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Melva Sickelbaugh picks radishes  Melva Sickelbaugh picks radishes in her garden.
Melva Sickelbaugh picks radishes in her garden. Enlarge
Published: Saturday, 5/26/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Melva Sickelbaugh: 'Nearest to God' when outside

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Blade seeks gardeners for Weed It & Reap who are as varied as what they grow. In a sentence, tell us what's unique about you or your garden. Contact Tahree Lane at tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.

Name: Melva Sickelbaugh, retired floral designer, living in Springfield Township.

Freshly picked radishes from Melva’s gardens. Freshly picked radishes from Melva’s gardens.
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Garden specs: I call it postage-stamp gardening. The foundation of our double-wide modular home in Westbrook Senior Village is surrounded on the north and east sides with raised beds made from timbers by my husband, Bob, our son, Bob, and grandson, A.J. Another is 18-feet-by-30-inches, and my herb garden with eight herbs is 10-feet-by-20-inches along the back of the shed.

When did you start gardening? My father was a carpenter at the Medusa Cement plant and had a 10-acre hobby farm in Sylvania. He trucked vegetables, gladioli, grapes, and fruit to the Toledo Farmers' Market and also gave a lot away. From the time I was a baby I was out there with him and I just loved the sensation of things growing. It was fascinating. I remember him growing celery in long, 12-inch rows, flanked on either side with staked 24-inch boards: by reducing sunlight, the celery blanched a light-green color and was tender. Oh, it was wonderful.

What do you grow? Corn, radishes, lettuce, spinach, herbs, one hill of cukes. My husband, Bob, starts 200 tomatoes from seed indoors and gives them all away but I plant six to eight (Better Boy, Big Boy, and an early variety).

When my Idaho potatoes grow eyes, I cut them in quarters (at least one eye per quarter) and plant them. Last year I grew parsnips and dug them in February after they froze, sliced, and cooked them in butter with some salt and pepper. They were delicious.

And lots of flowers. A new one I just love is pentas.

I've always said every household should have a seed catalog and a Bible: you can order seeds from the catalog and the Bible will tell you how to grow them. I'm nearest to God when I'm outside.

Favorite plant: Miniature roses that bloom all summer; bright and soft pink, red, yellow, peach, and lavender.

One of Melva Sickelbaugh's paintings. One of Melva Sickelbaugh's paintings.
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Give us a gardening tip: Deadhead by pinching or cutting off the spent blooms.

Hours spent gardening: About 20 hours a week in the spring, then eight hours a week.

Annual expense: $150 for soil, fertilizers, seeds, and flats.

Challenges: Frost, when you're anxious to get everything going. And rabbits, blasted rabbits. I make little tents out of chicken wire to put over veggies when they're small.

I'm proud of: The food is delicious, the flowers are beautiful, and all of the neighbors come to see the garden. I also paint flowers and vegetables on china and canvas.

A gardening anecdote: We have two sons and five grandchildren. When they were little, I planted potatoes and peanuts so they could dig in the soil and find them. They got such a kick out of it; it was such a surprise, like opening a package.



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