Friday, February 19, 2010

Homestead Gardens

"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden."-- Thomas Jefferson

Where do you get most of your food? If you are like me, in the winter, I go to the local grocery store and stock up for the week, taking advantage of sales and the fruits and vegetables that are in season at the time. But when May arrives, I am ready to plant my garden in the backyard. Last year I grew tomatoes, green peppers, summer squash, and cucumbers. It’s not difficult, but instead actually very rewarding. To see something start out as a seed or small plant and grow to be so large, bearing fruit so heavy that the plant falls over! What an accomplishment.

In contrast to modern society, homesteaders didn’t have the luxury of frequently visiting a town store just five minutes away. Store-bought items were special and few and far between. Instead, what they grew in the ground was what they had to eat. So they often had large gardens filled with a variety of vegetables. They learned how to preserve them for the winter months, when traveling was arduous and the weather brutal. Do you want a taste of what it would be like to eat from your own garden?

Here’s what to do: If you live near Homestead National Monument, you can take part in a new program – our community garden. Contact the monument for more information! But for the majority of you, who don’t live nearby, you can plant your own garden, either in your backyard or maybe at a community garden in your area (find one in your area by searching here:!

This can be an activity the entire family can participate in! As a child, every spring my parents and I would start our garden in our basement. I grew up in North Dakota and the growing season is so short, so we had to. We’d purchase the seeds we wanted to grow, as well as long shallow plastic planters, dirt and put the planters under lights and water them until it was warm enough outside to transplant the plants into the ground.

Tips to Remember:

*Do your research at your local library and online beforehand to determine what types of plants will be best for your climate and lifestyle.

*Read the seed packets for specific instructions on lighting, water, planting, etc.

*Depending on your location, you start transplanting to the ground at various times in the spring time. Check with a local nursery for more specific guidance.

*If you haven’t had a garden before, start small. Choose something that you will enjoy eating and only as much as your time schedule can handle.

You might say growing a garden is somewhat different today than it was for the homesteaders. However, the reasons behind it are still the same: to grow something yourself, to depend on the land for your food, to get outside, to care for something and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Why don’t you and your family try it this year?

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