By Mack Samples|
West Virginians are just about the best home gardeners in the country. A drive around the central part of the state during the summer months will convince you of the accuracy of that opening statement.
Beautiful potato patches, rows of lush-looking sweet corn, half-runner beans vining up temporary fences, and tomatoes turning red in the sun are common sights.
And what about that summer squash? In some gardens it looks like the undergrowth in the tropics.
Like all other human endeavors, some folks are better at gardening than others. You often hear the phrase that "old so-and-so has a green thumb."
That statement probably has some truth in it, but more often than not, good gardens boil down to attention, care, and plain old hard work.
If you look back a couple of generations, back to the days of my grandparents (or perhaps your great-grandparents), gardens were the primary means of survival.
There were no gasoline powered tillers and very few insecticides during those days. Tending the garden was not something you did once a week.
Someone was in the garden two or three hours every day. My grandfather kept an open-top can of oil in his garden and every day he would go through knocking potato bugs, bean beetles, and other pests into the can.
He was an "organic gardener" before that term was invented. Pushing the non-motorized tiller, pulling weeds, and hoeing were labor intensive chores, but the reward was survival.
Gardening is much easier now, but it still requires a lot of work.
And I am amazed at how many people who have the property and the means to raise a garden find excuses not to do so. I hear phrases like "you can buy it at the store cheaper than you can raise it". Or, "the deer are so bad that you can't raise nothing".
I doubt the validity of the first phrase. Even if you could buy it cheaper, the taste of home-grown vegetables is far superior to the taste of stuff that has been shipped half way across the world.
The deer? An eight foot fence solves that problem.
Another phrase I often hear is, "I don't raise any potatoes because I don't have any place to keep them during the winter." That is a problem. But I solved that problem years ago without going to the expense of building a cellar. I got me an old freezer and buried it in the ground down to the door opening.
I put the potatoes in milk crates and set them down in the freezer. When I want potatoes during the winter, I just open that freezer door and take out a crate. They keep nearly perfect, even up into the late spring.
A little bit of hard work and Appalachian ingenuity will get rid of all of the reasons not to raise a garden.
- Mack Samples is a regional writer, author of seven books, who lives on 55 acres in Clay County. Visit his website at www.macksamples.com