For as long as I can remember we've always had fruits and vegetables growing in our family garden. It was a given we would have strawberries for breakfast in the summer, as well as apricots, peaches and plums, some kind of squash in the autumn and avocados in winter -- and all types of herbs year round.
My father grew up in Pennsylvania. He lived in Pittsburgh but spent summers on his aunt's farm outside Reading, on the other side of the state. They had chickens, geese, ducks, pigs, cows and always a horse or two. They also grew all their own vegetables and fruits, which his aunt would can so they could have them throughout the winter.
My mother grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she became a member of Mr. Levine's 4H Club when she was in high school; the only one in NYC at that time. Since the war was on, they had a Victory Garden at the high school and grew Swiss chard. The 4H Club members also wandered through Brooklyn learning the names of the trees that grew in the neighborhoods.
Today, my parents have 15 fruit trees and grow a variety of tomatoes and peppers, zucchini, fennel, arugula, kale, red leaf lettuce, mesclun and numerous herbs and spices. (I know I'm probably forgetting something.) In between tending his spices I asked my father a few questions about his gardening.
What is your favorite gardening success story?
I planted wild arugula and it grew like wildfire. It has completely taken over the area where it originally was. I love wild arugula so that's not a problem.
Is there anything youíve always wanted to plant but havenít been able to?
I tried planting cantaloupe, but it didn't work out. I didn't have the right soil.
What's the secret to growing good fruits and vegetables?
Taking care of them. I inspect them regularly -- literally every day -- and I use homemade compost.
What's your garden currently looking like for Fall/Winter?
It's the end of the tomatoes and peppers season, so I'm waiting for the avocados to ripen and looking forward to pruning fruit trees. I'm also going to be planting French carrots and butter lettuce.
- Shannon McClatchey, November 2010