By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

BUNKER HILL -- Luther and Marlene Baral know the answer to that age-old question of which came first, the garden or the marriage?

"We've been married 62 years so we've been gardening 62 years," Luther said as he and his wife stood among hundreds of tomato plants in their homemade greenhouse.

Luther Baral was anxious to get some of the tomatoes in the ground on this particular spring day. He wasn't abou to pay attention to the near-freezing temperatures of May 3, he was ready to plant some of the foliage crowding his greenhouse.

The Barals garden in a big way in Bunker Hill. They will be planting perhaps more than 500 tomato plants this year, not to mention a plethora of other plants, such as sweet corn, cantaloupe, watermelon, peppers and cucumbers.

The tomato varieties will include the standards, Better Boy, Rutgers and Big Beef. They also will plant some of the hybrids, such as Bella Rose or Goliath.

They already have dozens of potato plants out. They will be mechanically harvested, although they have to come along behind and pick the tubers off the ground.

"I've got cabbage started," he said.

At the north end of Bunker Hill, the Barals have about 2 acres of land -- about half of it dedicated to garden spots.

The rest is for the house, a small yard and outbuildings to house the tools of the trade -- tractors to till the ground and a riding lawn mower stripped of its mowing platform to pull a handmade garden cart around. To the north and west are additional garden spots, but those are tilled by son Alvin.

"Later on, we'll have watermelon and cantaloupe," Marlene Baral said of the garden.

"Pick 30 or 40 a day," he chimed in.

With such a large garden, the question is what do they do with it all.

"I take them to the store and sell them," Luther Baral said.

"Or people come here and get it," she said.

People just know when the fruit of the Barals' labor is being harvested and start showing up.

But, with 62 years of gardening behind them, word has spread far and wide.

The Barals started gardening in earnest when they moved to Bunker Hill from the farm northwest of town.

"When Wilson (Lake) came in, we moved to here," he said.

They don't limit themselves to the garden, however, keeping about 100 laying chickens for the eggs, many of which -- not surprisingly -- are sold.

They don't offer fresh chickens, however.

"I cleaned too many chickens when I was out on the farm," she said. "I don't want to do that any more."

Again, word about the eggs spreads like wildfire.

"People just come here and pick them up," Luther Baral said.

"Every year I keep telling him to slow down," Marlene said of her husband.

"No, I won't do that," he said.

Luther Baral said he will be 82 in August and she will turn 80 the following month.

"What are we going to do?" she asked of their time.

"Who can just sit?" he said. "If you sit in the house, you're not going to live long if you don't do anything."