Back in 1965, my husband and I bought a new house in New Hampshire. I had no friends in the new neighborhood but was so busy with my 2- and 4-year-old children that I didn’t give it much thought. The house we bought was lovely and surrounded by woods. At the end of the block was another home, with a beautiful garden.

When worms attacked her tomato plants this year, Kay Wheeler saved them using advice given to her decades ago by Mr. Moulton, their octogenarian neighbor in New Hampshire. Photo courtesy of Kay Wheeler

Driving by one day, I noticed an elderly man working in the garden and an enormous Siamese cat out there beside him. We had a Siamese cat, too, so I pulled over, got out of the car and walked over to him. We began talking about his cat and my cat and the garden. We made friends at that very moment. I was 25 and he was in his 80s.

Several weeks went by of visiting him and his giant cat in his lovely garden. We became good neighbors and great friends. One Monday morning he phoned and said he took the Boston Sunday Globe. Would I be open to his bringing it over for me to have and read? I was delighted and he arrived about 15 minutes later. We sat down at the kitchen table and read the Globe together as we drank our tea. The children liked him and so did our cat. My husband liked him, too, but he was usually at work. Mr. Moulton and I read the newspaper together every Monday morning for several years until my husband got transferred to New York.

I had shown interest in gardening and Mr. Moulton invited me down to learn about gardening the “old-fashioned way.” He had cold frames and hot frames and compost piles and home remedies. His tomatoes were unreal, his broccoli was big enough to be a bridal bouquet and the sweet corn was to die for.

This dear old man taught me everything I know about gardening. He helped me plant my asparagus patch and shared secrets such as: Let your chickens run around the asparagus and they will eat the bugs. Save your fireplace ashes and put them around your broccoli and the worms and the white moths won’t come around. Put mineral oil on your cornsilk and it won’t get worms – and on and on with the great ideas. He passed away when I was in my late 30s. We missed him so much.

I moved to Raymond four years ago but this is the first year I really have had a little garden. The farmers market is one of my favorites and I try to go every Saturday. This particular Saturday, a farmer had a couple of tomato plants for sale. I bought them … planted them and began to nurture them. Well, sure enough, one afternoon, one of the plants had been eaten almost all the way to the ground. Mr. Moulton had been deceased for years but everything he taught me was still in my brain. First, I picked two giant tomato worms off my plants. They were both the size of my fingers. Then, as Mr. Moulton had taught me, I mixed up a couple of cups of water with some drops of sink soap and sprayed the plants.  Then I sprinkled them with cayenne pepper.

My injured plant recovered and the other plant was gorgeous. There was an eggplant and a yellow squash, too, and they both did well. It is the end of the summer and the tomato plants are covered with big, red, juicy tomatoes!

I proudly picked my produce and took it in the house and laid it out on the kitchen counter. Somehow, it ended up looking like a daisy, and I thought of Mr. Moulton and whispered, “Mr. Moulton, this tiny bouquet is in memory of you.” Then, I took a picture and will send it to my now-adult children.

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