Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

May 18, 2008


Garden guru finds inspiration in the Progressive Farmer


          Two articles about gardening have earned me a funny title and lots of advice. My longtime friend in Demopolis, Roy Jordan, now calls me a “Garden Guru.” That was worth a good laugh for Roy knows well that I am still a novice at gardening. As an “Ag” graduate from Auburn, he is way ahead of me in such matters.

          But along with my new title Roy sent me a recent article from the Progressive Farmer. What memories that magazine stirs! That was the first magazine I ever read. My father was a subscriber before I was born and I enjoyed reading the Progressive Farmer until I left for college at 18. After that I often read it during visits at home.

          Since my parents died more than a dozen years ago I do not recall seeing the magazine. Evidently not many doctors and dentists add it to the pile in their offices. But after reading the article Roy sent me, I may subscribe to it. After all any reputable “Garden Guru” ought to have the Progressive Farmer coming to his home.

          Roy shared, as others have, that he has long recognized the value of ashes for gardening. He writes, “For several years I have planted a garden where brush piles were burned following a timber harvest. I also hauled ashes back home and planted spinach in fall followed by tomatoes in spring. We have had great spinach salads all winter.”

          Bingo! My wife Dean loves spinach salad. So I have entered a note on my calendar for September first to remind me to plant spinach this fall. In the spring I will plant the tomatoes I spurned planting this year.

          As soon as the rain allows it I will haul some ashes from several of our burn piles to spread around in our little garden. That will save the cost of a bag of fertilizer. Fortunately by living in “the country” we can still burn trash in the backyard, a privilege my city friends do not enjoy.

          Biblical gardening was the subject of the May 2008 Progressive Farmer article. The writer, Aleigh Acerni, tells about Magnolia Plantation, “America’s oldest public garden,” near Charleston, S.C. I grimaced when I read it for I have been to Charleston several times admiring old homes but was never aware of this interesting old garden.

          Dating back to the 1600s the garden grows plants thought to have been cultivated during biblical times. Magnolia’s expert gardeners seek to display “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.”

          The Bible mentions many trees, bushes, flowering plants, and herbs. So the gardeners at Magnolia Plantation “rotate the plants in their Biblical Garden for variety, so the plantation’s repeat visitors will have a different experience each year.” What fun it must be to visit the garden in the fall!

          Taylor Drayton Nelson, the current owner of the plantation, is a descendent of the original owners. Nelson acknowledges the value of faith as well as ashes in gardening. He says, “You do, as you work through the seasons, appreciate the order of things.”

          Nelson said, “In a way, every garden is a biblical garden.” I had not thought of that but I like the idea. So now the small garden out back, that loves to greet the eastern sun, is “Walter’s Biblical Garden.” And before some preacher says “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” over my dead body, I plan to spread some more life-giving ashes in my garden.

          If the family cremates my body, they could use my ashes to grow squash and butter beans. Then four hundred years from now, people from Charleston could come to Elmore County and visit “Walter’s Biblical Garden.” My descendents could say, the old preacher really poured his life into that garden.

          That is enough inspiration for one day. The garden is calling. + + +