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Gardening Reflections: Past and Present

| 8/12/2011 6:03:54 PM

Paula Ebert headshotEvery year I say to myself that I’m not going to let the garden get out of hand. And every year I fail. We had it whipped into shape for the 4-H club tour, that ended at our house, and one week later (after spending the intervening week at the County Fair), the garden looks like something in an abandoned lot.

How do people do it? Those marvelous people who have clean, neat, gardens? I suspect they lay down a pre-emergent herbicide. The cheaters. Maybe I’ll do that next year … I remember my little raised-bed garden in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. About six raised beds, with my six tomatoes, little strawberries, cucumbers, a few jalapenos, okra that it turned out no one wanted to eat. It was all so little and manageable. Every morning before I went to work, I’d go out and lovingly pluck off the runners from the tomatoes, tuck them up into the cages, pull a few weeds …

Here I have this huge garden space that I feel compelled to fill with 15 tomato plants, cucumbers, squash, muskmelons, onions, potatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, watermelon. No okra. But it is overwhelming, particularly with a part time job and full time graduate school.

The sign at the end of our lane


I was also thinking about my mother-in-law. You see, I’m married recently to a farmer, and although I never knew his mother, we live in her house. This year, none of the fruits set fruit. Last year, we had one “apricot emergency” after another, as I’d come home and the apricots had to be put up that evening. This year, due to some weather problem, most of the people around here had small or nonexistent fruit crops. I wondered what I would do if feeding my family depended upon the fruit crop, or the potato crop, which used to be a five acre site for her and her husband’s nine children, shared with acres of sweet corn. It puts a totally different spin on the garden. I garden for fun, most of the time, I think, unless I’m tired of pulling weeds, whereupon I think I’m gardening out of some sort of masochism. But what if it were literally the substance for my family, not just a desire for better tomatoes?

Nebraska Dave
8/15/2011 1:04:29 PM

Paula, I remember the boiling canner on the stove this time of the year when growing up. It was a daily thing for my mother to be canning away all through the late summer and fall. Our under ground outside cellar was lined up with jars of fruits and vegetables. Some years later when we finally ended up in the city, she gave it up even though we had a full acre behind the house Dad bought. Bargain shopping went into the freezer instead of canned goods in the store room. I don't recall Mom's garden ever looking pristine nor were the tomatoes or cucumbers staked up to grow vertically. My current methods of garden were definitely not learned from her but my desire to garden was instilled in me at a early age went dormant for decades of children, jobs, lots of medical issues, and other life things. Eventually, the kids grew up and moved away and the wife succumbed to life long medical issues and the dormant seed of gardening sprouted once again about four years ago. All through those dormant years I never gave up reading and dreaming about gardens. My information came from Ruth Stout, Mother Earth News, Organic Gardening, and just about anything the Rodale printed. My discovery of GRIT came about three years ago and I lurked around on the site for about a year before my coming out as a blogger. Now I have five raised beds in my backyard with two more slated for expansion before the snow flies. I'm still pretty limited with what I grow mainly because if I just don't eat it, I don't grow it. So five tomatoes, eight green peppers, one bed of Yukon Gold potatoes, cucumbers, and a salad bed made up the gardens for this year. I am planning on having a fall garden for the first time this year. I think I'll just try a small patch of lettuce and some radishes to make it an easy start. Have a great day in the garden.

8/15/2011 12:46:54 PM

Sounds like me. My great-grandparents were sharecroppers in south Georgia. What a hard life it was for them. Only I have 12 3x6 raised beds, a 12x12 potato, a 12x12 popcorn patch, and a strawberry bed. Even with raised beds i'm having a time of it. I also planted okra, but we pickle, stew or fry it. yummm. I go with the theroy that no one is perfect and I just enjoy my overgrown, weedy, troublesome garden.

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