My First Garden

Down to Earth

| February/March 2005

I’ve always wanted to garden. From the time I was old enough to walk, I followed my father around “helping” as he used the old push tiller. By the time I was 4, I was pestering my parents to let me have my own garden. I spent hours looking through seed catalogs, learning about plants and asking questions.

Those questions led in interesting directions — not always the right direction, I might add. My paternal grandparents lived on a farm and whenever we visited them, I brought whatever new plant, fruit or flower I’d found into the house to ask its name. No matter what I found (a bouquet of poison ivy — which I once did — or a handful of grape leaves), their response was always the same: “It’s poison. Don’t touch it!”

But one day, I was visiting with my maternal grandmother, Grandma Harper, and asked her about some vines growing along the fence. To my surprise, she didn’t tell me it was poison. She didn’t share Granddad and Grandma Long’s view of plants — or children. Instead, she believed that the more a child knew, the better prepared he might be for life. Grandma Harper told me they were grape vines and took me to the cellar to show me rows of jars of grape jelly, their deep purple gleaming through the glass. Then she pointed to a row of quart jars of dill pickles. Picking one up, she turned the jar around and said, “See the grape leaf? I put one leaf in every jar of pickles to keep them crisp.”

After that I quit asking my paternal grandparents about plants. I knew I’d get the most useful information from my Grandma Harper.

As I reached my fifth birthday, I again begged my parents to let me have my own garden. My father finally agreed to till up a little plot of ground for me, about 6 by 6 feet square. My mother let me choose the seeds and she helped me order them from the seed catalog.

I was beside myself with excitement. I made a “list” by tearing out pictures and descriptions of every plant I wanted to grow from the seed catalogue.

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