Garden Journal

A family's discovery of sustainable gardening, native plants, local food and other treasures in their mid Atlantic backyard.
May 30th, 2012

A Gardening Heritage

My son. in his early years, continuing the heritage

My early gardening experience is based on the learning I was fortunate to acquire from a first generation Hungarian grandfather who grew the most amazing tomatoes, beans, and corn out of a cinderblock 8 foot by 12 foot area between his garage and retaining wall of his lush flowering self landscaped suburban yard in Euclid Ohio. A favorite memory is standing barefoot on the warm concrete blocks leaning over to grab and eat a luscious tomato, juice dripping down my chin. He often kept a salt shaker in the garage for his own midday burst of vitamin C. He did not use pesticides and composted all his yard and kitchen waste- vegetable peelings primarily- of which there were many, as my first generation Irish grandmother and he made many soups and stews together.

My mother, their daughter took up the gardening bug and I grew up with a annual half acre of beans, broccoli, tomatoes, corn, swiss chard and many other vegetables in our rural backyard. My grandparents often came and worked the garden with my mother and us kids. I loved helping with the just picked beans, sitting with Grandma, snapping the ends, in anticipation of their being steamed bright green and served with a touch of country butter!

I better understand my need to share gardening remembering that my mother also helped start our township garden club which landscaped the town welcome signs and had beautiful yard of self-landscaped shrubs, old fashioned flowers and grasses. I aslo recall an earlier memory of my father and mother organizing our neighbors to create a split rail fence and landscaped entrance to the drive we lived on near Lake Erie when I was in first grade.

On my father’s side, my grandfather also loved gardening. He grew beautiful sweet smelling roses and snapdragons and focused on a dandelion free postage stamp sized suburban lawn (where sadly pesticides and herbicides were used routinely). I loved the beauty of his flowers but hated the chemical smells and the constant ‘shooing” from his garden shed and commands to get off the grass with fear the grandchildren would get into the chemicals. In contrast, my other grandparents’ backyard was a delight where my cousins and I had “hideouts” beneath trees and shrubs and would enjoy picnic lunches under the lilacs.

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