Rick Houser: A great garden every time

Rick Houser

Have you ever walked out to your garden and all you can see are row after row of the biggest and best produce ever grown? Many years I know I have. I see tomatoes so big it takes both hands to hold one. Green Beans that measure a foot long. Irish potatoes sized over two pounds each and more than a few per hill. Then I look at the rows of sugar corn with ears of corn way longer than a foot and with huge kernels.

Rick Houser

The part that I must tell you all is I raise this crop in January and February. Yes you heard me correctly. Almost every year at this time I receive the Burpee Seed Catalog and as I move through the pages my mind grows crops with the hugest yields that can ever be imagined. I mean just look at the photos of the crops grown from their seeds and you are positive that with them there is no way you could ever fail in raising nothing but record breaker vegetables.

This life saving catalog arrives none too soon as it is the dead of winter and the world is not only below freezing but the fields are brown and the trees are bare of any leaves. The entire world give the appearance of desolate. But when you open this book to bright red tomatoes and rip water melons along variety after variety of flowers that fill your eyes and your mind with color the world becomes anything but bleak. With a look through here the mind jumps into warp forward drive of imagination and the first steps of planning your real garden if you are a real gardener. But even if you just like to turn the pages and think of what might possibly be or just what causes your mouth to water just from looking at the rip harvest of a garden.

It is a fact that with a Burpees’ Seed Catalog it is doubtful that not one vegetable or fruit will be left out of the catalog. Why the book goes from artichokes to zucchini and all in between will be there for you to look at and if you wish there is a price right below the picture. It is a true farmer’s friend to say the least.

I don’t know when or where I saw the first issue of this book but I do know it was after I had moved away from the farm. When I was growing up and for years my wife and I would stop in the Farm Bureau in Felicity or the hardware store or even at Bishops’ Hardware in Bethel to buy our seeds first hand. Any more I stop in Kibler Lumber in Mt. Orab and shop there. It can be fun choosing your own seeds first hand but one thing I have noticed is I scoop out way too much seed and almost always end up with too much to raise. Yet I tell myself each year that next year I will be much more careful in how large I scoop into the bags. (I mean I really do promise.)

I think my cousin Tom Houser might have shown me a Burpees’ catalog and since Tom was a very good gardener and was careful not to be wasteful in filling his orders that was probably whom I saw my first catalog from. Now Burpees’ has been at this for a while to say the least. They began in 1881. Even though I might overstate my stories some I in no way was around in their beginning. I feel that these days’ folks might order more often as it is easy and convenient to do in the evenings as you are watching the television and these days our time can be pretty scarce.

Up until the last year or so I have gardened on the small scale but gardened none the less. I have been able to convince my daughter and son to raise nice size gardens and they have had some pretty good success. I tell people that by my gardening a little is keeping me in touch with the soil. (If you ever farmed you have to keep some dirt in your shoes to stay in touch.) To pick a few ears of fresh sugar corn and eat it right away is a taste one should experience at least once or twice. To reach onto a pepper plant and pull off a couple of fresh bell peppers brings a satisfaction that you are causing the earth to work for you. Above all is to pick that first ripe tomato and as you hold it in your hands and inspect just what you personally grew is a feeling that I can’t even begin to explain. But do it one time and you will understand what I mean. (I don’t really like a tomato that much but I love to hold that first one for sure.

So you don’t really have a good spot for a garden but you have a fence line or a space here and there. Burpee will supply you with blueberries or grapevines. Or maybe an apple or peach tree. There is no rule that you can only raise vegetables and there is no rule that you can’t grow plants from your parcel of ground. You might want to try it and see just how a person can become more attached to a plant much more than they ever imagined.

I know that at our house we try to grow a patch of green beans that will produce near a bushel of beans. I break the beans and my wife cooks a huge pot with a generous amount of chopped up ham cooked in them to add more flavor and then she makes a good serving of corn bread to go with the beans and maybe a potato or two also goes into that pot also. With that all in a bowl from one pot is impossible to pass the meal by. I know my kids stop in if they know the pot is on the stove and for another day we all know that this tastes way better than that bumper crop I imagined back in January. Thing is that without that catalog to jump start me it is very doubtful it would have ever come about. So look through that catalog at least once. You will be glad you did!

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.