Oleander As Gardening Hits a High

Jun 13, 2019

Gardening advice from Oleander includes an admonition to be careful of what your neighbors plant as well as guaging your own summer produce needs.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Folks, last February I was paying attention.  When all the other old coots at the Here, Kansas, Co-op were drowsing through the cold, or standing at the window listening to the sleet skitter along the glass, or contemplating their next move in checkers, I was watching.  Because I knew exactly what would happen in July.

You see, besides weather and checkers and naps, February is the month of the seed catalogue.  There’s always a dozen of them at the Co-op, and in that cooped-up, sun-deprived season, we old folks plan our gardens.  Our eyes are always bigger than our vegetable plots, and our needs always seem huge.  After all, when you’ve been eating squishy pink tomatoes that have all the flavor of soggy styrofoam, why wouldn’t you order enough Big Boy and Early Wonder seeds to meet all the tomato needs of Here, Kansas?

That’s exactly what happens.  February is a time of hope, of filling a garden with the imagination.  I see Barney Barnhill circle the purple green beans.  As a K-State graduate, he calls them, “My purple prides.”  Their stems are purple.  The beans are, too, until cooked.  Then, they turn as green as the envy of a Wildcat watching a KU basketball game.

Then there’s Mabel Beemer with her organic seed catalogue, going for the heirlooms, the variegated colors and textures of squashes–zucchini and crookneck in particular.

Elmer Peterson favors varieties in corn–dwarf, white, shoe peg and so on.

Folks, if I pay attention in February, I'm prepared for right now.  Because if gardens are filled with imagination in the middle of winter, believe me, they are filled with vegetables in July, and since no one out here in big sky country likes waste, midsummer becomes the great giveaway season.  What's wrong with giveaways? You might ask.  Well, here I am, my garden meeting all my needs, proud to be using everything as it comes into season, and suddenly I find a big bag of "purple prides" on my doorstep, left there by "you-know-who" Barnhill.  What do I do?  I have plenty of green beans of my own.  Since I paid attention in February, I march the “gift” right back to the giver.

Mabel Beemer is the same dang way with her stealth squash.  You'll wake up to find some striped zucchini on your back porch, a rumpled crookneck on your glider, both as lonely as stray animals, only these strays are begging to be eaten rather than fed.  Again, I refuse.  I have planned so well I have just enough squash.  I'm not even tempted by the recipe for zucchini bread that Mabel has taped to her overgrown green giant.

Elmer Peterson doesn't fool me when he has his annual Garage Sale and Giveaway every summer when his corn comes in.  I go over, browse his usual junk then head back to my truck.  I look closely in the back and on the seat.  Sometimes he's clever–last summer his extra corn was under the seat.  When I find the bag, I take it back to him.  "I'm up to my ears in, well ... ears," I tell him.  "Planned ahead.  Planned carefully," I brag.

Folks, don't think I have a bad attitude.  I just don't like being overwhelmed by the abundance of others.  Maybe you know how I feel.   Maybe you have a neighbor who comes up the drive with a grocery bag stuffed full of what you can't eat either.  On the other hand, if you need some tomatoes, give me a holler and don't tell Here, Kansas.  In spite of my planning, my Big Boys produced beyond expectation.  I'll have to work that out next February, if I can plan and keep an eye on my overly generous neighbors.