LESLIE CRISS: Gardening guru only one of Dad’s many great gigs

By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

“‘The monsters are gone.’
‘Really? Doubtful.’
‘I killed the monsters. That’s what fathers do.’” Fiona Wallace

“My daddy, he was somewhere between God and John Wayne.”
Hank Williams Jr.

“Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes.”

Though he’s not a member of Master Gardeners, my father is a master gardener.
There’s been a Francis Criss garden in his backyard for as long as I can remember. And our family – as well as friends and neighbors – has reaped the rewards of Dad’s agricultural acumen.
In Carthage and in Corinth, Dad had to cajole my mother into allowing him to till a section of her yard for planting. She might have appeared a bit unyielding on the front end, but she happily enjoyed produce proffered by Dad’s plots.
We all did. I’m surprised I did not, in my youth, get diagnosed with an ulcer due fully to the number of home-grown tomatoes I consumed each summer.
This year my dad has, in reality, two gardens: one in Corinth in his backyard and another just a bit south in east Tupelo, in my backyard.
He came in April and built a raised bed for vegetables. Thanks to Dad’s directions, the garden is low maintenance, requiring little or no weeding.
When we planted a week or so after the bed was built, Dad brought plants and some seeds left over from the sowing of his Corinth garden.
So far, from the east Tupelo crop, which is half the size of the garden up north, we’ve harvested beautiful radishes, tender lettuce and Vidalia onions.
My tastebuds are quivering with anticipation as I write this: I will soon have fresh tomatoes and cucumbers of the mild Burpless variety ready to eat. And a red bell pepper or two.
I’m also planning to plant some yellow squash, an eggplant and a cayenne pepper so I can make pepper sauce for the greens I plan to grow in the fall.
Now, Dad calls the east Tupelo garden mine. I know this because when we talk every other day or so, he asks, “How’s your garden?”
But the truth is, there would not be a garden or things growing amazingly well in that garden in my backyard if not for my dad.
He’s told me when to fertilize and with what. He’s made sure I watered enough, despite the recent almost-daily deluge of rain. He taught me the kindest way to tie up tomatoes.
And he’s made sure every time we talk to remind me of my caretaking responsibilities when he asks, “How’s your garden?”
For sharing his love of growing delicious vegetables in the rich earth – and so much more, I’m grateful.
Happy Father’s Day.

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