How does your garden grow?

Nary a weed can be found in Jim Miller’s garden.

By Marcie Klomp

There aren’t many folks who drive north of Lime Springs going toward Lidtke Mill who don’t notice Jim Miller’s garden. It’s immaculate. From the road (and up close) there’s not a weed to found.

Miller modestly said, “I don’t spend much time on it. I tilled it a while ago to knock the weeds down. It took an hour-and-a-half.” He is tough on his garden. “I don’t water anything!” He then relented and said he watered his toilet!

As a corner decoration for the garden he has two old toilets. This year he planted tomato seeds in the toilet and he did water that. “It was like a little hot box!”

The seeds were a free pack thrown in from Gurney’s. “I watered them every night. About three weeks ago, I transplanted 12 that were about two inches tall. The next week I did another 15.” He’s going to have tomatoes growing out his ears as he also purchased 12 tomato plants earlier in the season.

He doesn’t spend a lot of time in the garden except at harvest time—especially the green beans and peas, which take some time to pick.

He has a strawberry bed, along with asparagus and rhubarb.

Other items in his garden include cabbage, turnips, lettuce, onions, beets, pumpkins, squash, potatoes, peppers, egg plant, muskmelon, sweet corn, zucchini and cucumbers. “I didn’t get many carrots, and it was too hot for spinach. Only two seeds grew out of a packet of kohlrabi because there was no moisture,” he added.

He doesn’t really have any secrets. “Just keeping ahead of the weeds. You ain’t ever rid of weeds, no matter what. They’ll seed out if you don’t take care of it.”

He doesn’t have any favorite vegetables or flowers. He likes them all. A person might think he has a soft spot for gladiola since he has so many in his garden, but he said they just multiplied on their own.

“I plant flowers on the edge of the garden because I like them. Last year I gave away about 800 gladiola bulbs, so I only planted about 90 this year,” he mentioned.

He initially started with about 25 bulbs. “They double about every year. Then different people have given me some over the years. Elaine Niewoehner gave me quite a few from her mother.”

He started his garden when his family moved to the place in 1966. “I’ve had it for 46 years. I started it to feed my kids!” He and Judy have three children, Punky, Jim Jr. and Rich. That family has grown to 11 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Back when he was younger, the garden was a little bigger and he used to start his plants from seed. “That worked good, but you didn’t get it as early,” he laughed.

One of the fun things he does for his grandkids is putting designs on the pumpkins. “I scratch the pumpkin with a nail. I’ll draw a funny face, a heart, put the kids’ names on them or say ‘I love you.’” After the grandkids have been through his pumpkin patch, Miller gives his extra to Partners In Progress for the Chester Pumpkin Decorating Contest.

Jim recalled, “When I was younger, I gave it away all over town. Now with the Amish and Farmers Market, it’s just for family and friends.” When he owned the station (on the corner by the Community Center) he used to sell sweet corn. At the time, he was getting 35¢ a dozen or three dozen for $1.00. Now roadside corn can go for $5.00 per dozen.

Lately, there isn’t a whole lot of extra produce coming from Miller’s garden. Wife Judy has done an awful lot of canning over the years. Although the couple doesn’t need as much as they used to, they still can for their family.

“The main stuff is tomatoes, green beans and carrots. We only can carrots once every five years. Green beans will keep for three years. Tomatoes we make salsa—mostly for the kids. We also make homemade sauerkraut.”

It’s like a factory line when canning. They now do it in the garage (much cooler!). Jim picks and boils the tomatoes while Judy peals them and puts them in the jars.

By canning, they can enjoy the garden all year long!


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