Friday, April 20, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Gardens - Size Matters!

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows students tending a school garden.  What a timely theme for me as I’m just getting a new garden going.  When I was a new bride, my husband and I started gardening with some friends who owned plenty of land and had room for a sizeable garden.  We shared in the planting and weeding.  We also shared in the shelling of limas and peas, stringing of beans, and both canning and freezing our bounty.  It was a wonderful spring and summer producing our own food and being with our friends. 

We enjoyed comparing notes and tomato size with my father-in-law who was THE gardener of the family.  His garden was so large that were it not a garden, it easily could have held a house with room for a backyard garden.  Of course, he started that garden when he had 8 children at home to feed.  Even after most were grown and married, he kept plowing the same number of rows and sewing the same number of seeds.  The only changes he made were to the variety of corn or beans he might try that year.  His garden was always beautifully manicured as well.  Barry said growing up, all the kids were expected to help with the weeding, but few were allowed to plant as his dad was meticulous about spacing. 

Ervin Mathias tilling between rows
Timberville, VA  1985
When we moved from the Shenandoah Valley to Chesapeake, I tried square foot gardening.  It’s much smaller scale and more efficient than what we had done with our friends.  

Nice walkways between the squares make it easy
to weed and harvest.  A "cute" garden was fun for the kids too.

However, I’ve not gardened in a number of years – too many distractions – too much research to do - too many rabbits – let’s see, what other excuse can I think of?  Anyway, now I miss it.  I miss eating a REAL tomato.  So I’ve gotten my square-foot gardening book back out, added a garden fence when we installed a new fence, built some 4x4 boxes, and I’m ready to prepare the soil for the tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, corn, and herbs.   

Barry said to caption this:  Wendy in her play pen.

I'm really not planting in concrete -- this dirt looks BAD. 
I'm working on it but the THEME is ahead of me.

Square-foot gardening – it’s not your great-great-grandfather’s garden!

My great-great grandfather's garden
James Franklin Jollett
Harriston, Virginia
around 1920

Wouldn’t you like to plow through some lovely blogs at Sepia Saturday?

UPDATE:  Here are a couple new pictures of how my square-foot garden is coming along (April 30, 2012).

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Good luck with your new garden. These beds look like they'll be easy to maintain once you get them going.

  2. Keep it simple ismy motto for gardening. I think I could handle the size of your new beds, if we only had room for them. No vegetables, just perennials in ours. During the war we had a large allotment, my job was to weed under the gooseberry bushes; as a young boy I never understood why I didn't find any babies there.

  3. How lovely to have that action shot of your father-in-law mainatinging his well-manicured garden, (and the action shot of you in your plot). I like the idea of the squares with a walkway between, and the children ‘helping’. Someone must have been proud of that 1920 garden to take a shot of it too.

  4. So cool! The family that gardens together stays together with laughter and so much bounty!

  5. I like homegrown tomatoes, but I think growing other foods is more trouble than it is worth. I prefer having mostly perennials that don't have to be replaced too often.

    1. Hi Wendy, this is really neat. I'd like to learn more about "square foot gardening" ... I've never heard of it. I guess it is little raised beds close together? The girls look so cute helping out in the second picture. I haven't had a garden for years, and each year I want to give it a try, but we haven't gotten there yet.

      Kathy M.

    2. Kathy, my boxes are 4'x4', so I have 16 squares in each one. Small plants like lettuce or carrots or radishes will fit in a single square. Larger plants like cucumbers will require maybe 1.5 squares. Tomatoes -- 1 per square. It's all math. The idea is to make gardening efficient -- just big enough to be able to reach all the plants (and weeds) and not need big equipment like tillers. When my kids were little, that garden was 12'x12'divided into 9 squares with boards for paths. My new and improved and larger garden has 6 4x4 boxes and it will have 2 1'x4' boxes as soon as I get to it. The other concept with square foot gardening is to stagger planting -- for example, plant some lettuce now, and then plant some more in 2 weeks so that everything doesn't ripen at the same time. There are tons of people online blogging about their square foot gardens.

  6. You have a great family history of gardens here. Good luck with your new garden. I do raised bed gardening but in bigger sections than 4 ft. At least I did. I now have an empty potential bed sitting in the sunniest part of my very, very shady yard. Hoping for at least a good winter garden after the leaves fall.

  7. This is a new concept for me, but it makes great sense. I hope you will follow up with a post once the garden is going full force.

  8. I envy you your garden. I can just taste those tomatoes. Your father in laws garden is so nice and tidy and so big.

  9. I'm excited for your square foot gardens! They look great and the play pen is so cool!

    Mr. Mathias' garden was so pretty the time I saw it full of those rows of corn.

  10. Good for you Wendy. If anyone has ever had a veggie garden it is hard to give them up. HH and I are not up to a big garden but thank goodness our son lives near by and he goes at it big time. I do have some cherry tomatoes in one of those Topsy Turvy thingies. Have not idea how that will turn out.

  11. I totally agree with you about real tomatoes and happy gardening!

  12. I think you need some top soil in there. But the idea interests me. I think I would like it, but living in the city, high above ground, I don't see it as practical. Still, let us know how that goes.

  13. I have found the critters get too much and I get too little. So now I only plant tomatoes in large planters that the rabbits, etc. can't reach. However, my neighbor has a huge fenced garden and she supplies me with various interesting produce during the summer. Still, there's something so nice about growing it yourself.