The Vine Crops

By Roger Erpelding
Contributing Writer 

We had just enough rain Tuesday morning, May 31, to keep the garden too wet to work. In touring our yard at various times this spring, Beth and I noted several dead branches in the burning bush just off the north east corner of the patio.  It was Beth’s turn to make dinner, so while she cooked I cut. I have a portable hand saw which I purchased a couple years ago from Earl May; it is retractable and easy to store. Beth thought the tool looked promising, and it indeed does work well. There were more dead branches than I thought, so the job took longer than planned. The branches without leaves were cut, the ones with leaves remain. At one point I was cutting off a branch about head high. When the job was complete I dropped the saw to reach down to pick up the branch, and place it on the pile. Fortunately, this little tool knows how to cut wood; unfortunately, it also knows how to cut people. My thumb was in the way, so one of the teeth of the saw grazed it just a bit. I just kept on working. After all, when you’re out in the world, you’re going to get nicked up every now and then. I call them “work sores.” And it beats bed sores! The wound is minor, and when Beth called me in for dinner, I washed it thoroughly, soaked it in some peroxide, and Beth bandaged it up. The work is not done, but there will be other rainy nights I hope, and the branches are now in a trashy pile out of harms way.

I figured it would be dry enough by Wednesday evening to plant the vine crops, so it was Priority 1 on my job list. Again, it was Beth’s turn to make dinner. She also wanted to work outdoors, which meant a late meal–no problem here. Lucy, a small trowel and 3 packages of seeds–I was off to the races!!! The ground was perfect–a dry crust on top, moist 3 inches down, and still muddy 6 inches down. I planted 2 hills of cucumbers, 2 hills of zucchini and 2 hills of acorn squash. How was this accomplished if the garden is full? As usual, it is full in theory and not in practice. Before going out I consulted my Braille map. I thought that an area west of the radishes and east of the green beans would be the perfect place to plant these crops. The radishes would all be pulled sooner or later. East of the radishes are the rows of kohlrabe, beets and carrots–crops that will take a while to mature. In this area where the vine crops were planted I found two rows of spinach. Yes, the rows had gaps in them, just as I thought. By July, the spinach harvest will be complete, the plants will “bolt” or go to seed, and I will pull them. So these crops will have plenty of room. When they vine, I will direct their vines east into the carrots and beets. The green beans won’t be harvested until mid-July, and with any luck, I’ll be picking them well into August.

The planting process was easy. First, each seed packet had the Braille label I made earlier in the year. I dug up some soil with the trowel, pushed it to one end, planted the seeds about an inch deep, then covered them. I did not mark them. Perhaps I should have, but these crops will be so obvious to me when they sprout that I will know what they are when they grow. The squash will all look alike, but the zucchini and acorns will set quite different fruit. The cucumbers are furthest north, followed by the acorns, then the zucchini.

Planting these seeds also gave me two additional opportunities to do things in the garden. While I was at it, I weeded a considerable area between the radishes and beans. Why bother to plant this stuff among the weeds? And after all, as I stated earlier, the soil was in perfect shape to work. The radishes have long leaves, kind of wide, and are a bit hairy. The green beans have a strong central stem, and a compound leaf. In some instances, the “seed leaves” or dicotyledons, are still present.

The spinach leaves are easy to spot. I eat lots of spinach salads, which I frequently make myself. So, their shape and feel are very familiar to me. There are different kinds of spinach. Some have crinkled leaves, some are smooth, some are large. I raised two cultivars this year. In the eastern row is Corvair. Its leaves are small and smooth. The Tyee, the west row, had bigger leaves. I think I heard them crying to be eaten when I planted the vine crops. Just writing about them makes me hungry. I may not plant Corvair next year, but I will scout far and wide to find Tyee. Corvair is new to me, but Tyee is tried and true. Another of my favorites is Big Leaf 157. It truly does have “big leaves” which are tasty!I like trying new cultivars. After all, my favorite, Tyee, was once “new” to me.

I’ll close this by talking about saws and blindness. In this instance, a chain saw would have been inappropriate. This was a confined space, and the branches I cut were no bigger around than my finger. Unfortunately, I have never used a chain saw, but would sure like to. Several of my blind friends own and use them; I can assure you that they are still alive and whole. If they can, me too!! I hear the operation of a chain saw is quite simple and straightforward, and using one is definitely on my bucket list.


One response to “The Vine Crops

  1. Mary Morman-Graham

    Roger ,
    Do you still need some sweet woodruff? I have a few small containers potted up with sweet woodruff if you would like to have them. I live in the Drake area. Email me if you’d like to pick them up.

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