I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers. I guess most Americans have a farmer or rancher somewhere in their ancestral background. I have fond memories of going to my Mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother’s gardens throughout the summer time. I can only imagine that most baby boomers have a similar memory as growing your own food and being self-sufficient was a way of life in our childhood. Perhaps some of you are still raising gardens today. I love that thought!
I don’t garden because I have too many allergies and that makes it hard for me to raise a garden. I am allergic to weeds and to trees and to grass and to working in a garden I guess! As a child I was not allowed to help pull weeds in the garden because when I did I broke out in a rash and couldn’t breathe. I hated that because I love nothing more than to watch a garden grow.
If I were to walk you through some of my favorite garden memories I would most definitely begin with Great-Grandma Bessie’s huge garden. Her garden was so large that they used a tractor to plow the area in preparation for planting. She didn’t use a garden hose only when watering, no, she had an irrigation system. Now that is a garden! When we would go to visit her and it was a nice day she would always invite us to go and see her garden. We would walk about the same distance as a city block from her house to the garden. She had a fence around the property to keep unwanted critters out. She also would have flowers pretty much lining the outside of the garden to help the bees to come and pollinate the plants. The process of pollination is how the fruit or vegetables grow.
She had a long row of green beans and sweet peas that would have a row of stakes and wire for them to twine up but somehow there was always a stubborn few that still crawled across the ground and produced the veggies there. She had an area of little hills where she grew cucumbers as well as squash, all kinds of squash. She had rows of carrots, onions, beets, turnips, and potatoes. She also had several rows of several kinds of lettuce and greens. Then there were the tomatoes, several varieties, and of course the melons and strawberries. Since there was a cornfield on her property she would always have the corner of the field closet to the house planted with eatable corn to have fresh roasting ears and corn to can or freeze. I think Great-Grandma Bessie was happiest when she was puttering in the garden! She loved to see things grow.
My Grandma Slim also had a garden. It was harder for her to get things to grow as the soil was pure clay and hard as a rock to dig in. Her garden was not as large as Great-Grandma’s but she always had Grandpa’ favorite foods, parsnips, turnips, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, and onions. She also grew lettuce and she tried to grow strawberries but they were stubborn. After she and her husband retired from the ranch and moved to town she had better luck growing the variety of foods she liked. She would always have a corner of rhubarb and they had some grape vines as well. She was great at growing zucchini squash too.
Aunt Mabel also had a huge garden, close to a city block as I remember. She put a large section into planting hills of pumpkin and Hubbard squash. We would all go to her for our Halloween pumpkins, or so it seemed. And the Hubbard squash that she grew was one of my favorite squashes. She also had a large corn patch as well. And the variety of tomatoes she grew was always delicious. Of course her garden also included flowers, just like her Mama’s garden.
My Mother also had a garden most of my growing up years. When we lived in the country she had large gardens. I know that one of the garden areas was far enough from the house that the garden hoses would not reach so we carried buckets of water to the garden to keep everything watered. Mom was always trying something new in her garden. One year she decided to try to grow peanuts and believe-it-or-not she harvested about half of her crop! We had to let the green peanuts dry out and roasted them in the oven. I can’t remember if I liked them or not but I do remember my Dad liking them. She always had a big sunflower or two to watch grow so that she could have sunflower seeds for the birds and squirrels to eat in the winter time. Mother was also a lover of flowers and always had a large flower garden. Her flower garden was always messy but always full of beautiful flowers and fragrances.
When we moved to town her gardens became much smaller due to space and so we relied on the goodness of relatives to keep us in corn and tomatoes and so forth. Mom would usually purchase a pick-up load of corn on the cob and we would shuck corn for hours as she blanched the ears and cut off the kernels to have packets of frozen corn in the deep-freeze. As she got older and needed less garden produce for her and my Dad she would mix her tomato and pepper plants into her flower garden at the front of her home. She said the back yard didn’t get enough sunshine to produce a garden. They had fruit trees though. My Dad didn’t believe in spraying the fruit so sometimes we had to cut out some spots from the apples, pears, and peaches. But they could produce the sweetest tasting fruits. And they encouraged everyone in their small town to come pick from their trees.
You know there is a lot we can learn from growing a garden. Not only did these gardens from the past grow a supply of food for a number of people but they also grew great memories for me. They also taught me some things as well. I learned to be careful when walking in the garden because snakes like to hide in the vegetation where it is cool. Birds need to be scared away so they will stop eating in the garden. Don’t bother the bees. And go to the bathroom before you go to the garden with Grandma because once you hear that water system flowing you will need to run fast back to the house and the bathroom! I learned that no matter how hard the gardener works in the garden it is God that gives the increase. Some years certain vegetables and fruits grew better than other years. Some years there was a higher production of produce than other years. But the gardener worked just as hard in all the years. No wonder Jesus used growing things in some of His teachings. Everyone knew that He was talking about then because everyone was involved in growing food to survive from year to year.
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “So then, you will know them by their fruits. Matthew 7:15-20, (New American Standard Bible or NASB).
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:1-11, (NASB).
Next time you have the opportunity to go and see someone’s garden I recommend that you go. It will enlighten you, it will refresh you, and it will remind you of the things of God. And if you are fortunate you might get to take something freshly grown home as a gift from the gardener.