HAMPSTEAD — In vivid contrast to "Mary, Mary, quite contrary," Gertrude Basler'sgarden grows quite nicely. Perhaps Mary didn't possess a willing, able assistant as does Gertrude.
When asked why he has a garden, Bob, Gertrude's husband for 53 years, said, "I do it to help her. She jars a lot of vegetables and makes sauerkraut."
On March 24, The Carroll County Sun showed the Hampstead couple as Bob was about to till the ground with his tractor and three-gang plow. Patient, persistent and heeding his own advice not to plow too soon, he found the early April soil still damp and chilled by touches of late frost.
By now, however, potatoes, leaf lettuce, onions, kale, spinach and peas should be planted and awaiting May's sunny days and gentle showers.
Late April also favors the planting of cabbage,broccoli and cauliflower.
Around May 1, conditions should be right for the Baslers' second planting of Blue Lake and Top Crop green beans and Burpee wax beans.
Three kinds of squash seeds -- dark green zucchini, yellow straight neck and white scalloped Peter Pan -- yield the delectable ingredient for breads, pies and casseroles. Gertrude sometimes bakes squash pie instead of pumpkin. The butternut variety, good for baking and pies, takes longer to ripen, however.
The squash seeds are planted in "hills." Place four seeds together and cover with soil.
Pumpkin hills are prepared the same way with three or four seeds each. Last year, the Baslers' twenty hills produced 80 crooked neck and large orange varieties of pumpkin. From these, Gertrude extracted the basic staple for her pies and pumpkin-walnut-raisin bread. Pumpkin also may be frozen.
"Detroit Red" beets and "Denver" carrot seeds, sown in rows during late April or early May, serve asroot crops growing beneath the soil. Unlike potatoes, which are dug all at once, beets can be pulled as needed from June until September.When the beet bulb starts to show, Gertrude cooks them lavishly withbutter. The last of the crop gets "pickled" in September.
Lacy-topped carrots ripen in August. "Dig down beside them to see if they'reready to be pulled up. If the soil is dry, a spade is helpful in getting them out," she said. Then enjoy them raw, cooked with beef pot roast, simmered with brown sugar, or combined in a casserole.
Tomato plants go in at the beginning of May. Place them about three feet apart and stagger the rows. Possible varieties are "Big Boy," "Better Boy," "Italian Roma" or "Golden," a yellow tomato low in acid.
Space sweet bell pepper plants two feet apart for red and green beauties from August until frost.
Cucumbers for salads, relish, pickles or a side dish may be planted from June 1 until the "longest day of the year," June 21, according to Gertrude. Available varieties include the long "Burpless," easiest to digest; "Marketeers"; and the shorter"Boston" pickling cucumber.
"Don't let them get too big," suggests the prolific preserver, who cans numerous jars of dill, sweet, 14-day, crisp pickle slices (see box) and relish.
Because bush lima beans don't do well for them, the Baslers grow a row of pole lima beansusing seven-foot-high poles placed in the ground every three feet. Wire is stretched across the top, and heavy baling twine is attached to every vine so it can climb the pole. A galvanized pipe anchors the contraption to the ground. These limas go in the last of May, along with another round of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
The couplebegins the first of three ten-row plantings of "Silver Queen" corn as April ends. Plant again when it starts to come up or about 10 days later, they advise.
Mid-June signals the first tender, sweet peas.Gertrude picks over the plump pods about three times, leaving the flat ones to fill out.
Cantaloupe gets planted the last of June.
"Summer is when the bugs hit," warns Gertrude. Sevin dust can be usedon cabbage and broccoli. She suggests applying it after a rain or inthe early morning. However, don't use on beans after they have formed. There's also a Sevin spray.
To control weeds, Bob cultivates the garden twice with his Troy Bilt cultivator. He then mulches the plot with meadow grass baled from the pasture. "It's soft and not as dusty as straw," he said.
Gertrude spices her creation with colorful marigold and zinnia blossoms sown the last of April and later thinnedout.
From three dozen dahlia roots, splendorous purple, pink, red, red cactus and yellow flowers burst into full bloom.
Sunflowers top off the garden like golden sentinels.
The couple's most unusual gardening experiences could be described as "the big ones." Gertrude recalled three years ago growing cauliflower with exceptionally large heads. People stopping by have commented on the huge red beets. Her sister, Anna Faye Jenkins, of Arcadia, harvested enormous heads of cabbage on her section of the patch in 1990. And last year, Bob's pumpkins were great Charlie Brown specimens -- one weighed 120 pounds. The potato crop yielded 14 bushels, his best ever.
After stocking the freezer and cellar shelves, they share the abundance with family, neighbors, church friends at St. John's Lutheran, and the WestminsterRescue Mission.
Take 10 medium size cucumbers -- cover with boiling water.
Drain and add fresh boiling water every day for four days.
Slice 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices.
Make syrupof 8 cups sugar, 1 quart vinegar, 5 tablespoons salt.
Put 2 tablespoons pickling spice and 2 teaspoons celery seed in cheesecloth bag.
Heat to boiling and pour over slices.
Let stand overnight and drain off in morning.
Reheat syrup and pour back over slices. Do this for four mornings.
Pack in hot sterilized jars.
Reheat syrup and remove spices. Pour over slices in jar. Seal and process 5 minutes in boiling water bath.