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Hines Sight: A green thumbs up to home gardens

Published 8:38 am, Sunday, July 20, 2014
  • On inheriting tomato plants from her father, Fairfield Citizen columnist Patricia A. Hines writes: "By this time, I already had moved into my house and had dug my garden plot. I was the beneficiary of his tomato plants ó tall and skinny ones that never looked like they would ever bear fruit. I was wrong. One year, his tomato plants grew so tall in my garden and were so prolific that I couldnít keep up with them." Photo: File Photo / Fairfield Citizen
    On inheriting tomato plants from her father, Fairfield Citizen columnist Patricia A. Hines writes: "By this time, I already had moved into my house and had dug my garden plot. I was the beneficiary of his tomato plants ó tall and skinny ones that never looked like they would ever bear fruit. I was wrong. One year, his tomato plants grew so tall in my garden and were so prolific that I couldnít keep up with them." Photo: File Photo

 

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My paternal grandfather, Poppy, was the gardener in our family.

When I was a child visiting my grandparents' house in Norwalk during the summer months, I remember being in awe of his extensive garden behind the three-car garage.

He perfectly spaced rows of plants and meticulously tended to them. I recall that he was so intent on having the healthiest garden he had a water line installed from the house and a faucet placed at the edge of the plot.

Bushel baskets full of green beans and large, unblemished tomatoes (the seeds for which were from the previous years' crops) were picked on a regular basis throughout the summer, as were cucumbers, lettuce and a host of other vegetables.

In his straw hat, crisp white short-sleeved shirt and dress pants, Poppy carefully weeded every inch of his garden and never used chemicals to keep away the bugs. Poppy, born and raised in New York City, was the first organic gardener I ever knew.

But his green thumb skipped a couple of generations. No one else in my family was as interested in producing fresh vegetables like Poppy. My father tried a garden a couple of times at the house in Weston, but the deer and rabbits were a constant battle for him.

Never one to walk away from a challenge, Dad decided to try his hand at growing tomato plants from seed for his friends and family members who had better gardening luck. He rigged up a makeshift mini-greenhouse in the basement -- numerous bare lightbulbs hung from the ceiling over the trays of seeds. (Can you say fire hazard?) From early morning to the time he went to bed, those bulbs shone on the seedlings until they were ready to be distributed.

By this time, I already had moved into my house and had dug my garden plot. I was the beneficiary of his tomato plants -- tall and skinny ones that never looked like they would ever bear fruit. I was wrong. One year, his tomato plants grew so tall in my garden and were so prolific that I couldn't keep up with them.

I have had a garden every year of the 15 I have lived in my home. Some years, I've had a bumper crop, but other years I've given up because the weather and pests got the better of me.

This year, even though I got a late start because of our chilly spring, my garden is doing well. Fingers crossed.

While I wait for my harvest, I often visit a number of farm stands and markets in the area. I like to support our local farmers.

My favorite is Sherwood Farm in Easton that has been run by the Sherwood family for decades. It's also a Community Supported Agriculture program, which helps local farmers continue to operate. I like that.

There's also the Greenfield Hill Farmers Market on Hillside and Bronson roads and Haydu's farm on Congress Street. I've also been known to stop by the stand on Park Avenue near Sacred Heart University.

A list of other farmers markets throughout the state can be found at www.ct.gov/doag.

No matter where you get fresh fruits and vegetables, there's nothing like summer's bounty.

Patricia A. Hines is a Fairfield writer, and her "Hines Sight" appears every other Friday. She can be reached at hinessight@hotmail.com. She also can be followed @patricia_hines on Twitter.