Growing up in Michigan, Monica Boyd, 52, of Harold, wasn’t used to gardens.
“This was all new to me when I came down here,” explains Boyd, who moved to the area 40 years ago. “I learned how to garden from my ex-husband and his parents. They tended a garden and, when we got married, I helped them.”
Nowadays, Boyd’s two sons help her with the garden.
“I’m not able to work in the garden without the boys’ help,” she says. “I have osteoarthritis in my spine and a degenerative disk disease in neck. My boys have to plow and till for me because I can’t do that.”
Boyd has also been helped in her gardening endeavors by Big Sandy Area Community Action Program’s (BSACAP) Garden Seed Project. The project distributes vouchers for the purchase of seeds, fertilizer, and/or plants to eligible individuals who, in turn, plant gardens that will provide produce for eating and canning.
In addition, Boyd attended a gardening workshop sponsored by BSACAP where she learned about rotating crops and testing the soil.
“We bought a soil tester and learned that the soil lacked nutrients. That’s why we put lime on it,” she says.
Boyd, who is raising potatoes, corn, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, cabbage cantaloupes, watermelon, and pumpkins, is implementing other tricks of the trade as well.
“We put a teaspoon of Epsom salt behind the tomato plants when we planted them. It makes them healthier. And we puts beans in teepees to make them grow straight up,” she says. “It’s easier than trying to line every bean vine.”
She’s also trying different methods of canning.
“I just fixed 12 pounds of kraut and cut corn off the cob and put it in the freezer, but I’m trying to learn how to can new stuff, especially with the food prices going so high. I want to learn how to can green tomatoes. Somebody told me you can, but I’ve never done it. My sister-in-law said they’re just as good as if you get them out of the garden,” she says. “It won’t hurt to try once.”
Boyd acknowledges that gardening can sometimes be difficult. In addition to dealing with critters such as deer, rabbits, snakes, and turtles, gardeners also must contend with weeds and Mother Nature.
“The hardest part of gardening is trying to hoe everything,” she says. “And two or three years ago, when we had all that rain, it washed the top soil off. That year, the garden didn’t do good at all.”
But when she creates a meal primarily from garden produce, the hard work pays off.
“I love working in the garden. I love watching stuff grow,” she says. “And I love fried corn. I’d have to say taters and gravy is my favorite meal.”
Boyd reconsiders and adds, “But it’s a close race between that and friend corn.”