I’ve got the best garden I’ve had in 22 years!” That statement came from Josie Bost, whom I was sitting alongside at a recent political luncheon forum. Josie, as many of you know, is one of the nicest people in Nevada County. (Which is remarkable, because she’s married to one of my good friends, irascible and opinionated former County Supervisor Crawford Bost.)
And evidence of her husband’s personality comes forth when Josie heads out to harvest their vegetable garden: “No more string beans!” he shouts in his foghorn voice. (The bush beans have been overly generous this year.)
The Bosts have just been in their new Nevada City hilltop home (named “Casa de Bella Vista” for its magnificent views at 2,600 feet) just more than 18 months, and the landscape is still a work in progress.
But the first effort they made was to put in a vegetable garden. Measuring roughly 12 by 40 feet, the summer garden is still producing more than two families can consume and guests (like me) usually leave with a shopping bag full of produce.
“Maybe we get a little more sunshine here than in our other home,” Crawford theorizes, pointing over treetops near Banner Mountain to their former home site. “I know it’s not the native soil that’s doing it, because what ‘soil’ there is amounts to decomposed granite. We had the people at Rare Earth bring in truckloads of mushroom compost to get this going.”
Then, too, Josie recently went into retirement and can devote even more of her seemingly boundless energy into gardening. Which she loves.
“I remember, three years ago, after undergoing surgery for breast cancer,” Josie says, “coming out in the garden barefoot and feeling the warm soil between my toes and I sat down and cried and prayed. It felt so good.”
That experience provided the inspiration for a children’s book Josie is hoping to have published, called, “Josephina, the Dancing Earthworm.” (Josephina, of course, is her given name.)
We’re walking along the pathway between raised beds that Crawford created and Josie is stopping to talk about each plant, as if she were introducing friends at a cocktail party.
“Would you look at this yellow pear tomato!” she says with a smile. “It’s taking over EVERYTHING, and I don’t even like the taste of them. I just like the way they look in salads. I won’t be planting THIS one next year!” (But chances are it will reseed itself.)
Josie says that apart from one particularly gruesome worm she found in one of her tomatillos, and a brief whitefly appearance, there have been no notable insect or pest problems this year: “Maybe they don’t know we’ve moved yet,” she laughs. “My daughter has a garden three times this size and was overwhelmed with aphids and whitefly.”
Pointing to healthy and productive squash plants growing outside the fenced garden (jackrabbits have discovered it) Josie rolls her eyes, “We’ve had more squash this year that we know what to do with! A friend gave us planters made of old automobile tires turned inside out, with screen on the bottom, and they’re great! “
The tomatoes are largely the result of last year’s leftovers which re-seeded themselves; the lemon cucumber plants are beginning to turn brown because Crawford cut back on the drip irrigation, thinking the garden was through producing; because they weren’t thinned this year the carrots produced ideal size veggies for salads; Josie is now on her third crop of beets; she reacts with a laugh at the discovery of a football-sized zucchini (“We’ve been on vacation a lot” she explains, “and the neighbors have been picking for us”) and the eggplant – both traditional and Japanese – are picture perfect. The list goes on, with pumpkins, arugula, lettuce, peppers, cauliflower, radishes, parsley and those obscenely productive lemon cucumbers and bush beans.
“The tomatillos went crazy this year,” Josie says, waving her hands in the air. “I didn’t know what to do with them until my daughter gave me a recipe for salsa and we love it! Someone told me that once you plant them you’ll never get rid of them.”
Hands on hips and shaking her head in disbelief, Josie concludes: “I’ve had larger gardens, but never had one produce this long. It’s just amazing.”
“And to what can you attribute that?” I ask.
“Me!” she says, a smile painting her face. “I even talk to them.”
While most of the nation is getting ready to shut down gardening activities for the winter, Californians just change gears.
Evidence of this is next Saturday’s “Fall Festival Plant Sale and Workshop” put on by the Nevada County Master Gardeners in their demonstration garden behind the Nevada Irrigation District Headquarters, 1036 West Main St., Grass Valley.
The UC Master Composters will be preaching their lore in four separate demonstrations from 8 a.m. to noon, while the UC Master Gardeners will have classes on dividing perennials, planting wild flowers and working with native plants in an oak habitat.
Exactly what types of plants will be on sale (beginning at 9 a.m.) isn’t really known until the event begins, since most are donations from the master gardener’s home plots. And it’s as much fun as visiting a garage sale because you never know what you’ll find. For details, contact the master gardeners at 273-0919.
Dick Tracy is an award-winning garden writer and photographer, Master Gardener and former president of the Foothills Horticulture Society. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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