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Hundreds of people from around the area drive by Cheryl Metro’s garden from spring to fall, some walking the road to spot the garden art she’s tucked in among the blooms. It’s on County Road 8-1 near County Road J in Fulton County, between Central Avenue and the Ohio Turnpike.
Name: Cheryl Metro, nurse on sabbatical, living in rural Delta.
Garden specs: More than 1,000 feet along the road, 12 to 15 feet wide, edged with grass that I cut with a self-propelled mower. I probably mow every day unless it’s raining. I’m on my way to the seventh utility pole (there’s 150-feet between poles). Plus I’ve surrounded seven additional poles with plantings.
When did you start gardening? I grew up on a grain farm north of Delta and we had a vegetable garden. About 19 years ago, after I married and moved here, I gardened around the house and yard and when I ran out of space, I planted along the berm of the road, eventually going down to the corner, next to soybean fields. I spaded every inch by hand, hitting rocks, fence wire, glass, and a two-foot-wide swath of clay that I beat to death until it broke up.
PHOTO GALLERY: Cheryl Metro's extensive roadside ditch garden
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What do you grow? For spring beauty, I’ve planted 25,000 bulbs (tulips, daffodils, glory-of-the-snow, crocus, hyacinth). They start blooming in mid to late April and are usually at their peak on Mother’s Day. One fall I planted 5,000 bulbs and I can do it faster by hand than with a drill. I have 200 perennial hibiscus of different sizes and I’m working on getting every color. There’s lilies (Asiatic, oriental, and daylilies), 50 flats of annuals, sunflowers, 300 different hostas, amaranth, cleome, peppermint phlox, Russian sage, grasses, hollyhocks, hydrangeas, lenten roses, lobelia, trumpet vine, and clumps of white alyssum. I also have 300 different hostas scattered around in shady areas, and a garden with vegetables and flowers from seeds.
Scattered throughout is garden art, much of it acquired at garage sales: pitchers, vases, teapots, bed headboards (for flower “beds”), chandeliers, ornaments on trees. An elderly couple from Toledo stopped by one day and said they had a piece of garden art. They later brought a canoe which I painted purple, filled with bags of cement, and added dirt. Cattails have sprouted in it, compliments of the birds.
Favorite plant: Whatever’s blooming.
Give us a gardening tip: I’ve got a few. Give annuals a haircut while they’re still in the flat: I cut them to about four inches. Just before planting, I fill a five-gallon bucket with water and five tablespoons of Miracle-Gro, and hold each six-pack in the water until the bubbles stop, indicating that the soil is saturated.
Another tip: nicotiana (tobacco plant) seems to draw aphids off other plants. It has white trumpet flowers that are really aromatic in the evening.
My two main tools are a shovel and a pointed trowel with curved, serrated edges.
My best tip is to use pine needles as mulch (soft needles minus the cones). It’s attractive and you hardly get any weeds. I’ve never seen it bother the plants. I try to collect 200 55-gallon bags a year; needles fall after the first frost and I have about three weeks to get them before they blow away. Between Delta and Wauseon, I stop and ask people if I can rake their needles, and I watch for piles that have been taken to side of the road. I’ve even stopped people from burning them. I usually go through two rakes. Then, I drop the bags off along the roadside garden. After the farmers clear out the adjacent fields, I cut my flowers back, toss them in the field, and spread the needles about three-inches thick.
Hours spent gardening per week: About 50 to 60, and this time of year I’m dead heading, weeding, and mowing every day unless it’s raining. I’m out at 6 a.m. My husband says, “You do have to wait until the sun comes up,” and I say, “I wish it came up earlier.” He also said “They have help for people like you,” and I said, “That’s OK, I don’t need help. I’m really happy.”
Annual expense: A minimum of $1,000. It depends if I’m putting in a new flower bed. I used to plant 100 flats but now that the perennials are filling in, it’s about 50 flats (two of delphinium which dry beautifully, and 35-40 of snapdragons which insects don’t seem to bother).
Challenges: Varmints: woodchucks, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, possums. Weather is always a challenge. This year I had to replant the annuals because we didn’t have enough rain early in the season.
I’m proud of: A lot of people from all over drive by and they tell other people. I’m amazed at how many guys thank me. I call it my own botanical garden. People sometimes bring garden art and plants; this year, an anonymous somebody dropped off seven flats including sweet potato and vinca vines. And a couple of weeks ago, a lady dropped off two truckloads of peonies; some of the clumps weighed 40 pounds each. I shared a lot of them with people.
What I’ve learned: It’s very relaxing and a good workout. I get so much enjoyment from being outdoors; it puts a happy, sappy smile on my face.
Contact Tahree Lane at email@example.com and 419-724-6075.