“When I was a teenager, my dad always had a garden,” Herman said. “There was no cheaper better way to feed the family. Those were tough times. Our garden for many of these years in the was a ‘Victory Garden.’ “It was the government’s way of encouraging everyone to save for the war effort. It worked. In those days, seed was the cheapest way to go. We would always have a garden.” I knew what he was talking about since I’d recently visited the old WurliTzer building nearby on Niagara Falls Boulevard and noticed an enlarged photo of the promenade, in front of the old music factory, filled with World War II Victory Gardens.
The photo intrigued me enough to do some additional research. He brewed his own dandelion wine. He saved seeds from year-to-year. He raised chickens in a coup behind his home, “grandfathered in” years following his city had passed an ordinance banning such jobs. The fundamentals of Herman’s garden, however, were simple.
“Heal your soil right. It is possible to add organic matter all you need, but no new chicken crap — it will burn your plants. Commercial fertilizer prices too much. “You can grow from seed directly in the garden. You won’t know the difference.” He also explained the importance of studying the notes on seed packages and keeping things watered. “I like heirloom tomatoes best because if you find one you really like, you can save the seeds,” he told me.
“Don’t over plant. If the package says tomatoes will need to be 24 inches apart, don’t plant them 12 inches apart. Plant some seeds in the ground too early. Some years, you’ll find an early crop. Other years, a late frost will kill everything or they won’t germinate, but seed is cheap. “Pay attentions to crops that like cold — you can stretch the season with late planted broccoli, spinach, lettuce, peas and radishes.”
Every time I spoke to the man, I seemed to find out some more about what I did not know. The bottom line, though, is to discover a mentor such as Herman (or Mike the Gardener) and follow their lead. About the Author
Joe Genco is a contributing writer for Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC the exclusive home for the Seeds of the Month Club.