Apologies! I’m a week late in posting this article that’s a follow up to my last article – got struck down with an unknown bug that put me out of action all of last week.
Allow me to introduce you to a jewel of a garden in Brooklyn, New York. Both Mei and Ying grew up in the rural southern province of Guangdong in China where their families cultivated the land for rice and vegetables for the market. Food to feed the family was also grown. Life was not easy and there were many to feed. They were put to work as soon as they were old enough.
Coming to the USA as a young couple, they knew all about hard work and as soon as they got a home with a backyard, they set about creating a vegetable garden to feed themselves and their two daughters. Vegetables innate to their culture and cuisine.
With no thought to doing anything extraordinary, applying methods they grew up with, Mei and Ying have created a stunning little garden. It burgeons with all manner of gourds and squashes, scallions, garlic and other vegetables. The main planting area is a raised bed about 16 feet in length, 8 feet in width and 30 inches in height. Gourds and squashes clamber and twine upwards on vertical supports to form a lovely verdant canopy over the whole space which I’m guessing is about 25ft x 18ft. The fruit hang fabulously pendulous. Standing beneath felt almost sacred.
Seeds are saved and/or exchanged with other Chinese families in the neighborhood. Occasionally, seedlings are purchased in Brooklyn Chinatown. Gourds seeds are started indoors and transplanted when consistent warmer temperatures prevail. Usually mid-April into May. Scallions and garlic are planted earlier as they can take cooler temperatures. Garlic cloves are planted directly in pots.
As we all know, old lessons learned from the old country are currently trending but Mei and Ying are only doing what they’ve always done – using compost, collecting rain water, applying organic products like Neem for pest control. Slugs are aplenty so they often wait for dusk and then, using a flashlight, they pick off the offenders. Birds that like to nibble on the young plants are thwarted by their pet cats. You see, ‘old-fashioned’!
I was struck by the similarity in the traditional practices in India and all across the globe. We are all more alike than we can imagine. Certainly, meeting Mei and Ying felt natural. Our backgrounds are worlds apart and yet, our values are the same. We’re also similar in age and share a passion in gardening. Gardens bring people together!
P.S. A big thank you to Mei and Ying’s daughter Jessica for making this wonderful visit happen!
Note:The images you see below were taken in the fall at the tail end of the growing season. It was already cold but their garden still looked impressive. With any luck, I’ll get to see the garden again this summer. Fingers crossed!
(c) 2023 Shobha Vanchiswar
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