Thursday, March 12, 2009

Interlude: Early gardens we had known

John and I had both had some experience with veggie gardens, and we remembered them fondly. These small plots on land our families had owned 30 years before may have been part of the reason we were so keen on growing our own food.

My first garden was created by my mother during World War II at the back of our yard. At first we had a lawn than ran down to the edge of the lawn of the boy who lived behind us. Then my mother protected our property by building a post and rail fence across the back. Later came the garden, across much of the width of the yard, and up against the fence.

It was a Victory Garden. Americans were encouraged during the war to do their duty by helping raise food, whether they lived in the country or the city. I remember my mother digging and harvesting when I was about 2. 

Later after the war my mother turned the garden back into sod. Maybe it had been such hard work that she didn't want to continue, or maybe there was just a sense that the war was over and it was time to return to normal life.

My Uncle Ed, already in his 60s by the time I came on the scene, also gardened. He lived in Hartford, and kept a garden that fed the family consisting of him, my grandparents, and his sister. Their parents before them had certainly had a garden at their home in Hartford, and my grandfather's family even had a cow right there in the city. The generation before them had lived in Ireland, and there they had a garden or succumbed. I looked at that garden with curiosity and was told to stay out of it.

We moved next to Darien CT where my father taught school. We had a flat backyard and my mother immediately set about scratching away the grass and planting. I was 6 or 7 and was not only able to give her a hand, she allowed me to do much of the planting and harvesting. I don't know whether she wanted to grow veggies then to help balance the budget, or just because a garden had been part of her childhood. I remember harvesting kohlrabi and green beans.

We moved four more times in quick succession, partly because my father was called up again due to the outbreak of fighting in Korea. It wasn't until I was nearly 11 that we moved into our final family home. 

It seemed natural to me to start a garden. I couldn't interest my mother in the project, but I got our old shovel and rake and started to work. 

I had a hard time of it because of roots and rocks. And the yard was fairly shady out there in the back. So in the end I just had a small garden and not much produce.

Meanwhile John's family had worked together in the yard every sunny weekend and a flower garden plus some vegetables was the standard for the family. I don't think there was a time when they didn't have a garden, even when they lived in New Hampshire with its short summers or in Massachusetts where they had a tiny yard. His father did the manual labor, and his mother, who had grown up on a farm, supported the project as the best way to feed the family.

When we had our first home, we set about putting in some plants, such as peas next to the back door we had in Lexington. It was in one of the few sunny spots. When we got to Wellesley the yard was on a slope and again quite shady, and I built up the downhill end with boards and carried some dirt in from the woods to build up the soil. I struggled to grow beets and spinach there without much success. 

And then we moved to the farm. We had all this behind us, and were ready to get our hands dirty.


Tessie258 said...

Oh Peg I'd die without my gives so much more than vegetables, it gives sanity! I love the feeling of putting a seed into the dirt and seeing it sprout and going out to the garden and eating the vegetables after washing them with the garden hose.

My friend and I just talked about this the other day. I have been growing a few peas, but they never produce enough for the family to sit down and all have peas...I usually eat them in the garden. My friend was saying her husband gets mad at her for eating the strawberries....she told him it is her Little Red Hen reward...hahaha..too funny.

My garden is about 25ft x 25ft. and is too small...I'm feeling like I need 2 gardens of this size to feed our family...It is one of the things I feel a little bit panicked over.....I NEED TO GET MORE SEEDS IN THE GROUND!

The problem with AZ gardens is the water and the birds. It has to be completely enclosed. So there is a big expense to cover a large plot of dirt. We do have a well so it makes the watering a little easier. I will have to put photo's of my gardens up next to my chickens on my facebook and my myspace.

Eloise said...

My garden is completely enclosed, but we have a resident squirrel that's going to enforce upped-security. I'm thinking a motion-activated sprinkler :).

Putting shade-cloth over gardens helps keep birds out and also helps with the whole water thing. It also extends the growing season.