Earl Nunn and his 50-year vegetable garden

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By Nick Nunn staff writer

When Earl Nunn moved into his newly constructed, ranch-style home at 1350 Wellington Road, Bostwick, during the height of summer in 1960, there must have been a lot on his mind.

The then 27-year-old husband and father of two, who had recently returned from service in the United States Navy before completing his coursework for a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the University of Georgia, had become a partner in his family’s farm and was facing grueling seven-days weeks as a dairy farmer.

Yet, with the little free time that wring out of his schedule, Nunn quickly picked out a quarter-acre slice of land on the property and began cultivating a vegetable garden that would become a source of nourishment for his family and a haven of solitary relief for over 50 years.

Right now, Nunn, 81, is preparing his garden for the spring planting season. In the coming weeks, red potatoes, corn, beets, radishes, tomatoes, and peppers will be in the early stages of growth, signaling the coming of a summer bounty that will be the delight of family and friends.

He explains that the first step in preparing the garden is preparing the land for another growing season.

“First, you disc it, then let it sit several days for the green grass and weeds to come up,” said Nunn. “Then, I run my tiller over it, then a drag harrow, and then I lay out my rows.”

Once the field is prepared, and the seeds are in the ground, Nunn says that keeping the garden up requires relatively little maintenance. He says that he runs his tiller between the rows about once a week and that the amount of watering depends mostly on the temperature and rainfall.

“What little patch of land I’ve got, if we have some 90 degree weather, I water it about once a week,” said Nunn. “You don’t want to use too much water, on tomatoes especially. They need a lot of sunshine.”

For fertilizer, Nunn predominately uses chicken manure, but will occasionally use commercial fertilizers when necessary. He also admits that he sometimes falls behind on keeping the nutrients in his garden up to the proper levels.

“You’re supposed to do it every three or four years, but I haven’t done it in a while,” said Nunn. “I use some lime sometimes, but I’m sure that it needs some of your minor nutrients like magnesium and zinc.”

Nevertheless, the bountiful crop begins to appear in late spring, and Nunn says that he is able to harvest his first ears of corn near the beginning of July.

Nunn recommends that beginning vegetable gardeners begin with tomatoes or squash and notes that raised gardens are often the best way to get started with gardening.

“A lot of starters use raised gardens,” said Nunn. “A raised garden about 15 feet square would feed two are three families.”

“I like good, fresh vegetables,” said Nunn about his motivation to continue gardening. “You can go out and pick a mess of squash, and it doesn’t take long to fix them up. You can be eating them in 30 minutes.”

At the grocery store, there’s no telling how long it has been since the vegetables have been picked,” continued Nunn, comparing home-grown vegetables to those bought in the store. “You can tell a lot of difference between them. A lot of people say you can buy it as cheaply as you can raise it, but you don’t get the satisfaction.”

Nunn estimates that his total cost for raising a spring garden is only around $75.

Despite his BS in Agriculture, Nunn claims that his background in agriculture doesn’t set him apart from your average home gardener.

“Agriculture has changed so much over the years, I’d be lost now,” said Nunn.

In addition to the physical fruits of his labor, Nunn says that he has a separate reason for keeping his garden going and growing after more than half a century.

“The main thing I do it for as therapy,” stated Nunn, saying that his time spent out in the garden is a time to relax and take his mind off of his everyday problems.

Earl Nunn pictured in his garden.

Earl Nunn pictured in his garden.

When asked how long his vegetables tend to last after becoming ripe, Nunn responded wryly with a chuckle that he typically runs out about the same time “all of my friends quit coming to pick them up.”

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