Each Wednesday we share a classic post from the Eat Sunday Dinner vaults. This piece originally posted on June 17, 2010.
This morning my dad sent me a series of photographs of his garden and although I’ve seen his garden many times over the years, I was still pretty impressed.
Truth be told, this is not just my dad’s garden. It is my parents’ garden. They started it when my grandparents moved in with them and my grandmother needed something to do once she left the farm she had lived on for over 50 years. My parents’ backyard was too small to plant a garden large enough to occupy my grandmother for any length of time, so they bought an empty house lot down the street and planted a large garden.
The garden is divided into two parts– one for vegetables and one for flowers. The vegetable garden is my father’s domain. Of course, my mom does a huge amount of work watering, picking, cleaning, and canning the vegetables that come out of it, but it is still under my father’s ultimate control.
The cutting garden at the front of “the lot” belongs to my mom and she uses it to grow flowers for flower arrangements. The flower garden up at the house is for show, but this is where she grows the bulk of her cut flowers. It’s a wild little garden and it’s not meant to be pretty, although I like the strange mixture of plants that flourish there at different times of the year. It’s the place my mom can grow plants that aren’t necessarily attractive in and of themselves, but produce beautiful flowers.
My parents occasionally have turf wars, and it always cracks me up. I hear stories like, “Your father dug up the green beans yesterday because he was tired of picking them, but I wasn’t done with my canning!” or “Your mother wants me to extend the fence around her garden, but she doesn’t use all the flowers she already grows, so I’m not in any hurry to do it”. I don’t know why I find these stories so hilarious. Maybe it’s because “the lot” is such a good metaphor for my parents’ marriage (although I’m sure they’d both be horrified by this idea or any discussion of their “relationship”.) Their garden is well-tended, fruitful, and a little crazy– but in an amusing and creative way.
For years my parents have raised a lot more produce than they can eat themselves and they always share their garden’s bounty with neighbors, friends, relatives, and the occasional “varmint”, as my father calls the creatures who eat his vegetables. The gift of produce smoothes the way with difficult neighbors and encourages visits from friends and family… especially during tomato season. It’s amazing to see how much comes out of their garden and how much they get out of the process. I only have space for a tiny vegetable garden in my yard, but every year I find myself digging out a new little patch to grow just one more row of tomatoes or a few cucumber plants. These experiments don’t always work out, but they do give us all something to talk about and get my family out into the yard, working together and hoping for the best.