Backyard gardens and family memories

Dakota Richardson reflects on her family’s history through their gardens. 

My mother grew up on a tiny island off the coast of Sweden. Her family lived on a 100 acre farm . She immigrated to the United States when she was in her early twenties and met my father, who also grew up on a small farm-like homestead on the north side of Greenwich, CT. At that time, almost 30 years ago, almost the entire north side of Greenwich was rural.

Today the landscape of Fairfield County is almost unrecognizable from what it once was. The downtown city grid has expanded into the rural countryside and over time the plots of land have shrunk considerably. There are more people and roads, less fields and farmhouses. But living and cultivating the land has not gone away completely. It’s just done in a different way than it was 30 years ago.

In my own suburban neighborhood, its common to see raised beds filled with herbs, Tomato plants in clay pots on back porches, and even small backyard chicken coops. It seems the propensity to grow and produce your own food is something that will never truly be lost. When the amount of chemically altered and preservative laden foods have taken over the food industry, it’s no wonder that families are ever concerned with where their food comes from.

With populations expanding rapidly and rural areas being covered with concrete, problems arise due to a lack of space. That said, the trend from farmer to urban homesteader has increased. Families have gotten creative at managing space and designing growing methods that allow for even the smallest of urban properties to support agriculture.

Everyone likes potatoes right, at least in some form or another? One method I was reading about recently is the vertical growing of potatoes, which I’m sure would apply to many other types of vegetables as well. All you need is a simple cylindrical cut of “hog wire” or “chicken wire” and you can begin layering your rows of potatoes on top of one another, separated by a thin layer of hay. This method allows the potato to grow outward through the wire, making a very effective use of space, allowing for the cultivation of nearly a half bushel per foot.

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It’s exciting to think about all the new ideas that are taking place within urban gardens and farms across the country. All it takes is a little creativity or some reading and you could be enjoying all the rewards of a fresh vegetable harvest. I know for myself, there is something special about coming in from your backyard garden with tomatoes, eggs, or fresh basil that will be eaten later at dinner. More importantly, this trend of urban growing will be necessary as populations continue to increase.

My mother and father no longer live on the large farms that they grew up on, but each day they water and check on their vegetables like they had done when they were kids.  They have instilled this same practice within the lives of my two brothers and I, a practice that I hope to continue and pass down to my own family someday.

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