Jerry’s Patio Garden: The Soil Report


This Week’s Picture:

Status for my 2016 Patio Garden:

It has been close to a month since planted my seeds.  After my cucumbers sprouted, I split the sprouts into 3 separate pots.  The plants in pot #1 (the pot on the left) are still sprouts.  They have not grown at all.  The plants in pot #3 (the pot on the right) sprung up immediately, but their growth seemed to have stalled.  The plants in pot #2 (the pot in the middle) are thriving.

I believe i know what the problems are with the plants in pot #1 and the plants in pot #3.  The problem with pot #1 is probably due to issues with the transplant of the sprouts.  I botched the transplant.  I lifted the sprout out of the original pot with my small hand shovel.  I, clumsily, dropped the shovel and the soil and the sprouts scattered everywhere.  I tried, clumsily again, to gather the sprouts and the soil together by scooping everything into my hands and moving them into the larger pot.  I do not think that my salvaging efforts really salvaged anything.

I believe that the problem with pot #2 is all about the soil that i chose.  The soil in pot #2 was the same soil that i used for a squash plant that i planted  in 2014.  I thought the soil would be okay to re-use.  As i look at the result i realize that my choice of re-using the soil was not such a good idea after all.

Back to the Days of My 1966 Garden:

My Soil Report Rated Poorly

It was a Monday in early May 1966.  The weekend was over.  It was time for school again. Fourth grade was such a drag.  Especially on this day.  First, my teacher posed the question to the class:  “Who do you think is the best student in the class?”  This would be my first life lesson in humility.  I had the best grades, i was class representative of the 4H club.  I never caused any trouble in class.  Surely, it would be me, i thought.  So did many other class members.  “Jerry”, was the overall response.  Even those who did not like me at all chimed in as well.  “No.  It is not Jerry”, Mrs. Warren responded immediately, to both my heartbreak and to my surprise.  “It’s Henry Cromartie”, she said, continuing.  I understood, even at my young age.  My school had just finished a major construction project.  Construction on brand new buildings had just finished.  All students would be in the new building in the next school year.  The move procedures had already begun in the current year.  Henry helped Mrs. Warren pack boxes everyday and he carried the boxes to the storage room where they would await final transfer to the new classroom building.

If the early morning disappointment to my young boy ego and pride was not enough, the after-lunch disappointment was the icing on the cake for bruising my self-esteem.  The 4H lady was back and she had our soil reports.  We assembled in the cafeteria.  I sat in the front.  I was the class representative and I was very proud.  I could not wait for the report.  it would make my day end very well –or so that is what i thought.  She called out the top 10 students, whose soil report rated the highest from tenth place to first place.  I did not hear my name from place number ten to place number five and i became excited.  I felt that i had made it into the top five.  I winced when Henry’s report made fourth place.  Finally, third, second place names were called.  At this point I began to be concerned.  Finally Michael Stewart’s name was called out for first place.  My heart sunk down, down, down.

The assembly was dismissed and everyone went up front to receive their own soil report results.  My soil rated as one of the worst samples that were submitted.  Later, after a not such a good day at school and long after arriving home, I showed the report to my uncle when I returned home.  He asked me, “Where did you get your sample from?”  I said “in the back yard, on the other side of the wood pile” –opposite side of where the garden was plant.  “You should have selected your soil from the garden area”, my uncle said.  “…that soil is treated with lime and manure”, he continued.  “You should have taken your sample from there”, he finished as he walked away.

Dejected, i sat.  That was 1966.  Seems like in 2016, i still haven’t learned much about the folly of taking shortcuts.

See you at next week’s blog.

Jerry’s blog about growing up in the rural south is based on many actual events and many ways of life.  Many of the people appearing in Jerry’s blog are somewhat fictionalized and names are fully fictionalized

Queens NYC Lit Fest

I’m getting ready for my drive to Brewster station, then board the metro to Grand Central, subway over to 33rd, a nice enjoyable walk to the e 34th street ferry … then on to LIC Landing for the 2nd Annual Queens NYC Lit Fest to hear outstanding poets from Queens! If you happen to be in he New York City area, Join me! You will have a great time!



Jerry’s Patio Garden -While Waiting for the Soil Report


This week’s picture:  I divided my cumcumber sprouts into 3 pots.  Jerry’s Patio Garden is coming along.

This week’s post:  While Waiting for the Soil Report

Spring was really springing in ther Spring of 1966.  My vegetable plants were getting taller.  The tomato plants finally came up.  School would be out soon. All those good feelings were doused when the 4H lady told us that our soil reports would be delayed for another 2 weeks.  That happened on a Friday and this meant that I had to start the weekend with a feeling of disappointment.  The disappointment was small but it was disappointment nonetheless.

In the meantime,

Hauling Water

It was a springtime weekend down south and that means it was hot!  Mid-seventies in May.  Saturday morning in the rural south meant chores –for me.  First chore early in the morning was hauling water from the spring.  This was mid-sixties in the rural south and a lot of families did not have running water yet.  Many had wells in their backyard.  Our well had finally run dry and we ended up filling it with dirt.  My job therefore, was to journey up to the spring and fetch water once a day.  After school during the week and and early on Saturday morning I would fetch the drinking water.  I would take eight, one gallon plastic jugs, load them into my long red wagon and trek one mile uphill to the spring that was on the property of the Mills family.  We were given permission to enter their property and fetch water from the spring.  The spring was amazing.  Just fresh water continually sprouting from the ground like water sprouting from a modern day park fountain.  The water sprouted upwards about 5 inches high which was enough for me to place my gallon jugs underneath and fill each one.  After filling the jugs I would slowly and carefully roll my wagon downhill and deposit the drinking water next to the old icebox (they called these refrigerators in the big city).  Then i would reach into the icebox, grab a jug that was already there and pour myself a nice tall glass and drink my sweat away.

Chopping Wood for the Cook Stove

No one who lives in this  21st century digital age can imagine a cook stove that required burning wood for cooking.  In was 1966 in the rural south “the country” and many families still cooked, fried, boiled, stewed, simmered and baked on wood burning stoves.

After hauling water, my next chore was to chop wood for the cook stove.  Pulp wood was big business in the rural south and we had a few pulp wood trucks that passed through the neighborhood.  After a drop off of wood from the lumber yard, the drivers would pick up scrap wood, load the scrap wood on their trucks and drop it off in the yards of families that needed it –for a negligible fee.

I would walk out to the front of the yard, rolling my long red wagon, with head down and focused on the next task.  I would arrive at the scattered pieces of wood that were thrown from the trucks into the yard and begin loading them on top of my wagon.  Usually, none ever fit in the wagon.  I tied a rope around the stacked wood to keep it from falling off.  The wood came in all sizes.  Most pieces were at least four to five feet in length but with varying shapes, widths and thickness. I once found a piece that was perfect for stick ball!  (Yes, we played stick ball in the country!  It wasn’t just a big city pasttime). I would transport the wood to the back of the house where the axe and chopping box were.  I would commence to chopping long pieces in to small foot long pieces that would fit into the stove.  Then i would store some of the wood in a wooden feeding trough sat aside for wood storage and i would take a load into the house and place on a small bin next to the stove.

Hauling water, chopping wood and homework were my daily tasks –except weekends, then it was just hauling water and chopping wood.  I can’t say that I really enjoyed any of that work then, but I really appreciate the experience now.  It gave me a foundation of discipline and a work ethic which I apply to everything that I do now.

–especially with my current day, 2016 patio garden:  my tomato plants sprung this week and I’m very happy about that!  See you next week on Jerry’s Patio Garden!


Next Week on Jerry’s Patio Garden:  My Soil Did Not Rate High At All in the Soil Report

Blog posts in Jerry’s Patio Garden appear every Sunday at 5:00pm

Disclaimer:  Jerry’s blog about growing up in the rural south is based on many actual events and many ways of life.  Many of the people appearing in Jerry’s blog are somewhat fictionalized and names are fully fictionalized.





Stay Tuned for a New Post in Jerry’s Patio Garden!

Sunday at 5:00 pm, a new post in Jerry’s Patio Garden will appear.  Title for this Sunday’s post:  “While I Was Waiting for the Soil Report”.  Jerry talks about life in the rural south and explores his daily “chores” such as hauling water, chopping wood for the cook stove and a few childhood adventures.

Blog posts in Jerry’s Patio Garden appear every Sunday at 5:00pm

See you Sunday at 5pm…Jerry

Disclaimer:  Jerry’s blog about growing up in the rural south is based on many actual events and many ways of life.  Many of the people appearing in Jerry’s blog are somewhat fictionalized and names are fully fictionalized.

Jerry’s Patio Garden – Sprouts are a Sprouting


My cucumbers sprouted first.  Thursday!  Cucumbers and zucchini usually sprout right away.  At least that is my experience.  What’s yours?  Feel free to write a short comment.

Speaking of experience:  firstly, i am not a gardening expert.  Gardening is a hobby of mine.  This hobby began when i was in 4th grade.  It was the Spring of 1966 and i lived well outside the suburbs of Columbia, South Carolina.  Some would say that “i lived in the country” or that “i was country”.  Anyway my neighborhood consisted of 3-4 houses within a 3 block (“country” blocks, not city blocks — “country” blocks are a little bigger) radius and after that the nearest neighbors were at least 2 to 3 miles away.  In between the neighbors was farmland, livestock, wells, springs, wild hogs, bobwhite quails, vultures, snakes and many other critters.

I lived with my uncle and aunt at the time.  My uncle had a large garden wherein he grew tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, corn, squash and green beans.  I was so fascinated by the work that he did that i decided to pursue gardening myself.  First i joined the 4H Club at my school and began to learn about soil and how its quality is important to planting and cultivating vegetables.  I remember that we were given small boxes to take home.  Our assignment was to collect soil samples, fill the box and turn it in to the 4H Club leaders.  Our boxes would then be taken to labs and the quality of the soil would be sampled.  A report would be generated that rated the quality of the soil in each box.  I grabbed a sample of soil from our back yard (not the garden area) and turned it in.  This sampling and report generation process would take several weeks.

In the meantime, I asked my aunt and uncle for permission to plant my own garden.  You should have seen the grins that question elicited.  They knew that I had no clue about cultivating a garden, nonetheless, I was a spoiled nephew and they gave me what i wanted.

We lived in a wooden house that my uncle built himself.  The house sat in the middle of an acre of tract that was cleared of trees and brush.  To the right of the house was another large clearing.  This is where my uncle’s garden was planted.  Behind the house was a large chicken coop.  In back of the coop was a forest, referred to, by the kids of our small community, as “the woods”.  To the left of the house was the lawn with a few trees scattered about.   My garden would be in the rear section of this area.  Early on a Saturday morning, my uncle got me out of bed, we ate breakfast –grits, fresh eggs and fresh sausage of course … after all this was rural South Carolina– and we headed to the garden spot.  He picked up two tools that we would work with:  a pick axe and a hoe.  My garden would be a small garden.  The spot was no more than 10 x 6 feet in length and width.  He taught me how to break the ground with the pick axe.  I was a small and the pick axe was nearly taller than me.  After a few swings, my uncle gave me a “good job” and asked for the pick axe.  He then began to finish breaking all the ground in my junior garden.

After breaking ground, we proceeded to pull out all the clumps of grass, dandelion weed, other weeds and rocks from the broken soil.  This is where the hoe came in handy.  You would rake the clumps of broken soil in a back and forth motion to discover the rocks.  You would remove the rocks and the excess weeds and then you would use the hoe to break up the clumps into fine soil that was ready for seeds.  Finally we used the hoe to make 4 long furrows.  We were close to finishing.

My uncle showed me how to make little holes in the soil with my fingers, about 3 to 4 inches deep, for planting the seeds.  He showed me the proper spacing between the holes.  This was especially important for vegetables that grew on vines.  We finished planting all the seeds and filled all the holes with soil.  The first row was yellow squash, the second row was tomatoes, the third row was watermelon and the fourth row would be green beans.  We finally finished and I stepped back and admired my garden.  The large rectangle of broken soil, organized into long furrows surrounded by green grass looked very swell!

Two weeks later, the sprouts were a sprouting!

Stay Tuned for Next Week’s Chapter:  Finally, The Soil Report Arrived



The Day I Decided


the day i decided
to become a writing,
writing, writing warrior
is the day i decided
to sacrifice that extra
hour of sleep
two or three times
a week to finish
that last stanza

the day i decided
to become a writing,
writing, writing warrior
is the day i decided
to finish required reading
to finish planned writing
two or three times a week
before I sat down to eat

the day i decided
to become a writing,
writing, writing warrior
is the day i decided
to dedicate myself
to study and writing
without stealing time
from my wife, children
or that boss on my day job

the day i decided
to become a writing
writing, writing warrior
is the day i decided
how to pursue
my daily discipline
not of physical training
but conditioning of
my thinking and
of my mind

the day i decided
to become a writing,
writing, writing warrior
is the day i decided
to enter my bootcamp
the day i stripped myself
of pleasures for a season
the day i dressed in rags
the day i wept
the day i fasted

the night i let sleep
pass me by
the morning i rose
from many nights
at my desk
laid my pen down
raised my blinds
and smiled
as i realized

we are warriors