An Ode to the Gardening Dad

It’s that time of year again - the greeting card aisles are filled with cards ranging from mallards flying over a picturesque lake to failed DIY attempts. Stores everywhere have eye catching displays in the entry, filled with manly colored gadgets that no one really needs, but we are tempted to buy anyways, because we’ve run out of ideas for Father’s Day.  

My dad asks for socks and peanut brittle every year, and still manages to look genuinely pleased when he gets them...from all three of us. He also asks for a gift card to the local home improvement store, which he uses to buy tools and yard supplies, even though he already has more than any one person could ever use. When I think of my dad, I picture him outside in the yard, or tinkering in his shop, always finding ways to make our home better, our yard nicer.

It turns out I’m not the only one raised by an inspirational dad. We recently ran a contest asking Oregon gardeners to tell us about a gardener - any gardener in their lifetime - who has inspired them, and we were surprised and delighted by the amount of wonderful stories about dad’s and grandad’s that flooded in. These are stories that should be told and retold frequently and heard by many, that’s why in honor of Father’s day we decided to share a handful of them. These are life-affirming stories about passion and patience, precious lessons about the value of being mindful. Enjoy!

“My Dad, John Mehlert, who we nicknamed "Farmer John!” He has had a garden as far back as I can remember! This will only be my second season, so I love having him as a wonderful resource for my gardening questions.”

- Victoria Wester

“My grandfather or "gramps” as we all called him loved his garden. He would till the soil until he saw worms, he knew he'd worked it right. He would fold the nutrients into the ground so gently so as not to hurt the worms, he would stand back and be proud of his straight rows he made along the way, and he never got tired of pulling out the weeds...he always said not to let the weeds “take over," he gently watered each plant like it was the only one..he loved his garden...he raised corn and peas, greens, green beans and loved his strawberries oh he loved his garden…”

- Linda Purdy

“I would choose my grandpa even though he has passed away, he taught me a lot about loving gardening.”

- Debbie Milligan

“My granddad Jackwood was an organic garden and are back in the 1960s. He had a huge garden that fit two families. He had heaps of chicken and steer manure and was always composting and mulching. He had an apple orchard and marionberry arbor, a large grape arbor, he would work in the garden every day after work and all day Saturday. He would come in and take a shower at night and then he would sit on the couch and read about organic gardening. He made it all seem so fun and important, I’m trying to be just like him!”

- Mindi Blanchard

“My dad, Ken Pickett, used to plant a large garden every year. I especially remember him planting several rows of corn, and we as kids would hide in among the rows. His favorite saying was "knee high by the fourth of July." Our family suppers each summer evening consisted of enjoying corn on the cob, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, along with a main dish. I picture my Dad every summer evening out in the garden relaxing for well over an hour watering his large garden by hand. It was his way of unwinding, as he enjoyed the fruits of his labor. Most poignantly, my brother and I participated in his final planting of corn in May of 2002, just three months before he died. He sat on the patio and instructed us on how deep to make the rows, and how many seeds to put in the burrows. He would say, "Mother says to just put a few, but the birds come and steal away several of the seeds before they have time to germinate, so don't tell her, but I want you to add plenty more." So, of course, that's what we did. By August, the corn stalks were full height, and it pleased him to know that his final garden had come to fruition. The night he died, it was a full moon, and my brother and I sat outside on the back patio on his porch swing and just gazed out at the rows of corn, swaying in the gentle night breeze. I displayed his overalls, along with his other gardening tools as part of his favorite possessions at his memorial service. When I happened to reach into his pocket one last time, what should I find but ONE MORE CORN SEED. The memories of his garden became a lasting legacy. I can just hear him saying, "Go ahead, Jude. Put some more seeds in, so the birds don't eat them all. Just don't tell Mother."

- Judi Blomquist

For the long hours worked, the time spent teaching us how to plant seeds, the water fights with the garden hose, the lectures on worms and bugs, the lessons in patience as the food reached the perfect ripeness - we thank you, dads.

Happy Father’s Day!