No More Grandma’s Garden-What’s Different Now
Are you thinking about starting a garden? Perhaps you have fond memories of growing up with a backyard garden or visiting a grandparent who had a garden. It will be fun, right? Just dig up a square of dirt, put some seeds in a row, water and wait. Of course there is no shortage of advice about gardening. There are a lot of trends and techniques such as succession planting, intensive gardening, vertical growing, etc. I wanted to take some time to explain some of the reasons you and I probably won’t want to garden the way my grandparents or great grandparents did.
Grandma had a lot of space for a garden. I don’t. Not only is my space limited, but as the neighborhood trees have grown up, part of my space is in the shade. Having less space means I have to be more efficient with the space I have. Growing part of my garden in containers, vertical growing (training squash and melons up a trellis or A frame and choosing pole beans over bush beans are examples) and using square foot spacing instead of rows will help maximize my space.
Grandma had a big family to feed and a big family to help with garden chores. I don’t. In fact we are empty nesters and I am the one who has time for the garden so I can only plant what I can take care of, including harvest.
Grandma raised a big crop of everything, ate it fresh when in season and then preserved the rest with help from family and friends. I have memories of shelling a big bowl of peas for my Grandma on her back porch one summer. One of the biggest reasons I garden is to have fresh, high quality food. I would rather eat out of the garden over a longer period of time and can less than eat less fresh and can more or possibly see it spoil in the refrigerator (that first cucumber tastes much better than the 50th). To accomplish this I can stagger the planting dates of some crops (succession planting). For example, I can plant a little bit of lettuce every two weeks instead all at the same time. I can choose an indeterminate tomato (they produce over a period of time up until frost) over a determinate tomato (they produce a large crop and then they are done). Most people today do not know how to can or preserve food. I do, but I usually don’t have help. If you want to learn to preserve food you can probably find resources or classes at your county extension office.
Grandma depended on her garden to feed the family. She planted double or triple the number of seeds to make sure that something came up. Then she had to go back and thin everything. Most seeds today have excellent germination rates. It isn’t necessary to plant the whole envelope and it just takes more time and effort to go back and thin everything.
I recently read “Square Foot Gardening” (the original book from 1981) and found that it incorporates a lot of these concepts and more. I thought I knew what square foot gardening was but I found out it is more than just the idea of layout and spacing of the plants in the garden. The new “Square Foot Gardening” could be thought of as container growing on the ground as the author recommends building a raised bed and filling it with a specific grow mix. I think it is a good read or worth a review as you begin to plan your own garden this year.
Of course, this year I am the grandma and I’m really looking forward to passing on some gardening love and knowledge to my grandkids.