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Mike Redmond Column

Please refer to the Mike Redmond Column main page for columns published in other issues.
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 Garden Soil on Loam from Landfill

It's May, and in Central Indiana that can only mean one thing: gardening.

Oh, yeah. And the race. All right, two things. But the race isn't in my back yard, and the garden is, and that's what is on my mind at the moment.

Now, when I say gardening, I mean vegetable gardening. It's true that I have flowerbeds, and it's true that some of these beds even have flowers in them. Red ones, I think. Or maybe yellow. Oh, and I'm pretty sure there are some purple ones, too, but I'm not sure if those are flowers or just pretty weeds.

In my dictionary, gardening means "growing something you can eat." And while many flowers are edible, I'm not willing to take that chance on the ones in my flowerbeds. Especially the purple ones.

And so we are left with vegetables, and I like to think that I get the most possible use out of the small space available to me. By that I mean I plant several kinds of tomato and three varieties of pepper.

This is not the garden of my dreams. The garden of my dreams is an acre at least, and planted with every kind of vegetable imaginable, from asparagus to zucchini. OK, maybe not zucchini. For one thing, I can't stand the stuff. For another, I notice everyone who plants zucchini, dreaming of ratatouille and ... and ... well, if there's anything else edible to be made from zucchini, I can't think of it. And if you can, please keep it to yourself.

Anyway, they start with zucchini and end up with monsters, and it seems to happen overnight. One evening you water your garden and admire your crop of deep-green, cucumber-sized summer squash. You wake up the next morning and the garden is full of big green zeppelins. As food, they're useless, but if you split one in half and take out the seeds, it'll make a dandy canoe.

But the rest of it? The asparagus, beans, cabbage, and so on? I'd love it, if only I lived in a place where I could plant it. I can just imagine aiming my tractor down the row, delighting in the sight and smell of rich black loam turning to the sun after napping all winter, ready to receive and nurture the seeds that will someday provide me with a refrigerator full of vegetable-y goodness.

But no. I live in the city. Near downtown, in fact. With a smallish yard. Loam? Please. What passes for soil in my yard is actually a mix of broken glass, chicken bones, and empty snail shells, held together by miscellaneous dirt. But it does grow tomatoes and peppers.

For tomatoes, I favor Early Girl, Late Girl, Right On Time Girl, Big Boy, Bigger Boy, Gi-normo Boy, and, of course, Those Medium-To-Large Kind-Of-Flat Ones That Don't Get Red Until The End Of August.

Peppers, I plant three varieties: Bell (California Wonder), Hot (Mexican Meltdown) and Oh My God (Hinges of Hades). The first two I eat. The third I scatter around the yard to scare the owls. It works, too, because I can't remember the last time I saw an owl downtown.

Gardening, to me, is May in Central Indiana. It may not be exciting as racing, but it does have its thrills. In fact, get out your stopwatches. I'm about to turn a hot lap with the rototiller.




© 2008 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.