Dennis Hall, 61, of Harold, is a seasoned gardener.
“Lord, I’ve been gardening pretty well all my life,” Hall explains. “I was hoeing corn in the bottom when I was 5-years-old.”
Some five decades later, he still enjoys the activity.
“It gives me something to do and a way to exercise,” says Hall, who works in his garden in the mornings and evenings to avoid the heat.
Hall has been helped in his gardening endeavors by Big Sandy Area Community Action Program’s 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.
After Hall was deemed eligible under project guidelines, he used the vouchers to purchase seeds for beans, tomatoes and corn as well as for fertilizer.
So far, his garden has produced mixed results.
“At first, I had a beautiful garden,” Hall shares. “Then, all of a sudden, I got up one day, came out here and saw that at the bottom of the tomato plants, the leaves were wilting up. Some died out and the next few days, it got worse. Pretty soon, they were rotting from the bottom to the top.”
Hall blames the rotten tomatoes on the blight, a plant disease.
“The blight is the worst thing about gardening,” Hall says. “It kills a lot of produce. You work so hard and then you lose it.”
Yet, Hall remains grateful for the tomatoes lining his deck railing, which he gathered before the blight took effect, as well as for the other produce he has harvested.
“I cut the cabbage early,” Hall says. “The bugs were eating them up. We’ll work the cabbage up this weekend to make kraut. I have three kids and three grandkids and they all love kraut.”
Hall also loves cabbage – and every other vegetable that comes from the garden.
“I love every bit of it,” he says. “Some people like yellow tomatoes and some like red. I planted all of them cause I love every kind.”
Hall adds, “Garden food tastes better and is more nutritious than what comes out of the store and you can preserve it for the winter months.”
Indeed, he and his wife, Marie, plan to pickle and can cucumbers and freeze beans and corn, and Hall offers advice on how best to freeze produce.
“Some people mess up their beans by washing them before they freeze them,” Hall notes. “You just break the beans and freeze them, and then wash them once you get them out of the freezer. And a lot of people also shuck their corn bare and then put it up. If you leave a thin cover on it, it will taste fresh, just like it came out of the garden, when you take it out of the freezer.”
Although he lost some vegetables to the blight, Hall appreciates the Garden Seed Project and the canned and frozen food that will provide nourishment in the coming months.
“It’s extra food you don’t have to buy,” he says.