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Published August 13, 2013, 11:20 AM

How does your garden grow?

North Dakota man sells vegetables through local farmers market.

By: Forum News Service ,

Larry Allen spends most of the day working in his garden at Dickinson, N.D. Protected by a wooden fence, the garden is filled with lush rows of tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables.

He considers the garden a hobby — one that allows him to sell vegetables through the Roughrider Home Growers market.

“I’m retired, what else would I do,” he said. I pick the vegetables the day before, wash and package them and put them in the refrigerators.”

He is assisted by his wife, Joyce, who helps with the cleaning.

“I started late this year because I didn’t know if I’d be here this year,” he said. “We started eating tomatoes June 22 last year.”

The farmers market offers an outlet for his vegetables.

“It isn’t so much the selling, I just enjoy giving people a chance to eat some good vegetables because you really are not making much money at the farmers’ market,” Allen said. “I’ve got to pay for city water and that isn’t cheap.”

Allen starts his tomatoes, peppers and cabbage seedlings during February in the house and moves them to a greenhouse. He saves space by using climbers for the cucumbers and beans.

He also grows nontraditional vegetables such as turnips.

“Turnips are a good vegetable — you can fry them, make French fries, anything you want,” he said.

He grows horseradish, as well as melons and squash. He also has a row of grapes.

“I make jelly with them,” he said. “This year, I might sell some because there’s a pretty good crop.”

Allen likes to experiment by creating hybrid tomatoes. He points to one tomato, which has the genetics of three varieties. The fruit turns a bright pink when ripe and will weigh up to 2 pounds.

Allen frets about the weeds, which he tries to keep under control. He waters by irrigation.

“The reason is overhead watering causes disease and fungus growth,” he said.

Allen moved to Dickinson several years ago at the invitation of a friend. He grew up in northwest Wisconsin, where he learned to cook and bake from his grandmother.

“I used to follow my grandma around when she baked bread on an old wood cook stove,” he said. “I always wanted the heel when it came out of the oven.”

He continues to bake loaves of bread to sell at the farmers market.

Allen has seen the world during his lifetime. He served in the Air Force and used to cook for the Merchant Marines. He also was chief steward — cooking for the hands on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The crew members were seven on and seven off, but I could stay as long as I wanted,” he said.

He lived in Texas, Montana and Michigan before his friend invited him to move to Dickinson.

He said the decision has been a good one, except for the increase of traffic.

Summer is his favorite season.

“I come out here all the time,” he said. “I’m not one to sit in the house and watch television. When the garden is done in the fall, then I’m bored and I’m thinking of next year.”