In the Garden:
Tropical South
March, 2004
Regional Report

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I would love nasturtiums even if all parts were not edible. It was never summer without them in the north, and I have them every winter here.

Gardening Is Good for Body and Soul

Being Irish, I've always joked that my genes remember the famine. I've lived with the lovely illusion that as long as we have a garden, we'll never be hungry.

I have never had a perfect garden. But I've had a wonderful life in which gardens have always been a very important part. While Victory Gardens were fresh in peoples' minds, there was no doubt about the value of gardening. I learned from my Aunt Joan, from 4-H projects, and from trial and error as I grew up on a farm.

Marriage moved me to town, but we started our family just as the back-to-the-land movement gained momentum and soon had a few acres. There was never any trouble about getting our children to eat vegetables. They ate many right in the garden. That cut preparation time out altogether.

I also planted trees, shrubs, and flowers everywhere we lived even though we kept moving. Gardening has always been my therapy. When we had more children than the neighbors could count, I'd go out to the garden for peace. Often the children followed, but the peace prevailed.

We didn't move back to town until we realized we were spending more time on the road than on the land. I was a little afraid we'd starve to death, but I found you can raise a great deal of food in a small yard, and a community garden is a win/win situation.

It was always a race to put food away for the winter. So we moved away from winter.

Settling in Florida
The first year in Florida was frustrating because I had to learn so many new plants and garden methods. But there were some wonderful successes from the very first, and I found that everything grows much faster here, including gardening knowledge. Vegetables are a bit harder but fruits are fabulous.

Green papayas can serve as squash, ripe ones as pumpkins, and chayotes as cucumbers. The soil is terrible but the possibilities are endless, and homegrown bananas taste as much better than store bought as fresh green beans are better than canned. A garden isn't a special plot anymore; it's the whole yard.

Gardening is Good Forever
I don't need to join a spa or pay for exercise. I'll never run out of fascinating work to do, at my own pace. I can find solitude in the garden when that is what I need, and gardens make friends whenever you want. If I don't have my own garden some day, I can volunteer in others. I've already had a garden at a nursing home. When I'm a resident, I'll do that again. If I get too decrepit to move, I can close my eyes and enjoy any garden I've ever seen or grown all over again.


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