Tennessee Mountain Stories

Garden Mystery

Well we’ve come to the time of year when fresh garden vegetable abound.  Now, I’m not a very good gardener.  I was working in the garden a couple of weeks ago and thought to myself that I’m glad my Grandpa couldn’t see the poor potato patch I’ve raised – he’d just shake his head; he wouldn’t say a word but I know that he would be thinking that I might starve to death this winter.

Squash Plant.jpg

But that fear that my family will hunger drives me to keep putting out a garden despite my poor skills.  And this year I did it again.  My favorite garden vegetable is Squash – as I’ve mentioned here before.  And I try to plant it several times so it keeps producing until the harshest of frosts.  This year I opened a packet labelled with a beautiful yellow squash on the front and planted a few hills.  After a few days of heavy rain they were well sprouted but had washed out of their place and were growing between the rows.  I moved a few but decided I could work around the rest.  I was mistaken.

As the plants grew I knew they weren’t squash because they put out these great long runners.  Could I have mistakenly planted cucumbers in those hills?  Not to worry, I love cukes too.  Then the leaves broadened and I knew they weren’t cucumbers.  Then the melons set on looking like those crook-necked squash I’d hoped for.  However, they were quickly striping-up.  Now I have huge plants – in fact they’ve taken over that part of the garden and I’m having to fight them back just to gravel out my pitiful potato patch.  We’ve been calling them the “Squash from Planet X” because they  look like something from a science fiction movie.

Squash Mystery fruit.jpg

I’m hoping y’uns can help me out in identifying them.  I’ll try to use them but I don’t know how until I can identify them.

This mystery makes me think about the generations of gardeners and farmers who had no opportunity to go to the local Farmer’s Co-op and buy a package of seed.  Instead, they carefully saved seed from plants they marked early on and left to fully mature.  Seeds were placed on a newspaper and set in the sun to dry out then stored in an envelope – or just wrapped up in that paper and carefully labelled.  Sharing seeds with family and neighbors was the sweetest of gifts and a favorite variety of beans or tomatoes were guarded like the most valuable treasure. 

Do you think anyone ever failed to label an envelope?  Or got a seed-present from a friend but didn’t get a good description?  Did any of those master gardeners ever face this mystery, wondering what was going to grow and what they’d do with it in the end?

And would my gardening abilities improve any if I didn’t have a reliable food supply network and I knew I and my family would be hungry if I didn’t raise enough food and didn’t store it properly?  Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’d be better at it in that situation.  In fact, I recognize that time is my biggest enemy in the garden.  There are too many things making demands of my time and the garden often falls too low on the priority list.  If my existence, or even my wintertime comfort, depended on it that garden would surely be more important!