By Jim Raykie
It's that time of year when garden enthusiasts turn their attention to their tomato and pepper plants and other vegetables that they hope will provide a bounty near summer’s end.
When I was a kid growing up in Farrell, my grandfather was one of the “master gardeners” of his era. He had little grass to mow because his backyard was one large garden, and cherry, plum, pear and peach trees took up what little grassy area was left. It was like most of the lush yards that lined the 1000 block of Emerson Avenue.
One of the staples of the garden was the hot-bed box, a crude small version of a greenhouse. It was basically a wooden frame that was built on a portion of the garden bed. It was a rectangle about 10 feet long and 3 feet wide, constructed of 2x12 pieces of lumber, covered with old house windows that kept out the cold and other early spring elements as well as rabbits, but let the sunlight pass.
Inside in a rich soil grew lettuce and tomato and pepper plants, all started from his special seeds in early spring and later transplanted into the main garden when they had matured and when the threat of frost had disappeared.
Unfortunately, I have long forgotten most tricks of the trade that I had learned as a tyke working in the garden every year with my grandfather. So this spring, when I got a hankering to plant a few tomato plants and pepper plants, I had to turn to newsroom colleague Joe Wiercinski for some tips.
Growing up a city kid, most wouldn’t associate gardening as one of my childhood hobbies. But my grandfather instilled in me the benefits and satisfaction in growing one’s garden, and keeping it meticulous in the process.
I learned well from him and in my youth, with Grandpa Lenzi as my mentor, I ended up with my own corner of the garden to manage.
I really enjoyed it, and he thought I was pretty good, but as the years passed as did Grandpa, I lost touch with the art of growing your own.
Don’t ask me why I’m undertaking this venture after all these years, when tomatoes and peppers are readily available in late summer at farmer’s markets and roadside stands, without the headache of caring for your own throughout the growing season.
Maybe I subconsciously want to find out if I have any part of that green thumb left from the many years of working with grandpa. I’ll find out near the end of summer – or maybe sooner should they wilt away.
The fascinating hand mower ...
Speaking of my grandfather’s small patch of grass in his backyard, it had its advantages when it came to maintenance.
I thought about him when firing up the lawn mower recently to cut the lawn for the first time this spring.
We didn’t have to worry about the mower starting back in the day after a winter’s nap, because I mowed his yard with a push mower.
When I told my daughter about the fascinating piece of equipment, she couldn’t understand how grass could be trimmed with anything but a power mower.
Head for cover, we’re under attack!
I got a frantic phone call from an anonymous Ohio resident, telling me, in all seriousness, that we were under an attack by terrorists.
Almost speechless, I asked her what she was talking about. With dread in her voice, she said “all of them low-flying bombers are scoping us out.”
It took a while for me to calm and convince her that all was well, that they weren’t terrorists in the sky, but only the Thunderbirds practicing for their weekend air show at the Youngstown Air Reserve Base in Vienna.
Jim Raykie is the executive editor of The Herald. His column appears on Mondays.