Uncle Sid’s Gardening Lessons

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It was a beautiful Tennessee early spring afternoon when I pulled in the long gravel driveway of Uncle Sid and Aunt Sadie’s farm. The hills behind their house were starting to show signs that full-blown spring is on its way. Maples were turning maroon in color with red buds on their limbs getting ready to bloom, and other trees were starting to show signs of pastel greens, as they too were ready to come back to life once again. I love this time of the year when new life arrives after a cold winter, and this year was one that winter just didn’t want to give up.

Just like spring’s newness, Uncle Sid’s backyard was also sporting some of the first signs of the season with newly turned ground getting ready for another year of one of the community’s best gardens. He was green before green became a word on food containers.

Aunt Sadie met me at the front door, wiping her hands on her apron as usual, and led me to the back portion of their house where the old couple spends most of their time. There, sitting in the family room in his cane back rocker was Uncle Sid looking at The Old Farmer’s Almanac under the light of a brass floor lamp.

After exchanging pleasantries, Uncle Sid once again directed his attention to the Almanac, and I took my seat on the sofa located beside him. He was really studying the page showing all of the signs to plant by, and I knew he would soon be putting some seed in the ground.

“Getting ready to plant your garden?” I asked, pretty well knowing he was.

Now looking my way, Uncle Sid said, “Yeah, got interested after all of the talk down at the store this morning. Thought I better check the signs so I would know when would be the best time to get started.”

This got my curiosity up, so I asked, “What happened at the store?”

With that question, Aunt Sadie chuckled and headed to the kitchen, and Uncle Sid put down his Almanac and began to talk while shaking his head. “Lately, we’ve been getting new folks moving in from the city who want to live here in the country but know very little about country life. Really good people, but they almost have started too late trying to be dirt farmers,” Uncle Sid said, bending his paperback book.

I knew where he was coming from, since a new subdivision had opened not too far from the local general store. I pity anybody who tried to get farming information from that crowd if they were not already well versed in farming practices.

Uncle Sid continued with his story. “We had one young fellow named Murphy come back in the store today to buy some more red wigglers,” he said. “Seems he had already been in there twice before, buying 25 at a time. Hershel Pricket, who runs the store now, always has some good lively ones on hand for those who want to go fishing in the spring, and that young fellow was back for more.

“Hershel asked him how the others were doing, and Murphy declared he wasn’t right sure,” said Uncle Sid, now with a twinkle in his eye. I knew then something was up.

“Murphy said since I told him he needed earthworms to make a garden grow good, he didn’t know if he was planting them too deep or too far apart,” Uncle Sid said with a straight face, turning his attention back to his Almanac.

Halfway shocked and stunned, I went into the kitchen with Aunt Sadie, who told me Uncle Sid had been waiting to tell that story since he and the store crew heard the young man say it a week ago. She told me Uncle Sid had been helping the young fellow raise his garden down the road, and he was a little “green” but would soon catch on. The old man had also become the county agent’s right-hand helper with the new gardeners, who he was now getting enrolled in the Master Gardener program. That should be a lifesaver for the gardeners – and also maybe keep them away from the store.

Getting in the garden does sound good, and finding a teacher like Uncle Sid would be like learning at the feet of a master. Just be careful to read between the lines.

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