Name: Andreas Dionyssiou, co-owner of Rudy's Hot Dog Restaurants, living in Sylvania Township.
Garden specs: My garden is 25 feet by 100 feet. When we moved into our home 30 years ago, I started my garden on a smaller scale, and when we had the opportunity, we purchased additional space.
When did you start gardening?: I was born Nov. 26, 1928, on the beautiful island of Cyprus, and as a boy I gardened with my father. I could hardly wait to do it: it's something like a miracle. We lived in the village of Sysklepos and we would walk about a mile up the mountain to irrigate the vegetable garden, the grapevines, the olive trees, and our beautiful fig trees. Near a spring, I built a pond and dug a trench to bring water to the garden. It had a pipe I could turn on and off.
What do you grow?: Jasmine, it blooms at night and it's hard to kill. Gardenias. Roses. Lilies. Grapes. Tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, squash, green beans, black-eyed peas, okra, beets, onions. My five fig trees were small branches when I brought them back in my suitcase wrapped in a wet towel from Cyprus (a white and a black variety) and Portugal (a red and white variety). A maitre d' in a Portuguese hotel gave me the branch.
What do you get out of it?: Gardening, even though it is hard work, I find it a relaxing way to unwind. If I sit down and watch TV, I fall asleep. I especially find joy in watching my great granddaughter, Veronica, who is 3, pick the cherry tomatoes off the vines and eat them. Sometimes you have to stop her from eating
too many, like candy.
Hours spent gardening: At least two hours a day or evening, watering and weeding.
Annual expense: To tell you the truth, I never pay attention to it. I don't care. It's my enjoyment.
Challenges: Too much rain, not enough rain. The moles are a big problem. I used to be ruthless with them but as you grow up you become mellow. The squirrels eat some figs but they're my friends. I feed them nuts and bread. I tell them to stay away from my fig trees in Greek and English; maybe they'll learn to speak Greek. To help my fig trees survive the winter, I pull the branches down and tie them to posts in the ground. I put unopened bags of mulch on them, throw a tarp over that, and hold the tarp down with wood. I leave a little space open so they can get air. In the spring, I take it all off. This takes a couple of days each fall.
I'm proud of: When my garden is bountiful. I enjoy sharing the vegetables and figs with relatives and friends. I love to eat fresh figs. I get about 30 to 40 pounds.
Most-used tool: When I was younger I would plow the garden with a shovel and pitchfork, but now that I am older, I use a rototiller. Every year I also plow my daughter Paula's small garden space and I help her with the weeding.
Words to the wise: Always rotate the crops. Never plant them in the same space year after year. Next to each row I have a trough for irrigation. And to prevent too many weeds, spread grass clippings, but not close to the roots of the plants. Taking good care of your garden will reap you many rewards. You will also enjoy cooking more with the fresh vegetables you have grown, knowing that you will be healthier and happier. Good luck in all of your endeavors.