Photo by Diane Cox
Bethalto resident Dewane Nickle stands with two large turnips from this fall’s crop. Nickle has been growing an organic garden for more than 70 years.
BETHALTO — Bethalto resident Dewane Nickle, 80, said family and neighbors keep asking what he sprayed his turnips with to make them grow to more than 8 pounds each.
“I didn’t even water them; they grew on God’s good humor,” Nickle said. “I have more than an acre that I garden at home. I’ve been a master gardener for a long time, but my wife, Mary, and I haven’t seen turnips and radishes get this big.”
Nickle has donated more than 400 pounds of food from his organic garden on the edge of Bethalto to local food pantries and individuals.
“I gave about 70 pounds to the good people at Senior Services Plus,” Nickle said. “I volunteer at the senior center in Collinsville and I’ve given them about 200 pounds, too. Anything the wife and I cannot use, we try to donate to others.”
Learning to garden at a young age beside his grandmother, Nickle said he’s always enjoyed playing in the dirt. It was words of wisdom from his grandmother that taught him that a turnip isn’t ready until after a good first frost.
“I think grandma would be proud that I’ve kept it up,” Nickle said. “My wife and I love growing and cooking food. Mary is a good cook and she has some amazing recipes. She even made turnip french fries recently. We are really enjoying the vegetables this year.”
Gardening more than 70 years, Nickle doesn’t plan to give up any time soon, as long as his knees and hip will let him turn the dirt.