It wasn’t long before I had my own garden. I laid claim to a corner of dad’s backyard and started growing tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, and even corn. I made fresh salsa and spaghetti sauce, stuffed peppers, and a host of others with my fresh veggies. I soon began to can my own salsa and pickles.
Canning is a lot of work and requires dedication to see it thru. I remember my grandmother and her uncle spending entire days in a cramped little room with a single stove burner. They would prep and can veggies from sun up to sun down. Hotter than hell too. A lot of work.
In May of 1995, I bought a house on the west side of Columbus which was only about 20-25 minutes from “home”. One of the very first things I did was by a tiller and put in a garden. Little did I know thru those years what was in store for me.
Thru gardening, I learned about varieties of this and of that. I would experiment with different kinds of tomatoes and peppers each year. I also grew everything from seed so I could pick out what I wanted to grow instead of the one or two varieties being sold at the grocery store or K-Mart. Once the big box home and garden centers started popping up, things got better.
To Deck Plants
The south facing deck was the perfect spot for these plants. Full sun from morning to night. This was all fine and dandy, but summer unfortunately, does not last all year round up here in Ohio. The weather is a crap shoot come October. Anything can happen and does. We’ve had 90 degree days and we’ve had snow and everything in between.
So this is the year I officially started to hate October. It meant that the freedom of the deck was nearly over. It meant moving plants inside the house overnight and moving them back outside the next morning because it was supposed to be nice and sunny. But this soon grew tiresome and there was only one place in the house for these plants. An upstairs spare bedroom. The citrus plants had one window to share. Lugging up just a few plants was no big deal. But even then, I had a nagging thought that this was not how things would end.
Man...I think back on the words above and wonder what my life would be like and what I would be doing if I had just stuck with those few citrus plants. Hard to imagine really. All of the wonderful folks I've met and spent time with over the years would never have happened. The friendships that were made. The fantastic trips. Nope. Can't see it happening any other way and very thankful for it.
To Mail Order
My wife is THE chief finance officer of the family. Why? She is good with money and doesn’t spend it. Nuff said on that. So what better way to justify these new plants than by telling my wife that these plants, cultivars of Thailand, are really for her? You know…bring a little bit of Thailand here to Ohio. She was not quite as dumb as I was hoping. But in late April of 2004, I did have a couple mangos on the way!
Soon the deck was alive and green with plants. Citrus and mangos blooming. I was in on my way man.
The Grow Room
So I started off planting Kaffir lime seeds. This stretched into mangos, starfruit, papaya, key lime, and more. The deck was full of plants from one end to the other…spilling over into the yard.
I was now aware that one of the local super markets actually had a tropical fruit section. There would be mangos, starfruit, and others that occasionally found their way to the market. Taste? The starfruit were far from sweet and the mangos more resembled tightly packed balls of dental floss than an actual fruit. But I bought them anyway and planted their seeds. I haven't yet had that ligh bulb moment when you discover planting fruit trees from seed sucks. Just takes way too damn long to start bearing fruit and there is no guarantee that the resulting fruit will be any good. But I was not aware of this little nugget of info just yet. Ignorance is bliss.
And the results of all those seeds?
Yeah...this was at best a very temporary arrangement. The temperature upstairs during the day would reach around 90 degrees due to that light. When the blinds of the single window were left open, the entire backyard would be lit up. Mandi, my golden retriever, and I could play in the backyard at night and see just perfectly! The neighbors all had to wonder just what the hell was going on in that room. And to this day, I'm surprised that I never once gotten a visit from local law enforcement asking what I might be growing upstairs.