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His Joy Was A Summer On The Links

There’s a sense of urgency in the air. It won’t be long until winter overtakes the garden. It’s time to turn the engines up to warp speed and complete that passel of unfinished garden projects, as well as those still on the drawing board.

Of course, that’s assuming you have projects to begin with. As my husband Jim has pointed out more than once - most people aren’t faced with massive garden projects each and every fall. They simply mow their lawn, cover the roses, collect and store the tools and say good night Gracie.

Most people don’t have to tear down and rebuild rock walls, construct arbors, paths and new planting beds. Most people don’t have to move the same plants about the yard for the umpteenth time. Most people aren’t garden fanatics.

Hmmm … Do you think he has a case? This observation from a man whose most pleasurable gardening experience is digging divots on a long, well-manicured golf course. It’s not that Jim doesn’t enjoy a beautiful garden. He does. It’s the inevitable projects followed by the inevitable maintenance that gets to him. Awhile back he told me there is a direct correlation between his golf handicap and weeding. As the need to weed goes up, so does his handicap. As the weed chores decrease, down comes his handicap.

The old windbag. (Said lovingly). There is a love of gardening in each of us, even my golfer. His pride in our little urban forest is demonstrated by the care he takes with pruning. Though it’s a long and difficult task each spring, each cut is correct. If it is a task he’s not confident with, he doesn’t hesitate to allow an arborist to handle the job.

Of the many trees in the yard, his pride and joy is the weeping willow. He watches and worries about it as if it were a child. I do have to admit, the willow offers a sense of strength and grace to the garden. It would be a shame to ever lose it.

But trees are not the end of Jim’s interest in gardening. Back in the south-40 is his vegetable garden. He tends the usual tomatoes, potatoes, onions, radishes, carrots, peppers, peas, and one zucchini plant (for me) with care.

That is, until the pumpkins take over. These aren’t just any pumpkins. These are the giant fellows. Those with vines that travel 30 feet or better and leaves as large as elephant ears. They climb up trees and through the garden until everything is buried in a sea of leaves and vines.

This is not a simple random planting. It takes planning to achieve enough giants to supply four children and their families and us with mammoth jack-o-lanterns. Seeds must be ordered. Books on the growing and care of pumpkins are purchased. Various manures are collected and spread during the off-season. Tender new plants are nurtured and protected during the cold early summer. Manual pollination must be done once blossoming begins.

While the pumpkins are growing, they are measured each night for that day’s growth. The whole process is filled with excitement and sometimes failure.

This year, Jim went one step further in the garden. He came up with some special corn seed. As the summer progressed, I discovered it wasn’t the normal sweet corn. It started growing by leaps and bounds. By mid-September, it was 14 feet tall and still growing.

If only we didn’t have to mow or weed, I am convinced Jim would be a fanatic like me. But this year, I thought I would give him a guilt-free break. I weeded and he studied the landscape at the many city golf courses. He proved his weeding-handicap theory to be right: He capped off a summer of golfing by shooting a 67 at the Spokane Country Club.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Phyllis Stephens The Spokesman-Review