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ON THE MOVE
GROWING PAINS April showers … bring sore backs to gardeners. Contrary to popular belief, those May flowers don’t just spring up on their own! As any fellow garden enthusiast knows, there’s a lot of fertilizing, planting, and weeding to be done this month. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be doing most of it at my household.
Gardening With My Son
“In the two years since getting everything set up, we’ve grown tomatoes, parsley, basil, peppers, eggplant, and cucumber, and we made an ill-fated attempt at butternut squash.”
That’s not to say I’m the Morea with a green thumb. That honor
belongs to my son, Michael, without whom our garden wouldn’t exist. It was because of him that we started our own backyard vegetable-and-herb patch two years ago. It’s been a learning experience for us both and a great outlet for his creative energy.
You see, Michael tried to warn me that you need a lot of space to grow squash. I didn’t heed his advice, and the plant’s vines ended up taking over the whole garden last fall. It was a jungle! Worst of all, the frost came before the gourds themselves could develop. Lesson learned.
Michael has been fascinated by nature as long as we can remember. He loves spending time in parks or away from the city. A few years back, we decided to send him and his brother to the Usdan Summer Camp on Long Island. It’s a great experience in general, where kids can learn about creative writing, dance, tennis, theater, and everything in between. Most importantly for Michael, the woodland camp featured a nature program, focusing on both ecology and organic gardening. He had some great instructors who kindled his love of nature into a strong passion for gardening. When he returned home, his mind was made up: We needed a planter box of our own. So, we got to work! We built a box in our backyard to Michael’s specifications: 8 feet by 15 feet, elevated 2 feet off the ground. It’s ideal for vegetables. But growing anything in Queens is going to be more of a challenge than in a Long Island forest. You need super soil to get things to sprout in this borough. Luckily, I know a great landscaper. He was able to put in some nutrient-rich soil for us, which manages to handle all of Michael’s and my “experiments.” In the two years since getting everything set up, we’ve grown tomatoes, parsley, basil, peppers, eggplant, and cucumber, and we made an ill-fated attempt at butternut squash. The soil worked too well on that last one.
So now, I leave most of the big-picture planning to Michael. He gets very creative with the layout; rather than plant things in rows, he likes the garden to “flow.” Everything from the color, size, and foliage of a plant is taken into consideration. It’s quite the sight to behold. While he worries about the overall design, the weeding, watering, and general maintenance is relegated to me. Sigh. The garden has been a rewarding experience, and not just because we get fresh herbs, fruits, and veggies. As a parent, it’s healthy to get advice from your kids and let them take the reins on a household project. It keeps the kids sane, too. Much of their lives consist of hearing parents and teachers tell them what to do. This gardening project has been a nice role reversal for Michael and me, and a great creative outlet for us both. If you have kids or grandkids and the space for a garden, I can’t recommend this activity enough. No matter what you plant, I guarantee you’ll grow closer together.
Let me know if you have any ideas on what to plant this year.
–Dr. Robert Morea 718.747.2019 ▪ THEPTDOCTOR.COM ▪ 1
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