HAMPSTEAD — Each spring, Gertrude Basler grows a garden.
But it's not just any garden. With over 25 varieties of vegetables spiced with bright, colorful flowers, the 76-year-old Basler's garden is nothing less than spectacular.
And she has the best of help. Bob, her husband of 53 years, shares not only his wife's enthusiasm but much of the activity involved inthe project.
The joint effort on the half-acre patch across the road from the white, multi-porched house, red barn and sheds began in 1943.
"We've had a garden ever since we've been here," says Gertrude. She was raised on the 120-acre farm and has lived there most of her life, except for four years just after her marriage to Bob.
TheBaslers don't claim to be gardening experts with all the answers. Rather, they're glad to share experiences, knowledge, successes and an occasional failure. Both the novice and long-time grower can benefit from the wisdom of this "green thumb" pair.
Before seeds, sets or plants can be put in the ground, the soil must be prepared. When it is dry enough, usually in March, Bob plows the garden using a tractor and three-gang furrow plow, working in a load of manure at the same time.
"I like to plow in the fall, but didn't have the manure," he said. He spades up a small area with a shovel, takes a mound of dirt,and throws it down. If it breaks apart, he knows conditions are good. If it stays together, the soil is still too wet.
Last year, certified Kennebec seed from Southern States planted in 10 rows 90 feet long on April 19 was "the best potato crop I ever had," said Bob. Fifty pounds of seed yielded 14 bushels. He lays off the rows eight inches deep and 30 inches apart using the guide on the corn planter and sows the fertilizer at the same time. Gertrude drops the seed in and covers it with a hoe.
"Don't plant too wet," Bob advises. In August,they used a potato plow and tractor to dig up the spuds. They storedthem in baskets and bags.
This is the time for peas, too -- perhaps the Alaskas variety.
Early to mid-April, Gertrude sows the first of two plantings of leaf lettuce. She likes Meyers or Burpee seed and the Prize Head and Salad Bowl varieties. Spinach and kale add moregreen.
For onions, sets or seed, sold by the pound or quart, can be purchased. Gertrude has both white and yellow onions. "The white is milder," she said.
Mid-April, frost-proof cabbage plants, such as Early Jersey Wakefield, go in, "about a dozen to start," Gertrude says.
The last of April, more cabbage plants are added, along with broccoli and cauliflower. She uses seeds weighed out in envelopes andplants from Hampstead Hardware, Southern States, Bowman's, or Bauerlein's. "If it's wet and cold, seed won't sprout. It's best to wait until it's warm," she noted.
A row-and-a-half of green beans go in now; then two weeks later, another row. Blue Lake variety yielded welllast year. She plants a quarter-row of white wax beans.
Not only does the Basler garden yield delectable veggies, it's bordered with flamboyant flowers. Gertrude sows marigold and zinnia seeds in a bed and then transplants them on the edge next to the road. "I like them because they bloom until frost," she said.
Later, gladiolus and dahlias enhance the summer display. Some time ago, she planted sunflowerseeds. Now the tall stalk with the large, golden bloom comes up volunteer. "We still have to plow some out," she said.
No, the stooping and bending aren't quite over. Alas, what to do about those unwanted intruders -- weeds and pests?
Bob's Troy Bilt cultivator eliminates weeds. Gertrude uses Sevin dust or spray to control black cabbagebugs, pea lice, broccoli worms, the string bean round brown beetle, and potato bugs. She sprinkles the dust from a quart jar with holes punched in the lid.
Gertrude stocks two freezers with her vegetablecrop. Last year, she also canned 70 quarts of green beans. The Baslers share their abundant produce with family, neighbors, church friends and the Westminster Rescue Mission.
Anna Faye Jenkins, Gertrude's sister, Arcadia, grows her "own thing" on the lower quarter of the patch.
The Baslers got into farming 48 years ago when Gertrude's brother, Norville Davidson, decided to give it up. He asked Bob if he'd like to take over. Bob jumped at the chance. Tilling the land was the way of life he preferred.
"I was tired of driving a laundry truck," he said. So the couple moved to the spread, which included 10 dairy cows.
Bob raised field corn, wheat, barley, hay, oats, tomatoes and peas.
"The second year I had the best pea crop I've ever had," he said. "It yielded two tons to the acre." They also raised chickens and pigs. Gertrude helped with milking the herd, which grew to 40cows.
The Basler garden is custom designed -- largely by love andexperience -- for their needs and wishes. With a splash of creativity, yours can be, too!
Watch the Baslers' garden grow in The Carroll County Sun's April 21 Home and Garden section, featuring beets, carrots, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more