Bob voted ‘most likely to sack seed’

Bob voted 'most likely to sack seed' By Bob Karolevitz This week I received from Payallup, WA, a copy of a full-page article I had written for The Seattle Times way back on Nov. 24, 1963.

It came from Earl Otis, a fellow South Dakotan, who also had a lengthy piece on cranberries in the same issue.

The article I wrote some 38 years ago was about my ineptitude as a gardner. It featured a big picture of me with my magnifying glass looking over my crop of vegetables being held by my daughter, Jan, then just a little tyke.

It told how, when I graduated from South Dakota State College, I was voted "most likely to sack seed." It also said I had gone to the agricultural agent in Seattle to explain my inferiority complex as a gardner. His reply was:

"You don't have a complex, Bob, you really ARE inferior."

(He really knew how to hurt a guy!)

Well, unfortunately, almost four decades later I'm still trying, and I hope I don't have to use a magnifying glass to find my current crop.

It was a wet spring this year and I got a late start, but hopefully everything will be growing nicely before the weeds and insects take over.

First came potatoes. Smartly, I bought the real seed kind and cut them up appropriately, making sure there was an eye or two on each piece. (I had read that somewhere.)

When my rototiller wouldn't start, I was faced with a digging dilemma. However, being a student of history, I remembered that some pioneers used potatoes to break up the prairie sod. They'd take a space, turn back just enough grassy soil to drop in a spud (with one or two eyes, of course) and then let Mother Nature do the rest.

Aha, I said. If that worked for them, certainly it would be just the ticket for me. The taters would loosen the packed earth, and it would save me a lot of preparatory digging. After all, I'd missed the usual Good Friday planting time by almost four weeks, and I had to do something to catch up.

"That minimum tillage idea will never do the job," Phyllis cautioned. "You need to work the ground so the potatoes will not have to fight their way up through a surface that is almost as hard as a concrete sidewalk."

But I went ahead anyhow!

Now my struggling spuds have peeked through the clods, and I smugly told Phyllis that the pioneers and I knew what we were doing. Of course the plants look a little weary and some just barely came up, but obviously the system was a success. There'll be plenty of leaves for the potato bugs to feast on.

My rototiller finally worked for a while, but the rains kept coming so I planted my peas, beans and tomatoes in the mud. However, I skipped radishes, carrots and beets this year because the worms seem to be especially fond of them.

If the lettuce comes up in the row I hoed for it, it'll be a wonder. The wind kept blowing the delicate little seeds out of my hand, so I'll probably have volunteer plants popping up all over the place.

The same is true for the zinnias I tried to plant for my flower-loving wife. Zinnia seeds � which don't look like seeds at all � went sailing away with every gust. I should have just broadcast them and let them come up willy-nilly like dandelions.

It's a little early to know what my overall results will be. Germination has been a little slow, and it would have been better if the seeds would have just stayed in the rows. But who wants a picture-perfect garden anyway?

Phyllis just shakes her head when I go out to my unconventional plot, but I'll show her. Just for spite I planted a few extra hills of zucchini because I know they'll always come up.

One thing is certain. I'll have better luck than I had 38 years ago. If all goes well, I might even write a book on minimum tillage for potatoes.

© 2001 Robert F. Karolevitz

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