There was a lot of time to look at the passing corn fields while on my frequent Van Galder bus trips between Madison, WI and O’Hare Airport in Chicago. It made me think of the huge vegetable garden I helped my dad with every year when I was growing up. I remembered the plans he’d draw up in the winter, with paper and pencil in one hand and the seed guide in the other. The time spent planting in the spring. Fighting the weeds. Too much rain, then not enough. And finally, the big fall harvest. Those backyard experiences were the inspiration for this puzzle, where the layout of the crops had to be reconstructed from scribblings on the backs of seed packets. I went through several lists of possible crops to use, trying to find common vegetables that could be found in someone’s little garden or a large farm.
You might have noticed that the title of the puzzle is the “two-year” garden puzzle. My first attempt was a three year version that occupied twelve plots in a four by three grid. After testing it out on some of my best students that summer, I realized that puzzle was really, really tough. So I created this two-year, nine-plot version. It works basically the same, but is quite a bit easier. I still have the three-year version. It’ll turn up eventually.
Finally, those students from the summer of ’99 read the instructions and immediately changed “a farmer” to “Farmer Tim”. I do have a bit of a green thumb from all those years of helping my dad, but I didn’t keep the change since I consider myself a farmer. I kept it because they insisted!