How does your garden grow?

John Petru’s sweet corn is nearly shoulder high and it isn’t even the Fourth of July!

By Marcie Klomp


John Petru has been gardening since he and his family moved here in 1975. He has a small lot, so he has had to find other places for his vegetable garden. He first planted a garden on the Mrs. Marvin property, just west of Dale Reis. He then gardened at Viola Leslie’s (now Kevin Bill residence). Now he’s back in the same neighborhood, just one lot to the east of where he started in southwest Lime Springs, on property owned by Reis.

Petru enjoys his fresh vegetables. He always makes sure he plants some early potatoes and peas. “Then I can have cream peas and potatoes!”

He also plants part of his garden for family. “My daughter-in-law, Yulie, loves fresh peas out of the garden. She just shells them and eats them!”

When he started his garden, it was 48×24 ft. Then this year he expanded by adding another small garden about 10×20 ft.

“Some people asked me if I would still garden after I lost my wife (Donna). This keeps me busy and gives me something to do.”

He jokes, “It’s always a battle between the good and bad and keeping the good stuff growing and getting rid of the weeds.”

One of his tricks of the trade for keeping the weeds at bay is tilling. “After a rain, the ground gets a dry crust on it and that’s when I till the garden. Then a person can get ahead of the weeds.”

Other tricks include putting a mesh screen around the cabbage. “It keeps the cabbage worms off,” Petru explains.

Since he has a small garden, he has constructed a cucumber trellis. He uses strips off an old t-shirt to tie the vines to the trellis and eventually they are trained to climb on their own.

For his tomatoes (This year he has five varieties.) he always puts an old coffee can around their base. “That serves two purposes—it usually keeps the wire worm off the plant and allows the water to be near the root.”

Petru doesn’t do a lot of watering. He watered a couple weeks ago when it was so dry, and he’ll water his tomato plants with Miracle Gro, but that’s about it.

Some things about gardening he has learned on his own. He used to plant green beans and peas, and he wondered what happened to the seeds. He thought it was rabbits. One day he got stubborn and decided to sit at the garden to see what happened. “It didn’t take long. I was there about five minutes when a robin came and took the seed.” That’s when he started putting chicken wire around his plants, and he hasn’t had much of a problem since.

He currently has three different crops of corn planted, so he has corn on the cob all summer long.

Petru enjoys his garden and eating the fruits of his labor, but he also shares his bounty with friends and neighbors. This harvest, he will be sharing some squash. Each year he tries to plant something different, and this year he planted different kinds of squash. “I was wondering what to plant and Dale (Reis) said, ‘Squash would be good.’” So Petru took his advice.

Gardening keeps him busy. He works at it from a few minutes daily up to an hour or two, but Petru also finds time to play Bingo at New Hampton and Lime Springs, mow and be the Sextant at Pleasant Hill Cemetery.


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