Redesigning the Family Garden to Grow a New Generation of Gardeners
My mother is one of those formidable Yankees you hear about, and she takes her gardening seriously. When I was young, she had a vegetable garden that took up a third of our backyard. It had started out manageably enough as two 8 x 20-foot beds. But every year, under her foreman’s eye, we kids would tear up more sod and till cart-loads of manure into the exposed earth. Eventually it grew into a 2,400-square-foot mini-farm, with compost bins made of discarded pallets at one end and 55-gallon barrels for burning trash at the other end.
I did not like working in this garden. The long, dusty rows of bare earth depressed me. No matter how much I watered, the plants looked dry and bedraggled — why didn’t they grow lush and close together, the way plants did in the woods? I hauled slopping water cans, wrestled the wheelbarrow through sticky soil, and pounded a lot of wooden stakes into the ground. But mostly I pulled weeds, a task that managed to be tedious and terrifying at the same time, because I was always afraid I would pull up the wrong plant.
I never thought I would take up gardening myself, but years later, when I bought my own home, I found it was missing something. I planted some shrubs and a few fruit trees, and also put in two modest raised beds for vegetables. I really enjoyed tending the plants and getting a harvest of fruits and vegetables in return. And to my surprise, I realized that despite all the hard work, my mother’s garden had been a deeply satisfying experience. It was just the scale that was wrong.
That’s the idea behind the Family Food Garden, the latest gardening tool from Gardener’s Supply. Based on our raised beds and plant supports, this modular garden system starts small and grows as needed. The combination of raised beds and vertical supports allows close planting, which reduces weeding and watering.
In a Family Food Garden, the emphasis is on family. Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of food. In fact, new gardeners are always surprised at how much a few square feet of land can produce. But the goal is to have a garden that’s fun and easy to tend. Instead of growing a bed of one crop, each Family Food Garden plan has a variety of plants. That adds visual interest and breaks up gardening chores into bite-size pieces, which is critical if you want to garden with kids. The Family Food Garden section of our website has plans you can start with, easy shopping lists, and plant care tips.
If you are starting out (or re-starting out) in gardening, or if you would like to try gardening as a family activity, check out our Family Food Gardens. You may be planting a seed that will one day grow into a love for gardening and knowledge of nature.