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GARDENING TIPS FROM MIKE LEACH

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TREAT YOURSELF TO A NEW PAIR OF GLOVES, YOU'VE EARNED IT.

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We all love football here, but you need to create a healthy work-life balance if you want to remain sharp and doing your best work. That's why during the offseason, I like to get out into the garden whenever I can. It's a great way to recharge the batteries -- metaphorically speaking, of course, since human beings don't have batteries. You know, in the future, though, that could change. We could see all sorts of amazing developments and augmentations to the human body, some of which might require batteries to operate at full potential. Gardening is great, though, so I figured I'd share a couple tips and stories that I've found valuable over the years.

Get a rototiller. Believe me, just get one. "But Mike, people have been cultivating plants for millennia and didn't need rototillers!" That's true, but unless you have a team of oxen and a plow handy, I suggest going with the modern convenience in this instance.

You ever just take time to think about man's mastery over the natural world? I don't, because it's completely illusory and nature could destroy us in a moment if that's what it wanted to do. But like I said, get a rototiller to break up roots and hard soil in your garden. You have to have a good base to start your garden on, like a 4-3 over. It'll save your back from a couple days of intense pain, and you'll get a chance to observe an efficient machine that's more awkward than Brandon Carter. Love the kid, but I just didn't get his whole get up.

I love cucumbers. They have a fresh, unique flavor, and a slice goes great in your drink during the summer. Love cucumbers. And pickles! Who doesn't love pickles? Cucumbers show really good versatility, and you have to admire that. But before you go planting your own, you have to know what kind of plant you're dealing with, and these bastards don't mess around. You give a cucumber plant an inch, and he and all his friends will spread out and run mesh routes all over your whole damn garden. You have to bump them at the line and stay on them if you want to keep 'em in check.

Sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing.

A couple years back I started planting garlic on a lark, and it's become one of my favorite pieces of the garden. These little guys have it all. The garlic itself is a staple of cuisines across the world, but I think I love it so much because it's tough as hell. You give them a good couple weeks to get going late in summer, and they can survive the frost better than a guard from Mankato.

Anyway, where was I? Right, sweet potatoes. It's a rectangle-square thing, you know?

You ever wonder how humans first discovered that the tubers are the edible part of some plants? If you were dropped onto this planet and had to forage for yourself, how would you ever figure out that you're supposed to eat the part that's underground? There had to be thousands of years of process of elimination, and a lot of eating dirt and poisonous stuff along the way. It's just fascinating.