Even though we saw snow and ice on Mother’s Day this year, May is usually the time when Violet and I start deciding what we’ll plant in our garden boxes and in our tiny plot beside the shed. We recently decided that we’d try growing pumpkins for the first time. We won’t be trying to grow the world’s largest pumpkin or anything, but we do hope to get a few nice ones to carve for Halloween.

I had read somewhere that using milk to water the pumpkins would really help them grow faster, but I don’t think we’ll try that. It seems that they thrive on the calcium found in milk, but a good fertilizer will do the same thing. It is recommended that you work a good amount of compost or manure into the soil before planting the seeds. I think we will go to our old compost site and dig up several bucketsful of good black composted dirt and work it into the especially poor soil around the shed. I’ll need to get a kid sized spade for Violet so she can help with the digging, as it could take Grammy too long to do the job alone!

We’ll have to wait until the ground has warmed up a bit and the temperatures don’t drop below 40 degrees at night before we plant our seeds. We will soak the seeds in moist paper towels for a couple of days until we see the seed start to sprout before planting them in hills of 5 or 6 seeds, pointy side down. It will be so hard to be patient while waiting for the little plants to poke through the soil and reach for the sun. Checking on the progress of our plants will be a fun part of each visit! It’s recommended that we thin the plants to leave only one or two to grow on the hill, but destroying these baby plants is hard to do when we’ve waited so long for them to sprout. It’s a good idea, though, because it gives the strongest ones a better chance to thrive and produce pumpkins.

I didn’t know this, but pumpkin flowers come in both male and female styles. The male flower has an anther in the middle of the flower that is dusted with pollen. The female flowers have a small round bud on the rounded base. If you don’t see any bees around doing the pollinating, it is recommended that you take a Q-Tip to collect some of the pollen from the male flower and place it on the female flower’s stigma at the center of the bloom. This will increase the odds that we will see pumpkins growing on the vines. I have read that the same procedure is recommended for zucchini and other types of squash.

Last year was the first time we planted potatoes in some of our garden boxes, and it proved to be such an exciting thing to dig down in the boxes at harvest time and find actual, real potatoes hidden in the dirt! Wow! This was even more fun than an Easter egg hunt! We’ve decided to plant more potatoes this year so the harvest fun lasts longer. We bought red seed potatoes at Keller’s and we like those because they will be easier to spot in the brown earth. It is just such a treat to hear the excitement in Violet’s voice as she shouts, “I found a HUGE one!” It’s always good to know that potatoes actually grow in the ground and don’t just magically appear at WalMart!

We didn’t have good luck with peas or carrots last year, so we won’t plant those again, but the zucchini did well and so did the green beans, so those plus a couple of grape tomato plants will make up the rest of our garden. It will be so exciting when warmer weather finally decides to stay and we can get outside and start planting flowers and vegetables and watching them grow!

Violet turned 5 years old a few days ago, and she has grown so much in this past year. She loves wearing fancy, flouncy dresses and having her long hair braided into dozens of mini braids when it’s wet so she has a mass of curls when the braids are taken out the next day. She doesn’t miss too many details about Grammy’s appearance, either. One day when she was sitting in my lap, she turned around and was studying my face, then she started fingering the loosening skin on my neck, comparing it to her own neck and asked, “Grammy, why is your skin ‘pullable’?” Another time she noticed my recent haircut, and commented, “Why does your hair look kinda scruffy today?” And along with my scruffy hairdo, one day she even found a nasty chin hair and tried to pull it out! It’s a good thing I have her to clean me up!

One afternoon I was reading to her from a “Beezus and Ramona” book by Beverly Cleary. I hadn’t slept very much the night before, and in the middle of a sentence, I guess I momentarily fell asleep, but quickly awoke when I heard her continuing to read where I left off! She likes to read the comics in the daily paper, too, but sometimes I have to do a little bit of explaining. She loves drawing rather detailed pictures, including mini conversations in speech balloons above some of the characters. We still spend a lot of time with Play-Doh, with Grammy making a menagerie of animals for her to line up and play with.

Riding her scooter at breakneck speeds at the park is a favorite activity, along with swimming at the Y with her mom, going to gymnastics and dance classes, and she is working on roller skating too. On rainy days, we like using blankets to make a tent in the living room, and she sometimes pretends she’s a vet checking out all the animals that come to her “tent clinic.” Her doctor kit comes in handy with animals as well as people.

Between planting and watering our garden boxes and our pumpkin patch, and enjoying time at the park, I think Grammy and Violet are going to be pretty busy this summer, and that’s good. ! I love this quote from George Bernard Shaw: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Violet, I hope you keep your Grammy forever young!

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Marilyn Secco is a retired teacher and author of the book “Front Porch Tales.” She has 2 children and 5 grandchildren and lives in Kersey with a temperamental cat named Tidder. Contact her at mbsecco@windstream.net

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