“Mary, Mary quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row. “
Lyrics from an English song; 1744
The local answer to ‘How does your garden grow?” is revealed at one of the finest home gardens in Burnaby North located near Westridge Elementary School. There you will witness a virtual cornucopia of beautifully grown organic produce that is guaranteed to amaze.
Entrepreneur and successful contractor Francesco (Frank) Manetta and his wife Lina tend large vegetable and floral gardens on their duplex lot. During the past week your correspondent toured the Manetta Gardens and learned of the process required to produce one of the finest gardens in the area, if not in all of Greater Vancouver. In addition to a number of fruit trees, grape vines, cultured roses and a plethora of colourful flowers there are an incredible number of fast producing tomato plants; 110 to be exact. This is added to the astonishing assortment of vegetables which comprise Lettuce, Cicoria, Celery, Basil, Zucchini, Cucumbers, Pole Beans, Onions, Garlic, Swiss Chard, Corn and Broccoli.
The prolific preparation period usually begins in mid-April in the greenhouse where Frank takes tomato seeds from the previous year and initiates the rebirth of their life-cycle in small containers. Within six weeks the fledgling plants are transplanted into the choicest area of the property where the sun exudes its energy and stimulates plant growth from morning to evening … on days when the sun is sure to shine its brightest.
There is an amiable division of responsibility existing between the Manettas which results in high dividends; Frank looks after the veggies while Lina works the large assortment of flowers. Her roses are of particular beauty as they sway brilliantly among the garden rows where red, pink and yellow blushes lavish and colour reigns.
Many passersby festoon the property during the growing season and at harvest time to admire the wonderful vegetables and flowers. They ask a myriad of questions, “How is it that your tomatoes are so much bigger than mine. What is your secret?” A number of new and often non-English speaking Canadians visit, peer, quiz and disappear only to come back with their grandchildren. They ask questions of the Manettas and the answers are translated for the grandparents by bright and articulate young teens. It’s a great process; an effective way to communicate through the artistry of gardening.
So, what is the secret to masterfully produce a variety of organic favourites? Well, the story partly is in the heritage. Frank spoke of his introduction to gardening, “When I was young, back home in Poggio Picenze near L’Aquila in Abruzzo my parents had a garden like this one on land near the house. My dad always had a garden and I would help. That’s when I learned one of the secrets; plant your seeds by the position of the moon. For successful growth, plant when the moon is going down. And for best results don’t transplant your tomato seedlings before the May 24th Victoria Day Weekend.”
The Manettas experiment and are not afraid to try something new in gardening. For example, among their plum and pear trees is a special tree; it produces three varieties of pears two of which Frank painstakingly grafted to his Japanese pear tree. “I had a pear tree that produced small pears only which I found quite disappointing. However, I at one point I saw a tree in Richmond that produced beautiful large Bartlett pears. So, I went back to that property the following season to obtain some clippings. I grafted the clippings to my tree and now we grow larger pears in our own back yard,” stated a smiling Frank Manetta.
Lina Manetta, a past president of the Circolo Abuzzese, acknowledged that in helps to have ‘gardening’ in your blood because it often constitutes the first deciding factor in successful hobby-gardening. Her secret; “You have to like gardening to produce a healthy garden.”
Francesco (Frank) Manetta looking at his tomato plants
Francesco walking in his garden
Frank cleaning lettuce plant
Francesco with his wife Lina
Francesco with his grandson also Francesco Manetta
Francesco (Frank), Lina and granddaughter Lola Manetta
Frank in greenhouse
Frank on the ladder