The thought struck me when my grandson, Jason, came walking around the corner of the house holding a bright yellow squash with his two tiny hands: Whoever would have thought that his late great-grandfather, a plasterer with a backyard the size of a postage stamp, would be responsible for passing down his leisure pursuit to generations of family members? There was no doubt that he was smiling down at his great grandson’s baptism into the religion of organic vegetable gardening.
When I was growing up in a working class Philadelphia neighborhood of row houses, my parents had only a thin strip of grass in their backyard. But that didn’t stop them from planting the customary four or five tomato plants to compete with neighbors for the largest fruit on the block. When I married my wife, Joanne, my father-in-law expanded my elementary knowledge of vegetable gardening to a wide variety of crops, some of which, such as eggplant, I had never tasted in my life.
Life progressed and Joanne and I were fortunate enough to buy a larger property, which allowed an expanded garden. I became a devoted organic gardener with the belief that chemicals and synthetic materials have no place in food prepared for children. While gardening has many benefits — ranging from peace and tranquility to exercise — none is more tangible than having healthy food free from the contaminants that are prevalent in commercially grown food.
After the kids grew up and migrated out of the house, my wife and I made what may well be our final move. The first thing I did was lay out and break ground on a 25-foot-by- 25-foot garden. It was many years since I’d started a garden from scratch, and the tilling, building raised beds and planting the first crop were labors of love.
Now I go into the garden on most days with a plan for what I want to accomplish, and it’s not unusual to get lost in time as I transition to things I had no intention of doing. But each time I close the garden gate behind me, I feel mentally refreshed and spiritually cleansed. And now that my grandson has harvested his first vegetable, I take great satisfaction knowing that another generation knows this wholesome tradition.