Monday, July 14, 2014


Good Morning, Class of '64
Thomas Jefferson's Vegetable Garden - Lin Frye
The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, 
radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about
her baby - how could anything so beautiful be mine.
And this emotion of wonder filled me for each
vegetable as it was gathered every year.
There is nothing that is comparable to it,
as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering
the vegetables one has grown.

Alice B. Toklas

Sundays with Larry

Part 1

Gardens were a big part of our survival. We raised about an acre of potatoes, an acre of sweet corn and two gardens, a little more than an acre. We raised pumpkins, pole beans, and turnips in the corn field. We often planted vining plants such as pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers in other locations. Dad believed that kind of plant grows best in wood ashes so when we burned a brush pile, he often planted them where the ashes were mixed into the soil.
The gardens were plowed and harrowed with a spring tooth harrow in early spring with a one-horsepower “machine,” our horse. But the actual work started the fall before when we got 3 or 4 buckets of “wood dirt” or “chip dirt.” The wood dirt was soil collected from the woods with rotted leaves in it. The chip dirt was dug from the firewood shed area. It contained rotted saw dust and small chips. Both were extremely high in organic matter. It was stored until February.
Spring Tooth Harrow -
Mom was in charge of the gardens. She decided when to start the seeds in winter. First she baked the soil long enough to kill any weed seeds. Then she planted seeds in that soil in paper cups, the bottoms of paper milk cartons, and anything else that she could find that would tear away without disturbing the root ball when the plant was transplanted. When the plants came up, they were placed on window sills so that the sun light would hit them. They had to be moved from the east to the west sides each day.
Tomato plants in window -
Later in the spring, other seeds were planted in the hot bed. We used part of the trench that had been used to store apples during the winter. That was constructed by digging a trench about 2 feet deep and 20 feet long by 3 to 4 feet wide. Horse manure was mixed with the soil in the bottom. As it decayed, it produced heat, helping to warm the soil. The excess soil was built up in banks all around the trench. Glass, usually salvaged windows, was used to cover it. That collected additional heat from the sun. After the hot bed was built, it was allowed to sit covered for a week or so to build up heat. Then the seeds were planted. After the seeds were planted, the glass covers had to be constantly adjusted to keep it from overheating on warm, sunny days, and to conserve heat for frosty nights. 
Cold Frame
I cannot recall which plants were seeded inside and which in the hot bed. I think that some plants were seeded in both places. The inside seedings produced earlier plants - there was informal competition in the community to have the first ripe tomato, the first peas, etc. Plants that we seeded included tomato, pepper, hanover (rutabaga), and parsnips. The seeds had been saved the year before. We raised almost all of our plants. We did buy cabbage plants, cauliflower plants a year or two, and some tomato and pepper plants. When seeding plants, we always planted many more than we needed so everyone had a surplus. There was quite a bit of trading and giving plants to neighbors. Each family had their “pet” beans, tomatoes, etc, so the swapping was pretty lively.
Around the end of May, they were transplanted into the garden. They had to be fertilized and watered when they were planted. (I now use Miracle Grow fertilizer mixed in water to serve both purposes; then we used granular 5 - 10 - 10 dry fertilize.) We usually had to water them every 2 or 3 days for a week or so after planting. Most years, that meant carrying water from the spring, over 100 yards, uphill, of course. On very hot days, we shaded the plants during the midday heat. We cut small branches with leaves off the trees in the woods, jabbed them into the ground beside the plant, and broke the top over the plant shading it from the sun. On cold, clear nights, we had to protect the young plants from frost by covering them. We used buckets, newspapers, sheets, and anything else we could find. (A person living on top of Caddell Mountain near Terra Alta, W.Va., has close to 100 plastic milk jugs with the bottoms cut off to cover plants in the spring. The climate there is similar to Ware’s Ridge.)
Sweet corn was a staple for us. We planted about an acre. We usually planted 3 different varieties, each with a different number of days to maturity. We planted all three at the same time.That ensured that the sweet corn would be spread over several weeks. One year, we planted the same kind of corn three times, a week and a half or so apart. Drought conditions caused all three plantings to mature at the same time - what a mess! After that, we made sure the crop was spread over enough time to enjoy and to can. We canned most of it. All four of us pitched in to pick and shuck it under the shade trees in the front yard. Mom cut it off the cob. She used a dishpan for that and usually filled it with cut-off corn. We often built a fire outside and canned it there to prevent the house from getting so hot. Golden Bantam and Iowa chief are two of the varieties I remember.

 Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn.
Garrison Keillor

Another staple was beans. We canned green beans; we all pitched in to pick and snap them. Mom also canned shelled beans. They were fully grown but still soft. We shelled them when the pods were leathery. They were delicious. We shelled at least a bushel of dried beans. That was an evening job after we came in from the fields. A side benefit was the dried hulls; they made wonderful kindling. Another form of bean was called “fodder beans.” They were dried in the pod. Then they were strung and cooked in the pods. Mom usually cooked all kinds of beans with pork salt side. (I still do.) We rarely went more than one or two days in a week without eating beans of some kind. We raised both pole beans and bush beans. As mentioned earlier, some of the pole beans were planted in the cornfield so that they would climb the corn stalks. By the way, pole beans will only circle the pole in one direction. Every farm kid, including me, tried to tie them and train them to circle the other way, but they will not do it. They, like water circling a drain, do reverse their direction in the Southern Hemisphere. Half-runner, little navy, and yellow-eyed beans are the only varieties I can recall. We also raised lots of locally named varieties, usually pole beans. Some had purple pods, some had large, flat purple beans, and some were speckled.
I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, 
and stand in deep contemplation over my 
vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could 
share or conceive of who had never taken part in 
the process of creation. It was one of the most 
bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill 
of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early
peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a 
line of delicate green.
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mosses from and Old Manse

Victory Gardens in WWI and WWII
US Department of Agriculture Victory Gardens in PDF

Victory Garden Campaign Handbook in PDF

Facts About 1945 Victory Gardens in PDF

Victory gardens, also called war gardens
or food gardens for defense, were vegetable,
fruit, and herb gardens planted at private
residences and public parks in the United States
during World War I and World War II. They were
used along with food stamps to reduce pressure
on the public food supply. Victory gardens grew
about one-third of the vegetables produced
by the United States. They were a part of
daily life on the home front.

“Win the War with Spade and Hoe
Make a Victory Garden Grow!”

Barney Bear's Victory Garden

Barney is preparing his victory garden; 
of course, he's not the world's most 
skillful gardener.

 The Original Victory Garden  from 1942
The Wartime Kitchen and Garden


Front Lawns Turned Into Victory Gardens

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