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Singing Gardener: Ted shares letters from readers

Plus, tips for growing peas

Are we all placed here on this planet for a single specific purpose, or perhaps several tasks to carry out during our lifetime? Maybe some have never come to such awareness or give it little thought. Finding life’s purpose can sometimes be a challenge. Such a discovery might be early in life — mid-life for others — or later on during advanced years. Here’s what my Bavarian yodel teacher Toni used to say to me while I was her adult student trying to learn the art of yodelling — “Ted, someday you’ll get it and you’ll know you’ve got it.” Determined, I stuck with the yodel lessons and Toni was absolutely right.

To think a single packet of tomato seeds has spoken such volumes and attracted so much mail has deeply touched yours truly beyond all telling. Thank you, thank you, many times over to all readers and fellow gardeners for your outpouring of letters, cards and comments received during and since my tomato seeds draws. They are as gifts to me. I must be doing something right. Some of the experiences, tips and tricks that many of you shared with me begin today with more to come in future. Writing letters on paper and sending them by mail is still a personal choice among many and that’s a good thing.

My past experience in broadcast media takes my thoughts back to something similar to what Tommy Hunter used to say at the conclusion of his CBC TV shows: “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek doesn’t run dry, I’ll be back again next time.”

I’ve got a good crop of hair on my head and as I write this, the moon’s energy has entered the third quarter and is decreasing in light. It’s a good time for me to go get a haircut from hairdresser Victoria if I don’t want it to grow so fast. I’ll conclude my “this and that” with a little run of the following words. Welcome good people and a tip o’ the hat from me and my hand-drawn image of the very first Tilley I bought. It’s time again to gather around the Grainews reading table.

Ted shares readers’ handwritten letters

One thing I’ve discovered is this. The art of writing letters among Grainews readers is not lost and it’s time to share. Juliana Melenka from Lamont, Alberta writes: “Ted, thank you ever so much for the package of Cosmonaut Volkov tomato seed. My eyes lit up when I saw the envelope. I love to grow plants, although now alone, I grow things and give away the produce as this community is with a lot of elderly who don’t have anywhere to plant and are not physically able to. There’s nothing to beat like going to the plants, taking off the vegetable and eating it right then and there. Keep up your wonderful work. May God bless you with lots of good health and happiness. You are a blessing passing on your knowledge, also making us aware it is never too late to learn something new.”

That was great hand printing there Juliana in blue ink. — Ted

Mrs. Phyllis Holodniuk at Ver­egin, Sask., writes: “Hi Ted. I have been a reader of your interesting column in Grainews and saved most of them to look back on when needing information. I’ve planted a garden for the last 45 years with the same cutworm problem. I finally discovered how to control them so they didn’t eat my garden. On each side of the rows I applied tree chips close together. The wood chips were gathered from trees under power lines that were cut down by the power company in 2017. Anyone who wanted could take home the wood chips. I put down a lot of them. Vegetables came up thick and straight and I lost only one plant to a cutworm. I believe the chips were too coarse for them. After a very successful and plentiful garden I was able to share with neighbours. Mike worked the wood chips into the garden soil at fall time where they eventually sort of became mulch. Now this year, 2019, I’m going to use wood chips again. Just thought I’d share a simple and inexpensive control of cutworms and slugs. I don’t have a computer or an email and just write letters. I enjoy reading your pages and hope you’ll be doing them for a long time to come. Thanks.”

A great example of sharing and learning, courtesy of Phyllis. — Ted

Margaret Arnett of Prince George, B.C., writes the following on very iconic stationery with images of a clover leaf, a horseshoe, an Easter egg, musical notes, an apple, a carrot, a zucchini, a garden watering can and more: “Hello Ted. Just to let you know I received my Cosmonaut Volkov tomato seeds. Thank you so much. I was very happy to be one of your 12 winners. I look forward to planting these seeds and will do my best to get a good yield. Sometimes our seasons are very short. I have a small greenhouse so it does help. I’ll try singing your songs. All the best to your family. Keep on singing. Sincerely, Margaret.”

And I reciprocate with the best to Margaret and Richard Arnett — Ted

Rose Swidzinski from Grandview, Man., writes: “Dear Ted: I sent a request over Portage radio ‘Request Show’ for your birthday back in October but don’t know if you heard it or not. My garden was smaller but still had plenty of everything with lots to share with family and friends. On January 10 this year I still had 15 tomatoes I’m using that I grew from my own crop last year. They are called (Kabits) and still enjoying them. They are a smaller variety but I like them as they are low acid. Hope we have a good year 2019 for our gardeners and farmers for all their crops. I really enjoy Grainews. Keep up the good work and may God bless you a thousandfold.”

Ted says: Thanks Rose for writing. I missed the radio request over CFRY last year so shall make a point of listening this fall. As an add-on to the tomato grown by Rose, there’s a variety called “Kibit’s Ukrainian” available from Heritage Harvest Seed at Carman, Man. It’s a very early, compact, determinate tomato that grows well in containers. Fruits are an elongated red and quite juicy, perfect for snacking and in salads. The plants are abundantly productive to the point of becoming literally covered with tomatoes in only 65 days. There’s a possibility that Kabits grown by Rose and Kibit’s Ukrainian are one and the same variety of tomato.

Let’s grow garden peas

Gardeners can harvest more peas and beans with the assistance of a garden inoculant available at many garden centres. It’s like a probiotic that kick-starts the nitrogen fixation process. Inoculant powder contains special bacteria that ensures a better harvest by drawing nitrogen from the atmosphere and soil and shows up as swollen nodes along the roots. Add a pinch of inoculant into a jar and just enough water to cover then give it a swirl to mix. Next add some peas and give another swirl, just enough to moisten the pea seeds with a bit of inoculant. Most peas are a cool-weather crop and early-spring planting is ideal. Wear gloves and poke individual holes one inch deep and two inches apart then drop in a pea seed, cover over, tamp down and water. Once pea plants are up, side dress with compost and bone meal to provide minerals and nutrients needed for healthy growth. Practically all peas require some kind of support to climb onto so get creative and make trellises using bamboo sticks, tree branches, pieces of wire fencing or whatever. If peas are sown during late summer poke planting holes two inches deep where soil is cooler and usually still moist. As heat intensifies in mid- to late summer pea roots want to get further down into the ground where there’s moisture and less warmth.

From the good old days

Remember this when Grandma once upon a time placed her home-baked apple pies made with homegrown apples on the windowsill to cool? Now in 2019 her granddaughter sets her store-bought apple pies from the freezer compartment on the windowsill to thaw.

About the author

Columnist

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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