, by the stunning photos throughout. The Ultimate Gardener will delight you and motivate you to create the garden of your dreams.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized gardening expert. For more than twenty years he's been acclaimed as a dynamic and accessible communicator with a passion for horticulture. Charlie has brought expert gardening information to home gardeners through radio, television, websites, and the printed page. He is currently the senior horticulturist at the National Gardening Association.
©2009. Linda Kaullen Perkins, Sally Clark. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Ultimate Gardener by Charlie Nardozzi. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.