Influences in Horticulture ~ Poppa Love

In the north west corner of his deep back yard, under lofty Norway maples. Poppa's garden grew. In humus rich, black soil, (amended with years of organic matter from the yard as well as generous additions of eel grass, which washed up in large quantities onto the shores of Great South Bay) magic happened. Throughout my childhood, no visit to 38 Bellport Lane was complete without a tour of this special plot. Surrounded by a green wire fence, an attempt at keeping the dogs out, was this lush, verdant and amazingly productive garden.
My Poppa mostly grew salad things.
Not tomatoes, beans, corn, squash, peppers or all those other sun loving vegetables, but plants that thrived in cool, partially shaded, dark earth. Growing in short, mounded rows of three to four feet long, this technique produced a surprisingly productive harvest from such a small space. Featured were a myriad selection of lettuce varieties - butter, red, green & oak leaf types, romaine, mesclun plus other favorites such as mache, Swiss chard, spicy watercress, mizuna, and mustard greens. There were radishes, carrots, kohlrabi, arugula, kale and collard greens, and his signature plant, nasturtiums whose peppery red, yellow and orange flowers added so much conversational fodder to his salads. Vining New Zealand spinach climbed the previous seasons Christmas tree, pruned close to the trunk, creating a unique, pyramidal trellis of sorts. Leeks, sweet white onions, red Bermuda onions, and the strange Egyptian onions who produced mini onion bulbs atop their scallion like stems.

 Sweet and snap peas climbed the garden fence, their wrinkled, matte-green seeds planted each year, without fail, on St. Patrick's Day.
The vegetable varieties that Poppa managed to fit into this back corner space were really quite amazing, with harvesting being a year-round event - from the earliest tendrils of sweet pea shoots to snow covered, satisfyingly, yet slightly bitter kale and collard greens.


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