Arnold Feliciano remembers fondly his days as a strolling troubadour, walking through restaurants singing love songs to couples over food. Now he is skipping the middle man: Feliciano starts his mornings by singing to a pumpkin. And the pumpkin clearly loves it: It is 3 feet tall and growing every day.
Arnold Feliciano remembers fondly his days as a strolling troubadour, walking through restaurants singing love songs to couples over food.
Now he is skipping the middle man: Feliciano starts his mornings by singing to a pumpkin.
And the pumpkin clearly loves it: It is 3 feet tall and growing every day.
“It gets a love song every morning, and then my wife feeds it water and milk,” Feliciano said. “My wife thinks it is the milk that is working, but I know it is the song.”
Feliciano and his wife, Marianne, both now retired, tend their two acres near Fall River, Mass.
It is a vocation that began a generation ago. It repays them now with bushels of tomatoes, peaches, figs, kumquats, mulberries, beans, squash and dozens more vegetables and herbs as well as big swaths of flowers. Marianne raised a pineapple once that she brought to her table. She looks forward all year to picking fresh figs from trees in her yard.
There is a large koi pond with waterfalls, a boat that was filled with soil and became the home of a crop of spring vegetables. Arbors support grape vines, squashes and gourds, and clouds of sweet, fragrant honeysuckle.
An arch over the front door supports gourds that hang on one side and green beans, 4 feet long, that bracket the entrance.
The gourds will be dried and hollowed to join the collection of birdhouses and feeders spread through the property.
The Felicianos have done it themselves, by hand, with shovels, rakes and trowels. Even the koi pond and waterfalls were dug with shovels. Now water cascades over a series of drops, its splash adding another type of music to the garden.
And sometimes, Feliciano said, a garden rewards you in ways you never expected.
The pumpkin is growing in the newest garden bed. That bed was an afterthought: A neighbor, last fall, donated a truckload of rich, black soil. The Felicianos built up a border, set down a bed of mulched leaves and, when the leaves had properly rotted, shoveled in manure and the chocolate cake soil. Then they let the mix rest for the winter.
Marianne started the pumpkin seed in the greenhouse built onto the south side of the Feliciano’s home. She planted in May. Each spring morning offered a fresh surprise.
“I would look at it and see that it had grown more every day,” she said. “I started feeding it then.”
The pumpkin vine crawled 30 feet to the far end of the garden bed and found its way up into the mulberry tree before exploding with bloom in the late spring. Dozens of pumpkins began to form and, one by one, they died back. With giant pumpkins, the vine will support only one, Feliciano said.
There were several pumpkins still battling for prominence when Arnold Feliciano chose the beauty that established itself where it could be seen from the street. He slid plywood beneath it to keep it comfortable, dry and warm. He started his morning song.
His pumpkin expanded as the others declined.
“They all got the milk, but this one got the love songs,” Arnold Feliciano said. “I think that tells you something.”
Marianne didn’t disagree. She smiled and changed the subject: “I like to hear him sing,” she said.
The serenade will continue. Arnold Feliciano said he knows his pumpkin, though it is big, will not set any records. The really big pumpkins weigh in at more than 1,500 pounds.
But records don’t really matter, Arnold and Marianne said. In October they will lift their pumpkin using moving straps and an engine hoist and then slide it out to the front yard for their neighbors to enjoy. They will probably carve the pumpkin and definitely will save the seeds to share.
Then it will be winter, time for gardeners to rest and plan.
“Next year, I want a giant watermelon,” Marianne said.
E-mail Kevin P. O’Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.