Saturday, May 31, 2008

Adventures in my parent's garden

I visit my parents every weekend, and something very interesting happened today. I happened to be telling them about my vegetable garden at Cam's house, and they suggested that I grow some vegetables in their garden.

Below: My father and me in his garden

Above: My sister and father after hoeing the land. He hates pictures. Look at his funny smirk.

My parents are expert gardeners. When we lived in Vietnam (I was born there), they grew various vegetables, herbs, and fruit to sell at the open-air marketplace. My mom used to sit outside on the street each morning and afternoon trying to sell their harvest. We lived in a small village called Binh Canh, just outside of the city of Nha Trang in South Vietnam. In our village, the women gathered on the streets of the village to sell their product. You could find everything you needed for the day's meals--meat, vegetables, fruits, salt, pepper, other condiments, etc. And because we didn't have refrigeration back then, everything had to be fresh every day.

Anyway, the point is that my parents really know how to grow vegetables. When we moved to the United States, they continued to garden. Although they no longer grow vegetables, they grow Asian mints to sell to the oriental markets. Their mint garden is always successful and very beautiful.

For some reason, they've slowed down their mint production this year. They're still growing tons of mint, but I guess its not a priority anymore. Instead, their garden has blossomed--literally. They've planted rose bushes... or some type of flower. Because I'm not a flower person, I'm not really sure what type of flowers they are. But they are very pretty.

Above: My 21-year-old sister, Bicky, in the garden.

In addition to the mint and very pretty flowers, my parents also have a fruit orchard. That's what I call it anyway. When I was in 8th grade, they planted two apple trees, two pear trees, and one plum tree. Today, the trees are huge and bear fruit every year. This year, they're fruiting like crazy. I don't know what we are going to do with all the fruit. I'll probably make apple and pear pies. And the plums, we'll just eat.

One year, the family did make plum wine, and it was interesting. But we're best at making wine with grapes. When my dad makes red wine, it's so delicious! Mmm!

Below: The apple trees.

Below: A close-up of a growing pear.

Below: The plum tree.

One good thing about the plentiful plums: the birds tend to eat half of our crop right when it turns red... so we don't have all the extra fruit. Extra crop is a problem with the apples and pears. The birds only eat a few, but the rest just sit on the tree until we pick it.

The apply tree below has a very cool history. My parents didn't buy this apple tree. My dad devoured a delicious apple from the supermarket, and he enjoyed it so much that he saved the seeds. Today, the seeds of that delicious apple have grown to become the tree below.

Unfortunately, the apple was probably a hybrid, so the tree is sterile. The fruit on the tree is tiny and will never grow to a full size. We can't enjoy the fruit, but it does provide nice shade.

Below: My parents also grow Asian persimmons (Diospyros kaki) in the yard. They have several persimmon trees, and each tree always bears fruit. Because it's early in the summer, there isn't any fruit yet. These trees are still very pretty to look at.

If you are unfamiliar with persimmons, you should definitely look it up. It's a really cool looking fruit. In my opinion, the Asian persimmon looks like a tomato plant, only it's orange and the skin is very tough and fibrous.

Below: A photograph of the American persimmon plant from Park Seed.
It's similar to the Asian, except the Asian has a more square-like shape. I'll have to snap a photo of my parents' fruit when it comes in, so you can all see.

Now to something really neat. My parents live near the railroads (it's the price to pay to get an extra large lot). And near the railroad track, there's a very tall plant that grows. From far away, all you see are these beautiful purple flowers. On closer inspection, you notice that there are little peas that grow on the plant.

My sister calls it "the wild pea plant," and my dad says "I don't eat anything I didn't plant myself." But it's still really COOL that it grows out there in the wild. And it does look like pea pods. I slit open a pod, and little peas came out. I almost want to eat it, but I'm not in the mood to have my stomach pumped, in case its a poisonous plant.

Photo 1: The purple flowers that give birth to the peas

Photo 2: The actual pea pods. Cool, isn't it?

In my parents' garden, they also have an overgrown asparagus plant. My dad said he planted it, but then never got around to harvesting it. So it's REALLY grown tall, and sadly it's inedible. (After I took the photograph, he did cut it down).

Below: Overgrown asparagus

Now onto the vegetable garden that my sister and I started in my parents' backyard. We went to Home Depot and bought two tomato plants, two eggplants, one cantaloupe plant, one red bell pepper, two watermelon, one package of cucumber seedlings, one cabbage plant, and a bunch of seeds.

My parents have a raised bed that they plant everything in, and it's seemed to work wonderfully for them for many, many years. I let my dad do the teaching because I trust him as the expert. Everything that he plants always thrives. He really has a green thumb. I hope that after this summer, I can consider myself as a baby expert gardener. :-)

Below: Cucumber seedlings near a mint bed. Look at how tiny they are compared to the garden tools!

Below: One cucumber plant after transplantation.

I watched my dad plant the cucumbers in the raised bed. Unlike me, he dug deep and buried much of the stem. He didn't pay attention to the carton instructions, and it definitely seems much healthier than the cucumbers I tried to plant at Cam's house.

Below: Take a look at the SFG cucumbers.

It's been two weeks since I transplanted them, and they won't stand up straight. I think my father's method is best. But I am a first time gardener, and I'm continuing to learn better ways to garden.

Now onto cabbage. I'm not a big cabbage eater, but I saw the plant at Home Depot, and I decided to give it a try. After being transplanted, it looks healthy. The package said it was a 50-lb green cabbage and that it would take 80-some days before it would be ready to harvest. I guess it will only form one cabbage head. I'm excited. One cabbage is enough for me and my family.

Above: The cabbage after it was watered. It's neat how the water drops just roll off the cabbage leaves!

And being the tomato freak that I am, I had to buy two tomato plants for my new garden. This time, I stayed away from the tiny tomatoes. I went for Roma tomatoes and the Bonnie Traditional. I don't have these varieties at Cam's house.

I'm very anxious to see how it will turn out. I bought plants that already had flowers on them. I figured they would fruit quicker.

Above: My Roma tomato plant.

Home Depot also had different varieties of eggplant. We chose two different types: (1) the classical eggplant you see at the grocery (2) a longer, thinner variety. I can't remember the exact names, but once it starts producing fruit, I'll write it down and announce it!

Below: One of the eggplants. Isn't it a beaut?

I applaud my dad for making the plants look so healthy after transplantation. It was really fun to watch him. A real family learning experience. For me, gardening is a hobby. For my dad, it's his life. He used to do garden to support the family, and I guess it'll always be a part of him. For as long as I can remember, he and my mom have always had a garden of some kind.

Below: A watermelon plant.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of my parents' garden. As my veggies grow in both Cam and my parents' garden, I'll document their journey from seedlings to delicious food that I nourish my body with. :-)

Happy June 2008!


Rees Cowden said...

Hi there DP,
I caught your post over on blotanical and just wanted to say hello and welcome to the the garden blogging world. I read a couple of your posts and it looks like you are well on your way to building a nice site. Make sure you utilize the knowledge that I expect your father has.
Craig Rees Cowden

DP Nguyen said...

Hi Craig,

Thank you for the warm welcome! :-) I'm still learning gardening basics, but I'm starting to realize my father has more hands-on knowledge than I could ever find in a text book!

Thanks for visiting,

Pat Leuchtman said...

You are definitely lucky to have such skilled and experienced gardeners for parents. But I think you may also be very lucky in the old garden books from your grandmother. You mentioned these in your commnet on my commonweeder blog. They may be very informative and charming - and they may also have monetary value if they are in good shape. In any event, I think you'll find hours of pleasure in them.

tina said...

Looks like you will have fun at your parents house. Nice pics of your dad and great he let you snap them AND use them on here!

laura said...

i love your blog...thanks for visiting mine and commenting. i can't wait to post more recent stuff. i'm way behind on my garden blogging as we didn't have internet access when we first moved in. but you should see my garden right now. i did one whole 4x4 in corn and the first two rows i planted are already waist high!! yesterday i harvested a huge bowl of lettuce, spinach, and green onions. i am loving the SFG!!

Anonymous said...


The 'wild pea' plants are vetch. It isn't poisonous but it isn't very good to eat either.

Wicked Gardener said...

Wow DP -What an amazing resource you have in your parents. You'll have to share some of his hints. I wish they were my neighbors!

Wicked Gardener said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Flowerpot said...

Hallo from Cornwall in England , I enjoyed reading your lovely blog today ! Debbie