Looking Back


Is Your Garden All Planted?

Or did you plant a garden at all? If you did, a quick run-around with the rototiller was probably all you needed to prepare the soil for seeding. Then buy some bedding plants and it's done.


Traditionally, whether on the farm or in town, everyone planted a vegetable garden. It was the source of much of the family's food. The farm garden was, of course, much bigger a couple of town lots. A team of horses was "borrowed" from field work to plow the garden, then harrow it before the vegetable planting could begin. Preparing the smaller garden in town was pure bullwork work it up with a shovel, rake it to achieve a fairly smooth surface, then the seeding by hand starts. And the unwritten rule was that the garden had to be planted during the Victoria Day weekend in May.


potatoesEaton's cataloguePotatoes were a staple food; there should be enough left over from last year for planting. If not, a sack of potatoes would yield many times that quantity of potatoes in fall. Other root vegetables (carrots, turnips, beets, etc.) would be stored along with potatoes in a root cellar. This might have been a dug-out beneath one of the rooms of the house accessed through a lift-up trap door. Or it could have been a separate building or just a dug-out in a nearby hill.


Some seeds could be saved from year to year but the good old Eaton's catalogue was a reliable source. Several varieties of each vegetable were available, at 10 for a small package. Cabbages and cauliflowers were direct seeded, rather than purchasing bedding plants as we do today.


Gardening equipment was pretty basic. Once the soil was tilled and smoothed, all you really needed was a hoe. One hand-made hoe in the museum came from Charlotte Potter. The handle is a tree branch 67 inches long and the hoe itself is a half-moon shape, 12 inches across and 5 inches deep. This hoe was definitely meant to be used by a 6-foot able-bodied person!


Gardening back then was not therapy, nor was the goal to look better than the neighbours. A good garden meant food on the table. And that meant hard work!


potatoe planter
Home-made potato planter donated by Brian Roberts
Marcus Standeven with Charlotte Potter's home-made hoe


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 Last updated: July 8, 2015