It is a warm summer afternoon in Louisiana, circa 1950, and my grandparents are shelling
peas in the shade of the pecan trees in their yard.
My mother joins in, and soon the circle includes
aunts, neighbors, me, and my sisters—little city kids
from up north. This is how we do our “visiting.”
A few generations ago the kitchen
garden was a necessity. In recent times
it has become more of a hobby, a source
of fun and outdoor exercise that car-
ries a few bonuses. No salad is fresher
than the one you pick minutes before
a meal; no dish gives more pride than
the one you produce literally from the
ground up. Today, with the economy
sputtering, we may see the kitchen
garden make a comeback. Remember
victory gardens? Eleanor Roosevelt
spurred 20 million home gardens
by planting one on the White House
grounds in 1943. A Maine neighbor’s
petition drive at eattheview.org asks
the Obamas to renew the example. All
you need to start your kitchen garden
is a bit of basic information about plot
size and soil, guarding your garden
from wildlife, and which crops to grow.
My grandmother will make her tomato
relish, and my grandfather will carry in
a watermelon for dessert.
I am lucky to have memories of a
time when the garden was the center
of everyday life. It may be why I am a
vegetable farmer today—albeit in chilly
Maine, not the balmy South—and why
I am compelled to share my passion for
food, and how to grow it, with others.
HOW BIG A GARDEN?
While a piece of ground about 30 feet
by 30 feet can provide enough veg-
etables to feed at least one person for a
year, and many yards have a sunny spot
that big, it’s best for a beginner to start
small. A plot 12 feet square can support
quite a bit of food if you follow early
crops with late ones. And after a rookie
season, you can consider a bigger plot.
You have nothing to lose but your lawn
and the endless job of mowing it.