Gardening Legacy

garden+ copyThere’s an old saying “No matter how things change, they stay the same.” This is particularly true for gardening… no matter how much we’re influenced by TV, internet and social media people still learn to garden from other gardeners… Surprisingly, this holds true for the under 40 crowd as well who report that 82% of their gardening info comes from neighbors and friends.

The wisdom and information we receive from other gardeners is a heritage to be treasured.

My father, Ken, learned to vegetable garden starting in 1946 when he and my mother moved from California to Oregon to be near my great grandparents. Father was just out of serving in the Occupied Forces of WW2 and they thought it would be a good time to move north and make a fresh, post-war start. He’d had lots of farming experience on his parents’ ranch in Cucamonga, California. They grew citrus and raised a few chickens and hogs but he had never learned about vegetables.

My great grandfather in Oregon was a chicken farmer and used the manure to great effect in his massive vegetable garden. My dad helped great grandfather with his garden every year until he passed away in the 1960’s. When our family moved to a large parcel in rural Oregon in 1972 my dad started his own garden and that’s where I learned.

IMG_5011Looking at that garden now it doesn’t seem as gigantic as it did when I was a child. The rhubarb we planted in 1973 is still going strong. Mother makes compote and jam from it every year and, in the fall, my dad mows it down with the lawnmower… When this garden started almost 40 years ago there weren’t as many trees so it was a lot sunnier.

I can’t say I “loved” my gardening education. Back then growing food is just what people did – it wasn’t trendy or seen as a (potential) survival skill. And, like many kids, I got stuck with chores I did not like – mainly weeding.

At the time I didn’t realize that the yearly tasks for putting the garden in and the tricks I learned from my dad would be the basis of something that would give me so much joy.

Did you know…

  • If you soak most larger, hard seeds before you plant them they germinate faster? This is really true with corn and nasturtiums.
  • If you put powdered milk in the hole when you’re planting tomatoes you’re less likely to get blossom end rot (it occurs because of a lack of calcium)?
  • Black trash bags make a great mulch for melons by warming the soil and keeping the fruit clean?
  • Slugs like beer and will drown in a bowl of it sunk into the dirt? (REALLY good advice in Oregon! Slug capital of the universe.)

These are a few (of many) tid bits of advice that I can now draw on when I garden thanks to my dad.

I went to college at 17 and ended up at the University of Oregon. U of O, like Berkley, Reed and Evergreen was a “hippie” school at the time – very liberal, left wing with hold-out 60’s flair. My parents were a bit terrified when I was there. Luckily they had raised me well so nothing too drastic happened. The most memorable thing from my college years in Eugene was working on an environmental newspaper and re-learning how to garden from a friend that was one of the original employees at Smith and Hawken.

It is kind of an irony that it wasn’t my social mores or religious beliefs that were challenged at U of O but my gardening skills! My new “hippie” gardening friends were into raised beds – not the straight rows I was used to! Vertical gardening, companion planting, heirloom vegetables and more… it was during this time that I really fell in love with gardening and, along with the basics from my dad, have used these skills ever since.

Did you know…

  • planting when the moon is in a water sign encourages growth and pulling weeds during a fire sign prevents them from growing back?
  • planting nasturtiums with veggies works as a trap crop (insects like the nasturtiums better so leave other things alone)?
  • painting a milk jug black, filling it with water and putting it beside tender plants works as a passive solar heater and raises the temperature a few degrees at night? Add a cold frame structure and you have your own mini-solar powered greenhouse?
  • making a necklace or crown of rosemary keeps mosquitos away from your face?

If you didn’t have the chance to grow up with a garden or learn from highly qualified hippies don’t panic! What actually prompted me to start this post was a book I read. I know I said most of us learn from other gardeners, but books are usually second on the list of information sources – although, in 2009, technology did briefly bump books as the #2 resource.

image_miniThere are a ton of books on gardening and the “new” trend of urban homesteading (should I put a TM after that?) but, IMHO, Your Farm in the City is one of the best gardening books I’ve read. Period. (And I must add here that there are livestock chapters which just made me miserable that Peter refuses to allow chickens in The Yarden.)

Seattle Tilth is the education partner of the venerable P-Patch program in Seattle which is, arguably, the most successful community garden program in the country.

Started in the 1970’s, Seattle Tilth’s mission “Learn. Grow. Eat.” is about as clear as it can be and they’ve been teaching people to do just that for over 30 years. This legacy of curriculum and education is executed remarkably in this new book…

  • the information is written in an approachable manner
  • the book is well designed so the key points are delivered in small bites with appropriate graphics
  • the artwork is lovely
  • it is written in a great, first person Pacific NW “gardening forever” voice
  • the “voice” has a great sense of humor

“There is an old saying… you should never plant more than your partner can weed or water.”

It is never too late to be a life-long gardener… Your friends and neighbors will certainly help you! But if you haven’t met them yet… Your Farm in the City by Lisa Taylor will be your BFF.

LaManda JoyGardening Legacy

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