DescriptionAs long as I can remember, my mother, Shirley, has planted the same vegetable garden plot and separate flower beds in the backyard of the house she and my father, Bill, have lived in since 1969 in Mason City, Iowa. Planting, growing, and harvesting vegetables and flowers comes naturally to Shirley as she grew up on a farm in north central Iowa.
I have fond memories of playing in the yard many summer days as a child, while Mom worked in the garden. Mom would point out the swallowtail caterpillars on the dill, which continues to self-seed each year for the caterpillars. I loved to eat the sweet carrots, fresh after rinsing the dirt off in the outdoor water spigot. As an older teen, I ate meals of fresh, ripe tomatoes, sometimes still warm, from Shirley’s garden.
Shirley’s garden has grown tomatoes, carrots, sweet peppers, beans, green onions, dill, lettuce, and the obligatory marigolds at each corner to repel pests and attract beneficial insects. Shirley has more recently added cucumber, the vines of which intertwine along the nearby chain link fence.
One of Shirley’s flower beds I remember as a child displayed roses in my favorite shade of pink. Her flower beds today contain prolific poppies; zinnia; butterfly bush and milkweed to invite butterflies; Black-Eyed Susan; Nelly Moser clematis; iris; phlox; daylilies; tulips; and a variety of annual flowers.
These days, Mom faces the challenges of battling rabbits and, more recently, the deer, who navigate their way into town and scale the chain link fence to access her garden! Mom finds creative ways of establishing barriers between her vegetables and the wildlife. Additional challenges have arisen as a result of climate change, such as wetter springs and heavy / flooding rains in Iowa, all of which have required late planting and/or replanting.
In more recent years, as I’ve expanded my own gardening experience, we exchange photos and stories of flowers, vegetables, and wildlife developing in our gardens.
-Story contributed by Melissa B.