The Most Important Garden Pass-Along

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Posted by @grannysgarden on
We often refer to an heirloom plant as a pass-along. These are very dear to us, but there is an even more important garden pass-along, which is the garden practices and garden knowledge we adhere to in our own gardens.

Thumb of 2015-01-21/grannysgarden/4a65dcWhen I was a child I followed my mother as she went about her daily chores in the garden. As she sang old ballads and patiently worked, she would explain to me that every month had a different garden chore that needed doing. I was never one to be idle while someone else worked, so I helped out under her supervision. I helped with everything, from turning the soil in the small vegetable garden with a fork to carrying water from the well during very dry spells. I helped reap what we had sown, and as the old folks say, I helped in "putting it by" or, in other words, canning our abundant garden vegetables. I also helped her in our flower gardens.

Depending on the type of gardens, there were big differences in what we fed them. Year-old aged chicken litter was scattered on the vegetable garden late in the fall. No fresh litter was used as the plants would "burn" and die from too much nitrogen. (Of course, when you are six and seven you have no idea what nitrogen is or why chickens would even eat it so that it would be in their litter, but what my parents said was all the truth I knew.) Late in the fall on a cool still day we would burn off the old vegetable stalks, as the ash was also good for the garden, and the fire would kill any late-budding weeds and maybe some non-beneficial insect eggs as well.

In the flower gardens Mother would incorporate fresh crushed egg shells directly into the soil around big plants. Sometimes it would be her coffee grounds. Coffee grounds especially went around her giant hydrangea shrubs so that the flowers would be blue instead of pink. And what a magical time it was when huge mop heads of blue flowers appeared and made me feel like such an accomplished gardener, knowing I had helped make them that fine color. I would be an adult before I learned about soil pH.

Nothing was wasted. All of our leftover organic matter, such as vegetable peelings, was either fed to the chickens or put in one small area to make Rich Dirt for our gardens. Today we would call it a compost pile. Even the cooled water that had been used to cook corn on the cob was poured back into the garden. Every spring we would take the wheelbarrow and go to the area under big deciduous oaks and turn several layers of last year’s leaves over. Then we would dig up the black soil underneath to go into the flower gardens. We never bought fertilizer and yet Mother’s flowering plants were the envy of many and we always had enough vegetables and fruits to share.

Occasionally, when we used something from a tin, such as pineapple, Mother would rinse out the can, cut the top and bottom out, smash them flat and store them until we had enough to bury them. Yes, we had an area where we would bury flattened tin cans. Mother said they would rust and go back to the soil. I don’t know whether that worked, but our farm never had a trash pile as some others did. But that is another story, so back to the garden.

Mother did not have any gardening books. Her knowledge was what she had learned from her parents and grandparents as they reaped and sowed. It was pass-along knowledge.

I would ask questions. I thought I hated gross earthworms until she told me they were working our gardens underground while we rested. How great was that. The only time I ever disrespected a worm after that is when I threaded it onto a fishing hook to catch perch to fry. The worm was a valuable resource indeed. Mother never hesitated to quietly answer my questions and, because it was a hands-on activity, the information she imparted stuck with me. I got to pick okra, tomatoes, corn, and peas, as well as low crops, such as lettuce. I learned to sow the same seeds days, or even a week, apart in order to have a crop mature in stages. I learned to plant strong-smelling marigolds along with my garden plants in order to make tomato cutworms disgusted and want to go eat someplace else. I learned to love the strong smell of marigolds.

I helped Mother prepare vegetables and fruits for the table and feasted on fresh, healthy food and then helped her recycle the waste back into the garden. I learned near the end of the growing season to let some of the fruits and veggies go to seed and then gather and store the precious seeds until planting time the next spring.

I learned of organic ways to control insects in the garden and learned to share the garden with insects. Mother would say: "One for the worm, One for the crow, One to share and One to grow." I learned that spiders and ants in the garden would eat bugs too. Mother had a corner in the garden where she set an old wooden apple crate on its side. It was her spider house.

Everyone that gardens has knowledge about what it takes to grow a plant. It may come from a horticultural degree, one or two tips acquired over one growing season, or a plethora of knowledge gleaned over a lifelong relationship with the soil. Please consider passing along this garden knowledge. Is there a young person in your life you can do a garden project with or plant a bulb, a seed, or my personal favorite, the top of a sweet potato? Choose an area for the project where you do not have to worry about making a mess and then supply trowel, soil, and pot or garden space. Make markers and let the youngsters see the fruits of their labor. Answer their questions with patience and talk to them about your garden, your favorite plants, and the abundant way nature provides. Talk to them about our responsibility to our earth, and most of all, "pass-along" your gardening knowledge.

This is a small area where Granny and several small gardeners share pass-alongs:

Thumb of 2015-01-21/grannysgarden/4a65dc

Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
pass along by texaskitty111 Aug 29, 2015 6:32 AM 13
Untitled by bhart90 Aug 26, 2015 10:51 AM 0
I've got one by LysmachiaMoon Aug 25, 2015 5:08 PM 0
An intergenerational, interrupted passalong by evermorelawnless Aug 24, 2015 6:13 PM 1
Thank you by grannysgarden Aug 24, 2015 2:28 PM 1
absolutely! by crittergarden Aug 24, 2015 10:06 AM 0
Better known as..... by dogwalker Aug 24, 2015 3:45 AM 0
Down Memory Lane by TBGDN Aug 23, 2015 7:21 PM 0

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