Submitted by Billy Allen
“We might think that we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s really our garden that’s nurturing us.” Jenny Uglow, biographer and cultural historian.
Andrew Pedro’s family showed him the value of hard work, patience, persistence, and respect for all living things—himdag. His grandmother’s stories told of elders who worked the fields all day and came home to tend home gardens. His father, Corey Pedro, used to plant summer squash/ha:l, melons, and corn. About 12 years ago, relying on memories, Andrew’s garden let him experience the past, and this young man is now a seasoned gardener.
He grew tomatoes, chilies, summer squash, black eyed beans, gourds. The most successful was O’otham ha:l, but Andrew warns: “Be aware of the ha:l. It grows quickly; the vines and leaves can take over a large area. One grew to 22 pounds and a friend had one over 30 pounds! Ha:l, dried and stored, along with ba:vĭ is like eating himdag, good and healthy. Plant things you actually like to eat!” Be prepared for the unexpected, “Every so often, ants will carry off seeds, drop them elsewhere and a plant sprouts somewhere you didn’t expect. Once the garden sprouted cantaloupe which I did not plant, ants/toton? The seeds had come from the compost where someone had thrown a cantaloupe which germinated when I spread compost in the garden. A good corn or lima beans harvest can be hard to mature because prairie dogs and rabbits love these as well. After all, they’re O’otham too. Fighting—no, sharing¬—with the wildlife can be incredibly frustrating, but next time you will be more prepared. Patience is a virtue; you put in time and energy to get something out of a garden.” Himdag walks on.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Audrey Hepburn, British actress and Academy Award winner.
Robin Notah of North Blackwater (Opposite/Wechut) thought a garden could provide healthy fresh food for her baby. She had no garden experience — did that stop her? Gophers, prairie dogs and rabbits tried to—they really liked her first crop of tomatoes and squash. So, for the next attempt, she dug a small trench around the garden and layered scrap cardboard with a dirt border on top. At Home Depot she noticed chemical deterrents being sold, but she wanted a more natural way to reduce the varmint raiding. Chile powder! The tomato plants flourished, but chicken wire around the plants entangled snakes. She wondered how to be less harmful to the wildlife. She laid a large wooden bookcase down to become a raised bed garden. That stumped the wildlife. One bookcase section grew basil, mint, parsley, and rosemary. Chilies and bell peppers flourished, but a squash plant in another section never produced because no bees came around. Robin captured a bee to release among the squash leaves, but it wasn’t enough, so Robin added rosemary and lavender to entice pollinators. She learned nitrogen was needed so a drought tolerant grass was introduced. As her “know how” grew, so did her garden. The bounty was delicious. “I enjoy it. I have become an early riser. I like to go outside in the mornings and evenings to see and listen to the birds being playful.” The “helper” who was Robin’s inspiration for starting her garden is now four years old, and she knows how to plant seeds. Himdag walks on.
“In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.” Alice Walker, author and Pulitzer Prize winner.
Darlene Antone is an O:s Ke:k/Blackwater gardener, and was part of the planning group for the new D1 elderly building. Four big boxes/raised gardens were part of the plans. The plans reminded her of childhood. Candy, soda, sweets were once-in-a-while treats, but they usually had fresh vegetables. Sunday dinner was free-range chicken, right from their yard. But when COVID levels were high, the anticipated grand opening of the garden scaled down to a GRIN interview. The garden space went unused, so Darlene went into the desert, gathering native plants for the seeds. David Van Druff, project manager for the GRIC Life Center community garden, also provided seeds. Chili plants did very well as did kale, and lettuce. With COVID levels still high; Darlene bagged the harvest and laid them at doors of district elders. Himdag walks on. Darlene’s garden invited pesky varmints, but a “pet snake” helped keep rodent numbers down. Scarecrow “Moe” was supposed to scare away flyers, but once the sky raiders figured out Moe just stood there, well… This 60+ gardener will keep gardening because it keeps her active and may add years of life. These experiences have pointed her to a philosophy, “Plants should to be talked to when you are around them for their bounty keeps us living. Enjoy the harvest.”
You can’t harvest if you don’t plant. Year-round gardening is very possible in our community. Winter gardens can produce lettuce, spinach, onions, cilantro, radish, chard, peas, and much more. March is the prime planting time for spring and summer gardens, but soil prep can be started now, a very good way to work up a sweat. Lana Allen, Angel Blaine, and Clinton Kalka shared their insights in the last GRIN. Andrew, Robin, and Darlene offered their knowledge here, and I appreciate these gardeners for encouraging others to get growing. If you would become a “garden rookie,” you might start small—about the size of a door. Good luck if you take that first step. Himdag ‘o am him.