I planted my vegetable garden last week. It would not feed a large family for many months of winter, but it does provide some fresh produce in summer. My flower gardening is restricted to maintaining beds of perennials, most of which I got from my mother’s gardens, and hanging a couple of flower pots at the front door, both of which I purchased at a local greenhouse.
Not only did my mother provide me with perennials for our yard, she also taught me almost everything I know about gardening. It was her habit to brighten the vegetable garden on our farm with some annual flowers. This was a common practice in gardens planted by Mennonites for many decades. While I don’t follow that practice precisely, one of my main perennial flower beds shares a small plot with our vegetable garden.
In past generations, gardens were often expected to feed a family through the entire winter, so they needed to be very large--as was our garden on the farm. Cucumbers, zucchini, watermelons and muskmelons all take up a lot of space. My mother planted these in rows, not just a single plant like you would now see in my own garden. So in late summer it was easy to go to the garden, pick and wash a few muskmelons, scoop out the seeds, and fill them with ice cream for a very enjoyable dessert.
Mom taught me that radishes can be planted very early and that they come up very quickly, given the right conditions. She also taught me that asparagus is one of the very earliest garden vegetables to be harvested. Asparagus tips make a very tasty snack, as does kohlrabi.
Gardens in Russia were known for their prolific orchards. The orchard on our Manitoba farm included many different kinds of fruit. In addition to numerous varieties of apples, we had pears, apricots, plums, chokecherries, gooseberries and currants. Our favourite crab apple was the Trail variety. My cousins still tell me how much they enjoyed those apples. Most of our plums grew wild in the bush and along shelterbelts. There is no better jam than that made from wild plums.
We learned that one doesn’t need a good eating apple to make a good pie. Some of our apples were very sour but when baked in a pie became quite delightful.
Gardens also taught us some life lessons. They helped us understand the value of work. No garden does well without hard work. We also learned some patience. There is nothing one can do to make a garden grow faster. But there will eventually be a reward if one works hard and waits patiently.
Believe it or not, Mennonite Heritage Village has a Facebook account. In fact, just last week our MHV Facebook page achieved the milestone of 1,000 “likes.” On June 2, when we had reached 985 “likes,” we posted that we would give a copy of our recently published book, A Collected History, to the 1,000th person to “like” our page. The very next day, Lecoka Café House in Steinbach became our 1,000th “like” and won the book. Congratulations, Lecoka!
Calendar of Events
June 13 – MHV/Eden Tractor Trek (leaving MHV at 10:00 am)
June 21 - Father's Day Lunch Buffet (11:30-2:30)
July 1 – Canada Day - FREE ADMISSION