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A Refreshing Knapp – Weather keeps gardeners guessing

By Ray Knapp

According to the calendar the spring equinox arrived in Erwin, Tennessee a couple of days ago at 6:29 EDT. Fortunately we have people around who waste their time figuring out trivia like that as Mother Nature had people guessing all winter if spring was here, or not. My neighbor mowed his yard during the middle of February and he wasn’t the only one. I saw other people around town mowing as well. Some of my flowers were tricked too, and bloomed like Easter had arrived two months early.

Calendar –wise, spring is here already and I’ve got to take the rotor-tiller and lawn mower down to the shop for a tune up. There’s a garden to plant and a yard that I’m just itching to mow – once it warms up a bit.

I recall when I lived around Flag Pond, farmers generally planted potatoes on the 14th of March, but this year winter decided to come back on that day and the temperature didn’t get above freezing. I don’t know when they will plant now with the weather acting so crazy. People that don’t like to chance replanting their gardens play it safe and wait until after the 10th of May.

However, it’s so tempting to get those seeds in the ground when flowers are blooming, trees leafing out and everything looking so fresh and renewed that you just can’t keep from planting a few tomato plants and onion sets, then before you can stop, you have the whole garden planted; often having to cover the young plants with paper bags on frosty, late spring nights.

There are a few fruit trees around the yard – which if the cold weather doesn’t kill the fruit in the bud, I intend to spray this year. The trees had fruit last year, but worms ate most of the apples and pears. As much as I hate to, I guess spraying is the only way to have any fruit. But lately I’ve been hearing so much about pesticides killing off bees and people saying it causes cancer I’m almost afraid to use commercial insect repellents. We’re likely not to get pollination if we kill off all the bees and the fruit may be dangerous to eat with all the cancer causing ingredients in commercial insect spray.

If I recall right, my Dad made a homemade remedy for aphids, mites and scales He would mix a teaspoon of vegetable oil and a teaspoon of dishwashing soap for each cup of water; take a gallon or so of this and spray the fruit tree leaves; washing the soap away after a few hours, as he claimed it would burn the leaves up if you left it on. Seems I recall me and my brothers also picking Japanese beetles, and other pests, off the plants by hand.

My best bet would be to go back to high school and relearn how to grow a garden and take care of fruit trees. Here in Unicoi County the high school has such a program. (Not for people my age – but for high school students.) Most local people have heard about it and it will be soon be known across the state as a local student is on the cover of the spring edition of Tennessee Home & Farm Magazine watering flowers right down there at the school’s greenhouse, and there’s also a wonderful story in the magazine telling what these students have accomplished. Those flowers I mentioned, along with other plants are sold to keep the program solvent.

Lucas Anders, the teacher for the FFA class even has plans to harvest some of the vegetables they grow to
supplement the food served in the school’s lunch room.

I bought some tomato plants and flowers from the FFA class last year, and they did quite well – which is a wonder, considering my usual poor luck in growing stuff. Or, as my wife says, “You certainly weren’t born with a “green thumb.”

But, green thumb, or not, there is nothing like having your own garden. There’s nothing at the supermarket that tastes better, and there’s a certain pride in saying, “Why yes, I did grow those vegetables myself.”