Andrew, the headlamp gardener and his mother invited me into their home and garden to today. Eileen and her husband have lived on this city lot in Salem, Oregon for the past 30 years. Her husband was the gardener up until his second hip surgery a few years ago, that’s when Andrew their youngest son came home to help. It was then that Andrew took over the vegetable and container gardens. His brother and nephew help out with the many beautiful rose bushes and other shrubs surrounding the back yard.
Eileen said she had to start with telling
me the zucchini story. When her husband
first started to garden he planted 5 zucchini plants. She chuckled when she said she told him to
pick them small but he still kept bringing in humungous sized zucchini from the
garden. They had so many zucchini that
year that she had to come up with all these new recipes just to use them
Andrew remembers helping his dad with the garden as a young boy but had not really gardened before moving back home in 2012. He said he was a bit daunted by all the things you potentially need to know – garden pH, companion planting etc. He said my website was helpful as a resource which was lovely to hear. He finally came to the conclusion that he would just have to start and deal with everything else as it comes along, excellent advice for any gardener. He planted his first tomato seedling and here we are today.
Andrew says he starts to plant in early May and plants mainly heat loving plants like tomatoes, zucchini (only 1 plant!), squash, and beans as their backyard gets sun all day long. He planted a couple asparagus plants and an artichoke last year. The asparagus are doing well with a few shoots coming up but the artichoke did not over winter.
He also has containers filled with 3-year-old strawberries and last year started growing some tomatoes and cucumbers in containers as a friend gave him plants that he had no room for in the garden plot. They did well in the containers so he is planting more again this year. He is trying lettuce in a container for the first time this year and Evelyn said she is looking forward to just going out and snipping off what she needs.
Andrews’s planting of his potatoes was
totally new to me and very ingenious. He
is planting potatoes in a mesh laundry bag.
As the plant grows he adds more soil into the bag, ties it to the fence
post and keeps it closed to contain the soil.
Last year was his first year growing this way; he experiments by putting
one plant in the mesh bag and another in a large pot. The mesh bag yielded smaller potatoes but a larger
quantity than the container plant. He is
growing them this year again to see how it works out.
They also have a 30-year-old rhubarb and raspberry plants, that supply all the family. The raspberries were delicious, I could not resist, as they are my absolute favorite.
The garden is mainly for seasonal eating and during that time Eileen does not buy any vegetables. A veggie garden is a great way to save on groceries for anyone who is thinking of starting a garden.
When I asked Andrew what his biggest challenge was, he said, “planting too much in the garden”. He fills up every spot then things get a bit over crowded. He is trying to space things out a bit.
When I asked what he would like to learn more about he immediately said “pruning tomatoes and the squash”. I shared my experience of growing tomatoes vertically, supporting them with string and trimming tomatoe. It is scary to begin to take off the leaves and pinch some of the side shoots, but definitely worth it. The plant will be healthy with more air circulation, it is easier to water at the base of the plant and more energy goes to the fruit rather than he leaves.
When I asked if they preserve or save any veggies Andrew said he purchased a dehydrator last year and dried plums, they were eaten as fast as they were dried though. He would also like to learn a bit more about canning; Evelyn has the knowledge in this area as she did lots of canning when her children were young. She would enjoy handing down this knowledge to Andrew.
Towards the end of our conversation it came out that Andrew is a bit of a night owl and if often in the garden at midnight wearing a headlamp while he is weeding. He said “its cooler and quiet”. I could totally picture this and could not resist giving Andrew the title of Headlamp Gardener.
We chatted together for a couple hours over cups of coffee; it was lovely to get to know both Evelyn and Andrew and hear all their stories. As I was leaving Evelyn gifted me a 50-year-old china teacup that she got when she visited Vancouver, BC as a young women. She said she trying to let things go and wanted me to have it. What a lovely parting gift. I left them feeling happy and honored to have met these two warm and very generous people.
Thank you Andrew, the headlamp gardener and Eileen for a wonderful visit.