Using his passion for gardening, Wayne Nelson-Stastny created a tribute to his late mother meant for eternity.
The Yankton man used “Job’s Tears” seeds to create a rosary for his mother, which was later placed in her casket. Known for their simplicity and humility, the seeds are considered especially appropriate for the string of beads used for reciting prayers.
“Mother Teresa of Calcutta used a rosary made of Job’s Tears for her personal prayers,” he said. “The name Job’s Tears was given to this fruit in memory of the many tears shed by Job (in the Bible) as he exhibited the patience and perseverance through many trials.”
While the Job’s Tears held special meaning for him, Nelson-Stastny has become well known for his outstanding gardening skills and produce.
On Tuesday, he will present two identical sessions at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on “Heirloom Planting” at the Yankton Community Library (YCL). He will explore topics such as using heirloom plants, making a garden layout and selecting plants with seed saving in mind.
Nelson-Stastny’s programs kick off the 2020 Yankton Seed Library classes. The series features a variety of speakers on a different topic each month. The programs are held on the second Tuesday of the month, from January through October, in the library’s meeting room. Participants receive seeds, and the sessions are free and open to the public.
The Seed Library provides an opportunity unavailable elsewhere in the state, according to Shann Doerr. The Yankton woman volunteers for the local program for enjoyment and with her certification as a master gardener.
“There are a number of seed libraries across the country right now, but we’re the only seed library in South Dakota,” she said. “You’re welcome if you’re interested in learning a little bit more about the whole process. You don’t need to have a garden to be part of it.”
The Yankton programs have proven popular, Doerr said. Each program is run in the afternoon and evening to make it more convenient for a wider range of people, she added.
“We’ve had up to 50 people attend at one time,” she said. “We try to keep the program limited to 45 minutes or an hour, with time for questions at the end.”
The Yankton Seed Library is a volunteer organization run by the YCL and local organizations. The seed library is supported through a grant from the Yankton Area Foundation of the South Dakota Community Foundation.
During Tuesday’s program, Nelson-Stastny will speak on heirloom plants and their special trait, Doerr said.
“Heirloom plants are ones that have been handed down through the generations. They stay true to their original, so they are not genetically modified,” she said. “With tomato plants, we’ve got a lot of different varieties of tomatoes that have been developed to fight against disease and viruses. But with the heirlooms, they try to continue what they were doing 100 or 1,000 years ago.”
Nelson-Stastny has established an outstanding reputation among gardeners, making him a natural choice as one of the seed library speakers, Doerr said.
“We reached out to Wayne when he was on the Master Gardener tour last year,” she said. “He has an awesome garden where he uses all of his heirlooms. He has a huge variety of plants — many I have never seen in my history of gardening — so he has a very unique garden.”
As one example, she noted the variety of tomatoes raised in Nelson-Stastny’s garden.
“He has tiny tomato plants the size of half a grape on up to great big tomatoes,” Doerr said. “His plants are just awesome. They’re not the ones normally available in gardens.”
Nelson-Stastny shared an essay, describing his love for gardening as a “blessing from my mother.”
“My mother sparked my interest in gardening at a young age. I fondly remember the trips to Gurney’s Seed and Nursery in Yankton as a child. I spent hours perusing their seed catalogue as if it were the Christmas Toy Catalogue from Sears or JCPenney,” he wrote.
“However, I didn’t have to order through the mail, because every year, we would visit the store with its creaky entryway and free popcorn…it was if I had stepped into Santa’s toy shop.
“My one purchase as a child was the one-cent variety pack. I would get my own row in Mom’s garden and watch with wonder as to what the harvest would bring each summer into the fall. My desire to experience the vast diversity of the garden has never stopped growing.”
With the start of a new decade, Nelson’s presentation marks the kick-off to the “Back To Our Roots” theme, Doerr said.
“In the past, the majority of the classes were provided by Master Gardeners,” she said. “This year, we’re bringing in a few more speakers from the community.”
The programs for the rest of the year include the following:
• Feb. 11, “Avoiding Garden Mistakes” by planting for your location, prepping your environment and knowing your plants;
• March 10, “Time To Start” by using milk jug starters and seed starting pots;
• April 14, “Container Gardens From the Pros,” featuring Yankton Nurseries, Diane’s Greenhouse and Sheila’s Country Gardens;
• May 12, “Unwanted Guests,” dealing with large and small pests, weeds and diseases;
• June 9, “Year-Round Gardening” with Cindy Nelsen, dealing with fall planting, plant propagation and winter gardening in South Dakota;
• July 14, “Transition from College to Prison and Back to College,” with Yankton Federal Prison Camp horticulture instructor Joe Hoffman;
• Aug. 11, “Making the Most of Your Garden Harvest,” covering donation, preservation and Do It Yourself (DIY) spa;
• Sept. 8, “Seed Saving” with Jenn Ripp from Seed Savers Exchange;
• Oct. 13, “Putting the Garden to Bed” with a focus on perennials, soil preservation and “The Grass Will Always Win.”
The Yankton Seed Library offers a variety of flower, vegetable and fruit seeds. Anyone that participates in the Yankton Seed Library’s gardening classes can borrow seeds from the seed library.
Participants are encouraged to plant the seeds. Then, at the end of the season, if they feel comfortable, they can return seeds from the next generation of plants. The program doesn’t require returning seeds, but it helps to keep the library stocked.
“The mission of the Yankton Seed Library is to increase our ability to feed ourselves while enriching our natural surroundings,” Doerr said. “We offer free local fruit, vegetable and flower seeds raised by and for Yankton area residents, and we provide complimentary information and instructions and education about gardening.”
Nelson-Stastny said the prospect of another garden gives him a sense of rebirth. “This winter, I again perused the seed catalogues like a child full of anticipation,” he wrote in his essay.
Doerr agreed, noting January provides an ideal time to start the Yankton Seed Library series.
“January is a great time to have a garden program because all the seed catalogues are out, and we’re all thinking about it,” she said.
“We start dreaming of what our garden is going to look like and what is good for our garden. It gets us excited thinking about spring.”
For more information, visit online at library.cityofyankton.org or check out “Yankton Seed” on Facebook.
Follow @RDockendorf on Twitter.