to promising gardening year in Lakewood
By Thea Steinmetz
Published May 7, 2008
lone book in an otherwise empty shopping cart at Costco was the
inspiration for this column. The hefty book was about growing vegetables
the organic way. So, of course, as I am always on the prowl for
a good story, I had to find the book’s potential buyer. Some day,
someone will tell me to mind my own business and not ask too many
questions of strangers. In this case, I found a young lady who did
not mind my intrusion in her shopping day.
Very quickly I became aware that there was an appealing
story here. The young couple, Joy and Jim Alberts, and their two
small sons, Jacob and Silas, had just purchased a house in Lakewood.
They were transplants from the San Francisco Bay area when a new
job beckoned here. Joy had grown up in Michigan, but they both were
concerned about what winter would have in store for them in Ohio.
To buy a house in November provides no clue as to
what is growing on the property, other than perhaps evergreens.
They had no idea of what spring would bring in their newfound garden.
One thing was clear: since there was mostly lawn in the backyard,
there was ample space to plan for vegetable beds.
The past weeks, trying to get ready to plant, have
kept the couple busy. New beds were dug and roto tilled. The soil
has been amended to insure a good harvest. Seeds have been purchased
and some have been started indoors. Mother’s Day is the target for
really planting in earnest.
There is a learning curve involved in all this gardening.
Growing one’s own vegetables in northern California is vastly different
than desiring an ample harvest in Lakewood. Joy remembers that the
wild growing fennel along the west coast is called earthquake food.
It grows wild, and not even an earthquake can do it in. Artichokes
also can be found growing in the wild and make for good eating.
Rosemary is considered a highway plant and grows along
busy roads. Hedge clippers are employed to keep it trimmed.
While some new gardeners go about haphazardly when
creating a new garden, Joy is very organized. She made plans for
the various areas and made sure that each space follows a function.
The boys’ play area is removed from the newly dug circular herb
garden. The vegetable area is placed for maximum sun exposure. By
summer, the family will eat cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, pole beans
and Swiss chard.
Joy is in tune with her inner gardener, and so she
wanted to get a good start for her yellow beets and planted the
seeds in peat pots. This exercise did not turn out well, and the
small seedlings perished. Now she will wait until the soil has warmed
sufficiently and entrust the seeds directly to the earth. Her first
crop, the mesclun mix, planted in a pot, is about ready for the
Eventually she plans to eliminate even more of the
grassy area in the back yard. For now, she is satisfied with her
first year effort of converting the otherwise grassy area to growing
the vegetables the family enjoys eating.
To grow her garden organically is a priority for her.
She now spends time learning all she can from an enormous
book on this subject. It is the one she bought the day we first
met. She represents the next generation of gardeners that want to
do it right with less dependency on chemicals.
Spring was never more welcome than this year. With
the moderating weather came some of the sights we have longed for.
I must be living in one of the prettiest neighborhoods around. The
flowering trees are glorious. If I have one regret it is that this
entire splendor is so fleeting.
A few years back, Jim Wilson, the author of excellent
gardening books, and past host of the Public Television series “The
Victory Garden” came to have dinner at our home. His first comment
was that the city must like Bradford pears a lot. He let it be known
that there could be other and better choices for street trees. If
he were here toward the end of April, he surely would take pleasure
in the spectacle these trees have prepared. Enjoying the white swollen
clouds of flowers on mature trees, plus the red flowering crabapple
trees interspersed, is unadulterated pleasure. The tree lawns will
never wear better finery to provide us with this glorious sight.
It is as if Mother Nature flung a masterpiece at us to make up for
the winter just past. A gifted painter could not come up with a
more magnificent landscape on canvas. Add to this a few magnolia
trees in bloom here and there and my glass is filled to the brim.
Yes, I know I am waxing poetic but I always like to
enjoy the many pleasures that I find in nature to the fullest extent.
There is no way a thinking person can possibly ignore the lavish
beauty of spring. Too bad that heavy rains and winds cut short this
annual flaunt of grandeur.