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Get the green out!

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Spring brings back wonderful memories from our time growing up at 110 Flamingo Street. Climbing high up into young trees, then jumping off and riding them back to the ground (only to watch as they fly back up and smack brothers) is just one of them.

Another is being stuck knee deep in the gray mud of Cripple Creek, then having my shoes sucked from my feet. Doing flips off a rope swing and landing with a splash into cool waters of a lake at the edge of a haunted forest.

And one of my favorites, throwing rocks at a paper wasp nest just as my brothers walked under it. In my defense, they had pestered me all week. My brothers, not the wasps – the wasps hadn’t done anything. Still, I feel bad about destroying their home.

Yes, there’re many fond memories of springtime from my youth, but gardening just ain’t one of them.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like fresh tomatoes as much as the next person, unless, of course, you slip and fall while picking them. But how I broke my hip and ended up out of work for six months is a story that’s already been written. This story’s about gardening.

While living at Flamingo Street, gardening was truly a labor of love for Dad. For us kids it had nothing to do with love. It was truly just lots and lots of labor.

During the growing season, Dad had a certain routine. After work, he’d come in, kiss Mom, and then head out to tend his garden for an hour or so. With him would be the one of us who had gotten into trouble during the day. That usually meant all four of us boys.

Did I mention I really didn’t like gardening while growing up?

Work never seemed to end when you have a garden. In February, lime had to be mixed into the ground. Ever try to dig up frozen red clay with a tiller? Hours of walking behind that bouncing machine shook even the fillings from our teeth. I tie my many visits to the dentist and now orthopedic surgeon to that time spent behind that red machine.

If February was bad, March and April were worse. They were the planting months. Long rows had to be dug, and then seeds had to be planted at the right depth and distance from each other.

Do it wrong and all the back-breaking labor had to be repeated, especially after about a month. That’s when the only thing growing are seeds you threw into the woods instead of planting them.

The rest of the year, Dad’s battle cry was, “Get the green out!” While he harvested the garden, us boys pulled weeds. Tilling frozen dirt was bad, planting a gazillion seeds were worse, but pulling weeds was a never-ending agony in the humidity and heat that is the South. Even an occasional garden dirt clod battle with my brothers didn’t make it any more enjoyable.

It’s true, growing up, I didn’t like gardening. As an adult it’s gonna be a labor of love — mainly because there’s no labor involved.

Nope, won’t use The Boy. In January I built raised beds. In February I added a perfect mixture of dirt from bags of stuff gotten at the giant hardware store with the orange roof. In March and April no seed planting; I’ll buy small plants from the nursery. The rest of the year I’ll just water and watch them grow. And because they’re so close together, there’ll be no getting the green out.

No tilling, no row making, and no weeding. In a couple of months we’ll have so much stuff coming in, we won’t be able to give all of it away.

Tons of fresh vegetables that have to be picked right outside our front door – great, sounds like lots of labor.

Think I’ll find The Boy after all. It’s time he developed a healthy love for gardening.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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