A Virtual Sampler of American Small Town Life
Annual Garden Tour --
All-star Gardeners' Flood Harvest
WHEN IT CAME to gardens, the floods of 1990 gave and they also took away.
At Harold and Kay Bishop's what they gave was 18 inches of gravel from the alley, right in middle of the garden plot. What they took away was all the topsoil in the asparagus bed.
But Sumas gardeners are a tough bunch, and the Bishops got a nice looking garden going, only to lose the tomatoes to late blight and most of the corn to the Labor Day weekend storms.
By early September, the Bishops were hoping for one ripe tomato to keep a seed line going. In 1990 they brought a good looking plum tomato home from Eastern Washington, saved the seeds, and planted them. The plants were productive but the weather didn't cooperate and by the time blight hit the fruit was still green.
The most impressive tomatoes we have seen this year were grown up in Maple Falls by Georgina Head. Georgina brought a couple down to her job at the Everson Library. They are called Polish paste tomatoes and they are about the size and shape of a large green pepper. Georgina said she figured anything that could grow in Poland could survive a summer in Maple Falls.
Another productive tomato crop grew alongside the dahlias at the Whistlestop Inn. When everyone else's were keeled over with blight, the Ruiz's plants were still going strong.
Over at Myron and Margaret Hunt's on First Street, cucumbers and strawberries did great in their raised beds, but when I asked Myron what kind of corn he grows, he said "the kind that falls over."
Earl Robson has Brussels sprouts about three feet tall at his place behind the clinic on Columbia Street. He wows them for his grandchildren. He is a spic-and-span gardener, with not a flower or a vegetable out of place.
Steve and Rita Koehler's garden is looking good, as always, with stands of flowers planted in amongst the vegetables. Out on the Jones Road, Bruce and Jo Fadden have a good crop of shallots and a huge crop of squash. "If you can't find us one day, it's because we've been squashed," said Jo.
All gardeners agreed that the slugs came late this year. It's my theory that the floods washed away the winter population, and it took awhile for new troops to come oozing down from the high ground.
Along the alley behind Mitchell Street, Arthur Patterson's beans wilted and the potatoes got hit by blight, a sad sight in a beautiful garden. The Pattersons have been canning to replace the jars that flooded last year in the storage cellar and had to be thrown away.
And next door at Bill and Helen Noble's, I asked "what's that?" about a lush row of leaves. Bill couldn't remember. "Don't ask me," said the carpenter doing remodeling work next door. "I'm from Brooklyn." Finally Helen came to the rescue. Of course, they're parsnips. "Don't pull them now," Bill warned. "The more they freeze the better they taste."
Annual garden sights around Sumas include the skyscraper beans grown by Albert Kedell on Front Street, and Rich Miller's productive vest-pocket garden in the parking strip in front of his Mitchell Street apartment.
Out on Johnson Creek in the big bend by the Front Street bridge, Roland and Mary Vrooman have battled pests all summer but got a crop of old-style gravensteins, which Mary shared with us.
My own garden is a triumph or a disaster, depending on where you look. The carrots, broccoli and kale are the best ever. But the corn was first puny and then flattened, although the little patch of popcorn was a success. Instead of homegrown tomato sauce and corn fritters, we're going to be eating a lot of kale this winter. Kale and potatoes and leeks and chard. And popcorn.
The good weather in October also pulled our shell beans through. Bill Waddell gave us some of these creamy, red-speckled beans 14 years ago when I started my first garden here, and I have saved the seed every year since. He called them cranberry beans, but we call them Bill's beans. He was a good neighbor and we miss him, and his beans are a small immortality that makes us feel a little better.
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The second block of Vancouver St., specifically the Sinses and the Schweigerts, grew 699 pounds of pumpkin this year. Can your block top this? Let us know and we'll put you in the Squash Hall of Fame.
-- Lane Morgan
from the October and November 1991 Sumas Astonisher