Published: Aug 01, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jul 28, 2012 01:26 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Ronnie Locklear is just a country boy at heart.
For five years, he has nurtured a small oasis of flowers and vegetables across West Rosemary Street from the $56 million Greenbridge high-rise condominiums.
“I like to garden because I get to meet new people,” the 39-year-old says.
Some stop and wonder at the tall corn and twining watermelon and cantaloupe vines. Others chat for a while, asking how his garden grows or offering advice.
He and his girlfriend, Beverly Yarborough, give extra vegetables away. Sometimes people help themselves, he says.
“I grew up in Raleigh, but my daddy raised me up like we were in the country,” Locklear says.
He remembers sliding down the hill at Dorothea Dix Hospital when snow covered the ground. In summer, the children would pick pecans and sell them for a penny to older people on their street. They would take their pennies to the candy lady’s house to buy penny candy, he says.
The hospital was surrounded by forest and farmlands. Locklear says he remembers apple, plum and other fruit trees. They would “find them and eat to our hearts’ content,” he says.
He also remembers fishing on family land in Morrisville and at Lake Raleigh, where he first saw a bowfish. The native, prehistoric fish hissed when caught, he says.
“We were so country, we’d bring pots and pans and build a fire right there to cook the fish and pork and beans,” he said.
The garden reflects a love for growing things he developed while a landscaper with the town of Cary, Locklear says. He’s been there 10 years and now cleans sewer lines, although he wants to take classes that will let him work at the water treatment plant, he says.
Yarborough, 40, rents the house and says the yard used to be a patch of dirt for parking cars. She laid sod and built the fence, she says.
“She don’t know, next year, I’m taking half the yard,” Locklear says.
Yarborough rolls her eyes.
After five years together, they have a 7-month-old son R.J. – Ronnie Jr.
Locklear says he wants to teach his son about growing things.
“He likes to see the cars go by, and I sprinkle him with the hose,” he says.
Locklear builds new beds by tilling a mix of topsoil and fertilizer into the dirt. Later, he turns it over with some 10-10-10 fertilizer. Sometimes he dusts the corn with a little Sevin.
There’s only one secret to his garden, he says.
“When I put my seeds down in the ground, I pray over it for the Lord to bless it,” he says.
This summer, he’s also growing tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelons and squash. By fall, the garden will be packed with collards, cabbage, carrots, green peppers and turnips.
In three small beds – less than 75 square feet total – he grows more than 100 plants.
“They say leave three feet of space between them, but he don’t even leave three inches,” Yarborough says.