Garlic gives 87-year-old Tom Tucker a fresh breath of life.
On a clear Thursday afternoon, Tucker stands over a table in the Community Organic Gardens of Sequim at the Fir Street Garden breaking garlic effortlessly into pieces.
“If it wasn’t for having soil in my hands, life wouldn’t be worth living,” Tucker said.
He’s seen and experienced a lot as a U.S. Army World War II veteran, retired paper factory worker, husband, father and most recently a gardener.
As a field medic, he was with the third wave on Omaha Beach during the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944. Part of his right lung was removed following a bout with cancer. He’s had open-heart surgery and during his time as a logger a tree fell on him, leaving him in a cast for two years.
“I won’t give up,” he joked.
Fourteen years ago, Tucker said, he was growing restless until he began volunteering at the Salt Creek Organic Gardens in Port Angeles where he discovered organic garlic gardening.
“Garlic is one of nature’s best foods,” he said. “It helps with a lot of things.”
Tucker said garlic goes well with just about anything and he loves it so much he eats a lot of his produce raw.
“It doesn’t last long,” he said with a smile. “It goes out of the ground into my tummy.”
His Sequim starter garden began in the organic Fir Street Garden a few years ago and continues to flourish. This August, he won a blue ribbon for his garlic at the Clallam County Fair and anticipates more success next year.
“I’m going to enter again because I know I’m going to have some prize garlic,” he said.
Tucker seems humbled by the garden and what he’s learned from it all.
Growing up in Vernonia, Ore., Tucker saw his dad, Roy Tucker, share his garden with the whole neighborhood.
“He made a weeder out of me,” Tucker said about his dad. “Before he died, I got to thank him for making me a man.” His Sequim garden channels his dad’s methodology.
“I’ve never done anything but organic,” Tucker said. “My dad never used pesticides or chemicals. He let nature take over.”
One method Tucker continues to this day is talking to his plants.
“My dad always used to tell me these are living things and you need to talk to them,” he said. “People used to think I was nuts but not anymore. Everybody talks to them now.”
Tucker also made a promise to talk to his wife of 60 years, Laura Jane Tucker, with whom he had one child. The morning after their wedding day, she made him promise that he’d never go to bed with something bad on his mind.
“Good or bad, we always talked it out over the table,” he said. “If everyone had a marriage like we did, it’d be a different world.”
They always planned to move to Sequim — she died one year after moving into their home here.
Garlic can grow year-round, but Tucker’s preference is planting in December because he’s always had good luck with it.
“For me it’s a snap,” Tucker said. “You have to experiment with it. Put your finger in the ground and if it’s kind of warm, then start planting. But if it’s cold, don’t plant.”
His garlic gardening friend, Pat Fox, said the easiest way to grow garlic is to break it up and plant cloves individually.
“You can do seeds but it’s an involved process,” Fox said. “I suggest planting the biggest parts of the garlic and eating the littlest ones.”
Fox said he likes the ease of growing garlic and people love the flavor. He’s growing 14 kinds for the winter and said that some of it is so hot that you have to cook it rather than eat it raw.
Tucker plans to continue gardening in the Fir Street Garden, in a private garden on Sunnyside Avenue, and at the Salt Creek Organic Gardens.
Spots are available in Fir Street behind St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 525 N. Fifth Ave., and in June Robinson Memorial Park on Spruce Street.
Call Liz Harper at 683-7698 or visit www.cogs.thecascadian.net about the Fir Street Garden. For June Robinson Memorial Park, call 683-4908 or visit www.sequimwa.gov.
Plot rentals are $45 a year, which includes water and gardening tools.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.