This One Is For You, Dad

Dad's cherry

One year ago we planted a cherry tree in memory of my mother, Ruth Rose. Mom passed away on April 1st of 2012. My father, William Rose Jr., died less than 9 months later, on Christmas morning of that same year. Yesterday we planted another cherry tree. This one’s for you, Dad.

When I was four years old, my family moved from the village of Bradford, Vermont to an old farmhouse on a dirt road about 3 miles out of town. As was the case with many rural homes built in the 19th century, there was a root cellar in the basement and a kitchen garden close by. Among the perennials that we inherited when we moved in were two cherry trees, a plum tree, an asparagus patch, a rhubarb patch, and a row of red currant and gooseberry bushes.

We always had a garden, although Mom and Dad did not commit much time or thought to it. Mom would usually plant and then it was up to my sisters and me to keep it weeded. The birds would invariably consume all the cherries before we could get to them. We’d eat the plums while playing in the tree and mom would occasionally make pies from the rhubarb and currants.

I have fond memories of that old place, even though the fruit and vegetable plot was commonly masked by an assortment of weeds. In their later years, Mom and Dad regretted that they’d not kept that garden up. (When I was a junior in high school, the entire site was cut down and dug up for the installation of a pool. Big mistake.)

In honor of Mom and Dad, we plan to establish a similar mix of perennials on this land. Mom’s cherry tree was the first installment last year. This spring, in addition to Dad’s tree, we’re putting in asparagus, rhubarb, blueberries, and doubling the size of the strawberry patch that we started last year. In the photo below, Marion is working on the asparagus planting trench as Mom’s and Dad’s cherry trees stand side by side at the garden’s edge.

Dad's cherry

As a kid, I couldn’t understand why anyone would consider asparagus a good thing. In the spring Mom and Dad would occasionally sauté a few of the new shoots and eat them over toast, but, for the most part, the asparagus patch would go to seed and weed until Dad would burn the dead growth away the following spring.

An asparagus plant will typically last for up to 20 years. They can be started from seed, but we decided to get a one-year head start by purchasing crowns from the nursery where we bought Dad’s cherry tree.

planting asparagus

Above, Marion loads a bucket with composted manure to supplement the soil in the one-foot-deep trench we dug for the 25 plants we’re establishing this year (below).

planting asparagus

Asparagus does not do well in acidic soils. The last time we measured our PH we were below 6.0 (on the acidic side). In addition to a healthy dose of compost, we also added lots of wood ash. Hopefully that will bring the PH up to the 7.0 level that asparagus thrives on.

planting asparagus

Next, Marion lays out the plants with 12-inch spacing at the bottom of the trench (above). The crowns were then covered with a couple inches of a soil/compost mix and watered in. As the plants begin to grow, we’ll fill the trench back in at a rate of a couple inches every two weeks until the soil in the row is back up to ground level.

There will be no asparagus on the table this year. (Resist, resist . . .) In year two, a limited harvest can begin. Then, by the third year we’ll have six to eight weeks each spring and summer with regular doses of tender, tasty shoots – for 20 years to come.

rhubarb

After the asparagus crowns were planted, we established the rhubarb patch. We put a pair of crowns in the ground about 3 feet apart, with each of them already showing this year’s shoots (above).

The same as with the asparagus, we’ll have to resist the temptation to harvest until 2014.

strawberries

By the end of the day we were ready to plant strawberries. Last year we put in an 8-foot by 12-foot patch that we doubled this year. Next year we’ll transplant some of the daughter plants, doubling the patch again to its final size (16 x24-feet).

fruit garden

Our plan for this garden plot is to convert it to fruit only. In the photo above, the far, upper corner is where the rhubarb went in yesterday. The new strawberries were planted downhill from the existing patch. Tomorrow we’ll put in a variety of blueberry bushes. They will be located between the rhubarb patch and the strawberries. Next year the strawberry patch will be extended to the edge of the garden (foreground of the photo above).

Our hope and plan is to establish the vineyard on the lower half of the plot, beginning next year. (If time allows, I’ll set the posts and build the trellises this year.)

As with all things in life, it’s a work in progress.