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Published: Wednesday, 7/26/2006

For retiree, fresh vegetables are just a step away

BLISSFIELD - What has stripes and is green all over?

Larry Hauser's vegetable garden.

The Blissfield native built a house recently and this new spot includes a raised vegetable garden at his back door.

"We had some bricks left over, so I just kept building this garden right outside my garage door," says the Hydromatic retiree. "It is only about 2 feet high and I just staggered the bricks to build a rounded rectangle." He says he filled it with topsoil and amended the mixture with horse manure last year. "It seems to be doing great this second year, even without new fertilizer."

So far, he hasn't used any chemicals. He says the soil is light and fluffy, making it easy to weed and easy for the roots to grow. Having it outside his back door makes it easy for him to water and keep a sharp eye out for critters.

Mr. Hauser says his family always planted a big vegetable garden when his children were little. Now, his two daughters and son continue that tradition by tilling up part of their yard to grow some of the basics.

The 8-foot-by-24-foot bed is bursting with rows of radishes, kohlrabi, turnips, carrots, onions, and potatoes. He says the radishes were the first to come up. "Oh, we've eaten them up already," he chuckles. "I love eating the kohlrabi just raw; that's one of my favorites.

"We've been eating the onions almost as fast as they come up. The lettuce, too. I planted all of the lettuce at the same time and it came up all at once." Next time, Mr. Hauser says he will sow a few rows each week to keep the lettuce coming in stages.

You can't have a back-door vegetable garden without a few tomato plants. Mr. Hauser planted large and small varieties. "I love those tomatoes green, fried, and fresh. They make a great sandwich with just a bit of sweet onion on it, too."

Some things you don't always see in a small garden are pole beans and squash, but Mr. Hauser is keeping them under control so far. "I only planted a couple of pole beans and staked them right away. I just make sure they stay in their spot." He used eight-foot stakes and secured the vines to them with twine about halfway up the pole.

His son, Larry Hauser, Jr., lives next door and has planted a 25-foot-by-200-foot garden. They have planted more tomatoes, zucchini, and sweet corn.

"We like to can beets, so there are a few of them over there, too," the elder Mr. Hauser says. "Anything that needed more room and would run on vines like cucumbers and melons all went over to the big garden."

Seeds for this year's crop only cost about $25, Mr. Hauser says, but to him, the spot is priceless. "What we don't eat, we will give to our neighbors," he says. "We always have more than enough, and sharing it is sometimes better than eating it."

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