Old Fashioned Gardener

1/15/2014 1:01:00 PM

Tags: Gardening Methods, Raised Bed Gardening, Hand Garden Tools, Susan Berry

Susan BerryWith all the discussion of GMO's and increased pesticide and chemical fertilizer use in commercial crop production homegardeners and even small farmers selling their produce are returning to old fashioned gardening methods.

After growing crops on 2 acres in ground/row crop method and plowing and tilling for eight years I was downsized to 21 raised beds. The first thing I noticed was I wasn't working as hard growing in raised beds. 

The second thing is I was saving lots of money since I wasn't buying gas for tractors and tillers. 

Victory Garden poster 

When families were growing their own veggies in their back yards during the Depression era and during the world wars, they utilized small spaces and grew kitchen gardens. Kitchen gardens were small gardens that were conveniently located close to the house for quick accessibility and small yards. Edible landscaping was implemented also due to minimal space, tomatoes and marigolds grew side by side for space conservation as well as aesthetics. 

Hand tools were the most important farm equipment, hand spades, long handled hoes, garden forks and a harvesting basket. 


I find these have become my mainstay tools too. In this day of computerized mega-tractors I like knowing I am keeping it simple, not polluting the air with gas-run equipment, and I am getting a lot more exercise moving, walking and bending to care for my gardens rather than sitting on a tractor. 

When I am turning the soil with a garden fork or adding organic soil supplements like bone meal to my beds, I love smelling the rich soil. The feel of warm dirt in my hands makes me feel a kinship to those people who gardened out of necessity and were the fiber of sustainability in a time when they knew the absolute meaning of self sustainability. 

vintage gardenI have met elderly folks who have shared their stories with me of growing vegetables in their tiny urban and city gardens in times when they couldn't afford to buy groceries and how those vegetables tasted so good to them and carried them through those lean years. Now, as they live in a time that in hindsight is not as tumultuous as the old days and they go to the store for their vegetables, you can see in their eyes how they long for those days when they grew their food because they had to. I hear the pride and fondness in their voice and words as they share about their gardening successes and failures. I love it. I have learned so much from these folks about gardening. 

Gardening is not just about growing food, it is a commitment that brings, satisfaction and rewards in our mind, our bodies and our spirit. Accomplishment and challenges are a great character builder and nothing brings more accomplishment then sowing a seed or planting a plant for the first time and watching it produce a harvest. 

Even if you have acreage and you still till and use machinery, I encourage you to plan some small beds or gardens. The kind that force you to get on your knees and bury your hands in the earth. Then breath deep and take in the aroma of warm soil. I guarantee it will be intoxicating.

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1/16/2014 11:00:24 AM
Susan, this is such a great post! Thanks for sharing! Although my mother never grew her own food when I was growing up, she always spoke so fondly - and still does to this day - about her grandmother's garden during the Great Depression. Growing up in a very poor part of central North Carolina, my mother remembers how necessary it was for survival for folks to grow their own food at home. And even though they didn't have much else, they did share some of the most wonderful meals together, which were probably the happiest memories of my mother's childhood.

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