How does your garden grow?

I’ve never been a gardener. In fact, I usually tell folks that “I don’t kill plants; I just make ’em wish they were dead.”

So, it’s fitting that, as I plan what flowers I’ll be planting this spring, I’m thinking about Rose, who also wasn’t much of a gardener.

Her garden, however, wasn’t about pretty posies and what color combinations would look nice paired with the newly painted deck. For rural farmers of the 1920s and 1930s, home gardens were all about survival and self-sufficiency. The fewer things one needed from the grocer, the better.

Rose’s garden would have been about 160 square feet and located close to the kitchen. This would have made tending it while doing other household chores easier and the size would provide her family with plenty of food plus extra to sell or to preserve. [1] Without irrigation, she would have relied on Mother Nature to water her garden, unless, of course, there was a severe drought in which case she would be forced to haul water–by hand–for watering. That would be hard work, reserved for only the worst of emergencies. [2]

And speaking of hard work, the garden would be 100% Rose’s responsibility. Other than the initial preparation of the soil by the man of the house, the rest of the gardening activities were handled by women and their children. [2]

What would Rose have planted? Kitchen gardens were relatively standard. They usually included onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, beans, sweet corn, radishes, carrots, peppers, and peas. Many sources include fruit trees, like apples or pears, although they note that those may be located in a different location. [2] My own grandmother included rhubarb in her garden and Rose will continue that tradition. And, although it wasn’t really a thing in the 20s or 30s, I rather like the idea of having marigolds flanking the garden to minimize pests and add something pretty to look at. [1]

Because Rose will be missing pretty things.


  1. The Old Farmer’s Almanac
  2. Power in the Garden, Allyn M. Mortimer, August 2007

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