If you’re reading this blog, you almost certainly have an interest in gardening, nature or the outdoors. There was a time when that was included just about everyone. Just two generations before mine, millions of Americans living outside urban areas depended on a vegetable garden to provide food. My grandmother plowed her garden with a hand plow pulled by a mule, just as her father had. She was barely over five feet, and anyone who has plowed or watched someone plow knows how brutally physical it is. My grandmother’s father, Jacob William Wesley Johnson, died before he turned 40, killed by a kick from his plow mule on a hot July day. But if you lived on a farm and didn’t have much income, you planted a garden or you went hungry, so my grandmother did what she needed to do. Aside from the plowing, she loved working in the garden. Being outdoors was preferable to her to being inside.
Now, plowing is done with a tractor or a lawnmower with attachments, or tillers. On a smaller scale, hand tools can do the trick. With some techniques, like lasagna gardening in layers, very little digging is required. Home gardening is easier than ever, not that it doesn’t still have many of the same challenges my grandmother faced, like the weather and pests and diseases. But if you want to garden, you can find a method that works for you.
If you live in the Tyler area or don’t mind the drive, you can learn more about home vegetable gardening (and growing fruit in the home landscape) at the annual East Texas Spring Landscape and Gardening Conference on Feb. 13. The AgriLife Extension offices are a great source of information, and they are the hosts of the conference in Tyler. Other topics include feral hog control, which has become a serious problem in many areas, and for the ornamental gardeners, favorite perennial plants for East Texas landscapes, controlling moles in home landscapes and floral design.
Keith Hansen, Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticultural agent for Smith County, says that national surveys and observations by folks in the Ag business show an increased interest in home food production. The value of all vegetable production in home gardens – if they were sold commercially – was $20 billion in the U.S. (in 2009), according to Dr. Joseph G. Masabni, AgriLife Extension vegetable specialist in College Station.
And if you need another indicator that vegetable gardening is once again flourishing, get this: in the spring of 2009, home and garden centers throughout the U.S. sold out of vegetable sets and seeds.
Registration for the conference is $15 (check or cash at the door) at 7:30 a.m. (Feb. 13). The fee includes a catered lunch and refreshments at breaks. Speakers begin at 8:30 a.m. and the conference wraps up at 3:20 p.m. with door prizes. For detailed programming check out http://easttexasgardening.tamu.edu/ or call Hansen at 903-590-2980 or email him at email@example.com.