How does your garden grow?
By Robin Scott
City slickers and city dwellers have long embraced urban gardening, growing fruits, vegetables, herbs and plants in kitchen windows, in planters on the patio or a small patch of earth in the backyard. The need for urban gardening began with a couple of beliefs. One belief was that “organic” and “pesticide free” lent itself to better tasting food and healthier eating. Another belief was that a beautiful garden can exist on a rooftop and in containers, and that space should not be a determining factor, but only a measurement for the size of the garden. Whichever belief leads one to buy potting soil, seeds and a trowel and fork set, or a combination of both, urban gardening has evolved to an American past-time and is no longer a passing trend.
Even in a small rural town such as Dalhart, urban gardening thrives and those who undertake the endeavor reap the harvest. Often their friends and neighbors also reap a harvest as tomatoes, zucchini and chives flow over to their dinner tables. One notable urban garden is the pet project of Joan Davis. The location of her home on Tennessee seems a bit precarious for a garden, but one peak into the backyard dismisses all doubt immediately.
Joan began gardening in her backyard years ago while living in the Houston area but hadn’t had one in many years. She decided to see if her green thumb would find success in her backyard in Dalhart this year. She set her expectations a little low for her first year back into gardening, thinking that perhaps the many years she hasn’t had one would result in a garden that hadn’t thrived. She stated, “I knew that I had forgotten many things I learned as a child helping out my grandmother in her garden.” To Joan’s surprise and elation however, her garden abounds with the fruits of her labor.
Joan’s garden has zucchini squash, several types of peppers including bell and jalapeno, watermelon, okra, green beans, collard greens, two varieties of lettuce and five varieties of tomatoes. Her tomatoes have done so well that they are literally falling off and breaking the vines. She’s already planning ahead for next year’s garden. Joan commented, “I’m planning to add corn for sure, behind the fence in the alleyway. And I’ve learned some things that I will change next year.” The experience has rekindled Joan’s love for gardening. She noted, “I enjoy it so much, and my grandkids love to come out and pick with me, and they like to show their friends too.” She’s not deterred by the effort necessary either, stating, “Next year I’m going to go bigger.”
The work put into the garden began in late spring when Joan asked her son to till the soil. She then added good dirt, fertilizer and Miracle Grow. She let it sit for a while and then till again. She felt that the extra effort truly readied the ground for planting. She stated, “I just let it all sit so that it would be ready to plant. I decided to add good dirt because what I had wasn’t going to do well, I thought.” Now, Joan and her son and his family are enjoying fresh vegetables. She stated, “Tonight we are having our first batch of okra.”
Urban gardening provides kids with an opportunity to get involved, as Joan has encouraged her grandchildren to do. Her granddaughter, Sophia, noted, “My favorite thing to eat from the garden is the okra.” Joan’s grandkids enjoy helping out and then get excited about the harvest. They check the garden every morning to see how much the watermelons have grown since the day before, or if the tomatoes turned red overnight. That lends itself to kids enjoying the vegetables that have grown through their efforts. It’s possible that there is no better way to teach children to enjoy fruits and vegetables rather than turning a disgusted nose to them.
Most kids get a single bean in the 5th grade to plant while they learn about germination. That scientific experiment, although interesting and valuable, does little to change their attitude toward eating what’s good for them. Getting involved in the day-to-day maintenance of the seeds they have planted and watching them grow and finally produce and bear fruit does change their attitude and thinking. Joan’s grandson, Darin, proclaimed, “I love the watermelon!”
Joan’s garden provides more than just something good to eat. It is a family endeavor that allows her and her grandkids invaluable time to spend together out in the sunshine. Urban gardens are just large enough to be worthwhile, but not so large as to become overwhelming. Joan is teaching her grandkids to become gardeners and they aren’t even aware that lessons are taught for the enjoyment they are having.