Daddy prided himself on his yearly garden.
No paste bucket that had been emptied at the floor covering shop went unused; many came home to be repurposed as part of the vegetable garden; the buckets enabled Daddy to stretch the garden area. He planted pepper plants, some zucchini plants and even tried growing pole peas in them, allowing the vines to trail upward along the old lattice fence to reach the late afternoon sun.
Because we had only a limited amount of garden bed in the backyard, Daddy used the area well, packing enough tomato plants against the pink stucco wall (side garage wall belonging to next door) to feed the third world …we were constantly amazed at how many plants Daddy could pack into the seven by ten bed! Radishes, Lettuce, parsley, thyme, some Swiss chard and even kohlrabi – this latter veggie had been introduced to us by our Czech neighbor. Often, marigolds filled spots in between the edibles to fight the garden pests.
The next door neighbor would drive into his garage, hear my father cussing and look over the wall. Daddy would be on his knees, pulling the tomato worms off his precious plants, cussing at them as though it would make them leave and never return. Return they did and I can still hear the Italian chuckling and shaking his head, then admonishing Daddy to be sure all the worms were off “his” plants. A repeated scenario, his reminding Daddy that the property line reached 10 inches deep into our garden was an on-going joke; in our neighbor’s eyes, all the plants against the heat-holding stucco wall were technically his.
Hey, Brochier…make sure you water those plants really well when you get through cussing out the worms…I want to see a good crop this year…
I can’t write verbatim my father’s response as it actually had little to do with gardening. Suffice it to say that the two bantered on like this for years, one cajoling the other and the other never failing to come back with his best retort.
Daddy wasted nothing. He kept old coffee cans and other trays and containers from any nurseries to plant garden seeds ahead, so he often dried seeds from his own beefsteak tomatoes and green bell peppers. He and his buddies even exchanged seeds from year to year, comparing the easiest to grow, the sweetest varieties, and so forth.
One particular year, our cousin dropped off some seeds in an envelope; he told Daddy that they were among the sweetest peas he’d ever grown, so Daddy was really excited to have some of such high quality hybrid peas. He put them away until sowing time, and then made sure he gave them lots of room to grow in his limited garden bed. He staked the seedlings and had cross bars he’d made from salvaged wood strips. Daddy was determined to have some very sweet peas to enjoy this season.
The plants had just the right amount of sunshine; the stucco wall helped bounce back some of the afternoon sun, so the tendrils began climbing up the makeshift lattice in no time! Daddy was really happy with the progress until the small little pods didn’t grow any longer; instead, the little pods began to open.
Standing tall, smack in the middle of tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, Swiss chard and crawling squash plants fighting for room with the herbs and marigolds were multi-colored blooms of pastel pinks, lavender-blues and creamy white. What the—! He called my mother out to the back to see; she confirmed what he already suspected: those very sweet peas that Daddy had imagined he’d soon be harvesting for dinners were indeed sweet peas.
Sweet peas in all their beautiful, delicate glory!!! Mom was absolutely delighted, as the blooms’ scent perfumed the entire back yard. Some were even tall enough to cut and take inside to enjoy!
Down at the coffee shop, the guys had been counting the days until Daddy realized this garden “discovery”; you can bet they knew the minute their ears began burning! My father resigned himself to being the butt of one very clever joke, but remained a good sport always. Obviously, Daddy became especially careful when accepting any future envelopes of “specially” dried seeds from this gang!