By Bess Lovec
I really like Rick’s approach to gardening, unlike mine. I constantly feel like I should be weeding, have weeded, or plan to weed. His yard does not synchronize with his quote about weeding, though!
Rick can’t remember when he hasn’t gardened because, as he says, there is something about Shotwells and tomatoes. His uncles routinely competed with each other for raising the best ones. His grandfather went so far as to sneak out of the nursing home and plant tomatoes among the shrubs. Rick has no idea where his grandfather got the tomato plants or seeds. This tradition apparently will continue, since his granddaughter latched onto his cherry tomatoes and told her mother that she wants to grow her own food. Rick saves seeds from tomato plants and rotates the plants’ locations to maintain the family competition.
He finds satisfaction in growing his own food, and currently produces corn, cucumbers, and hot peppers for a mutual friend of ours, plus other vegetables. Rick experimented with corn this past summer but considers the results poor due to lack of enough sunlight. He plans to change the direction of his cucumber trellis from north/south to an easterly/westerly direction. So this Master Gardener, who took the classes twice, continues to learn and grow. The MG Program consistently promotes modesty: When I first phoned Rick, he claimed to know nothing, an understatement if there ever was one! The MG program introduced him to different ideas, and he means that in a positive slant. Taking the classes twice helped to solidify the information for him. I plan to do so as well. My first round of classes felt like my face was in an open fire hydrant. I only recall random snippets.
His greatest challenge is finding enough area in his urban setting. He has reworked it, putting in sprinklers and re-sodding his front yard three years ago. And earwigs taking root in his corn this summer provided another challenge. From a design standpoint, Rick claims that anything looks good in a pot, and that is where flowers go at his place. He prefers keeping lilacs trimmed.
During his four years in the U.S. Navy, Rick was a brown water sailor, which means he worked in the coastal waters, including two tours of Viet Nam, although he prefers discussing gardening. In reflecting about his eight years as a Master Gardener, he found particular pleasure while helping with the Special K Ranch. Lately Rick volunteers at the Metra. His advice to gardeners is to enjoy the process and be patient. Did gardening teach Rick patience, or is he truly a patient person among few? My inkling is the latter.