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People we know: Gardener shares gift of growing

Managing editor

To say Marion resident Norman Funk has a green thumb is saying we had a little storm Sunday night.

The accomplished gardener has spent the past 12 years planting and harvesting a large garden patch on North Second Street, Marion, and selling his produce to eager residents.

Previously the plot was managed and manicured by the late Earl Lawrence, who also was known for his bountiful gardens.

This year Funk is cutting back some — partly because the already unpredictable Kansas weather is becoming even more unpredictable.

Potatoes are one of his favorite crops — reason he is interested in gardening.

“I took care of them at home when I was a child,” the 70-something man said. He continued he only was planting one-half of his usual crops which will make it easier to keep up.

He’s already planted potatoes, onions, and a few tomatoes. He’ll have a patch of corn, some zucchini, okra, and cucumbers.

Potatoes were planted March 12 and 13. Five varieties were planted so there would be different maturing dates, making it easier to harvest and sell.

Some items such as cantaloupe and asparagus are for his own table and will not be sold.

Beginning the third week of June through September, Funk becomes a common fixture on Main Street, selling his goods Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

“People want a variety,” he said, which is another reason for different kinds of potatoes and tomatoes.

Repeat customers keep Funk “in business,” even though he said he doesn’t make that much money from his produce sales.

“I enjoy visiting with them,” he said.

Much of his success has been by trial and error. Experience has told him to space his tomatoes further apart.

And of course he is at the mercy of Mother Nature. Hail storms, droughts, and too much rain can make gardening a real chore.

“I had my best tomatoes last year in September,” Funk said, which is highly unusual.

Customers cannot wait for his crops to bear fruit, particularly tomatoes.

To keep his garden well irrigated, a well is located on the property. A soaker hose is used under tomato plants when the corn patch is flooded. With a few tomato plants already in the ground, Funk uses plastic water wells to keep them from freezing. He likes the large variety of tomatoes but not the extra large because that particular kind contains an unnatural growth hormone.

“Customers also like the idea that I only use organic spray,” he said, to keep pests from nibbling on the greens.

However, he hasn’t figured out how to keep deer from trampling through and grazing on his garden. Funk said he tried the usual remedies — human hair and blood mule — but deer are persistent.

Past diet fads have affected sales, including the Adkins diet, a few summers ago, which significantly reduced potato buyers.

“That year I gave potatoes to the senior center,” Funk said with a smile.

Yes, gardening is backbreaking work with a lot of hoeing, raking, and watering, but being able to harvest and sell the produce makes it worth it.

“It not a money-making thing,” Funk said. “It’s a hobby and I enjoy it.”

Last modified April 29, 2009

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