The Tradition of Gardening

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


As I’ve recently taken to the soil, mixing composts and peat moss, selecting herbs and veggies and excitedly prepping and designing and finally, finally planting, I’ve come to reflect on how gardening quietly yet significantly affected my life growing up, leading me to consider how it may also influence my daughter.

I come from a family of gardeners. My great-grandfather, an immigrant from Italy, gardened after he came to America. When he moved to a new neighborhood, he rounded up my dad and together they lined the trunk of his car with plastic and then filled the trunk with soil from his garden to bring to his new home. Years of his sweat and dedication went into that garden, and preserving his soil was another reflection of him truly understanding: waste not, want not.

His daughter and husband (my grandparents) continued this tradition and had their garden on an acre of land. They tended everything from blackberry bushes (a personal favorite) to apple trees and of course every vegetable in the Northeast. Even at 87 my grandma still maintains a large portion of that garden for her flowers and some veggies.

Grandma's Flower Garden

Growing up, my parents kept a garden that took up 1/3 of our large back yard.  My siblings and I helped plant rows and rows of beans, peppers, squash, watermelon. We had our own strawberries, blueberries; in the pumpkin patch we experimented with feeding milk to the pumpkin to grow it extra, extra large.  We always got a kick when the corn grew taller than we were- then taller than our dad!

Slowly, as the years passed and my family grew, the size of the garden shrunk… but it never disappeared. My dad gets lots of pleasure working out in his garden, as well as maintaining my mom’s flower beds in her memory. And we kids get a lot of pleasure raiding said garden for our weekly meals, and flowers for our tabletops.

Pip with Zucchini from Papa's Garden

I realize now, as I start my own garden, how many gifts our little patches of earth bring. Gardeners must practice patience, waiting for the right time to harvest. Gardens require commitment, to watering and weeding. And they provide opportunity for wonder and joy, evident when those tiny green shoots pop their heads above the dirt like the little miracle that they are.

That gardening teaches hard work goes without saying: even as kids we helped out, raking, harvesting, and composting, throwing the food waste back in to feed the soil. The thing was, it never was a big deal. It simply was what we did.

I hope to pass on my love for gardening and self-sustainment the same way my parents sowed it in me: naturally, with pleasure, and simplicity. It’s just what we do. And that’s the gift I want to give Pip: gardening is growing our own food, interacting with nature, counting our blessings. It’s just what we do. And I’m grateful that we can.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Get Out!Momma Jorje gives reasons she doesn’t think she gets outside enough and asks for your suggestions on making time for the outdoors.
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?The ArtsyMama shares her love of nature photography.
  • We Go Outside — Amy at Peace 4 Parents describes her family’s simple, experiential approach to encouraging appreciation of nature.
  • My Not-So-Green Thumb — Wolfmother confesses to her lack of gardening skills but expresses hope in learning alongside her son at Fabulous Mama Chronicles.
  • Enjoying Outdoors — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine describes how her children enjoy the nature.
  • Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener — For the rare little ones who don’t like to get their hands dirty, Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers tips for encouraging an early love of dirt (despite the mess).
  • Connecting to NatureMamapoekie shares how growing your own vegetable patch connects your child to nature and urges them to not take anything for granted.
  • The Farmer’s Market Classroom — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how the Farmer’s Market has become her son’s classroom.
  • Seeds — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment‘s hubby Ken shares his perspective on why gardening with their kiddos is so important . . . and enjoyable!
  • Toddlers in the Garden — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares her excitement as she continues to introduce her toddler and new baby to the joys of fresh veggies, straight from the garden.
  • Nature’s Weave — MJ at Wander Wonder Discover explains how nature weaves its way into our lives naturally, magnetically, experientially, and spiritually.
  • Becoming Green — Kristina at Hey Red celebrates and nurtures her daughter’s blossoming love of the outdoors.
  • Little Gardener — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis looks forward to introducing her baby girl to gardening and exploring home grown foods for the first time.
  • Cultivating Abundance — You can never be poor if you have a garden! Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on what she cultivates in her garden . . . and finds it’s a lot more than seeds!
  • Growing in the Outdoors: Plants and People — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reflects on how she is growing while teaching her daughter to appreciate nature, the origins of food, and the many benefits of eating home-grown.
  • How Not to Grow — Anna at Wild Parenting discusses why growing vegetables fills her with fear.
  • Growing in the Outdoors — Lily at Witch Mom Blog talks about how connecting to the natural world is a matter of theology for her family and the ways that they do it.
  • A Garden Made of Straw — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares tips on making a straw bale garden.
  • The Tradition of Gardening — Carrie at Love Notes Mama reflects on the gifts that come with the tradition of gardening.
  • Gardening Smells Like Home — Bethy at Bounce Me to the Moon hopes that her son will associate home grown food and lovely flowers with home.
  • The New Normal — Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how she hopes that growing vegetables in a big city will become totally normal for her children’s generation.
  • Outside, With You — Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son, a snapshot of a moment in the garden together.
  • Farmer Boy — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares how her son Joshua helps to grow and raise their family’s food.
  • Growing Kids in the Garden — Lisa at Granola Catholic shares easy ways to get your kids involved in the garden.
  • Growing Food Without a Garden — Don’t have a garden? “You can still grow food!” says Mrs Green of Little Green Blog. Whatever the size of your plot, she shows you how.
  • Growing Things — Liz at Garden Variety Mama shares her reasons for gardening with her kids, even though she has no idea what she’s doing.
  • MomentsUK Mummy Blogger explains how the great outdoors provides a backdrop for her family to reconnect.
  • Condo Kid Turns Composter and Plastic Police — Jessica from Cloth Diapering Mama has discovered that her young son is a true earth lover despite living in a condo with no land to call their own.
  • Gardening with Baby — Sheila at A Gift Universe shows us how her garden and her son are growing.
  • Why to Choose Your Local Farmer’s MarketNaturally Nena shares why she believes it’s important to teach our children the value of local farmers.
  • Unfolding into Nature — At Crunchy-Chewy Mama, Jessica Claire shares her desire to cultivate a reverence for nature through gardening, buying local food, and just looking out the window.
  • Urban Gardening With Kids — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares her strategies for city gardening with little helpers — without a yard but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.
  • Mama Doesn’t Garden — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life is glad her husband is there to instill the joys of gardening in their children, while all she has to do is sit back and eat homegrown tomato sandwiches.
  • Why We Make this Organic Garden Grow — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her reasons for gardening with her three small children.
  • 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama believes it’s never too early to foster a love of the natural world in your little one.
  • April Showers Bring May PRODUCE — Erika at NaMammaSte discusses her plans for raising a little gardener.
  • Growing Outside — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers how to get her kids outside after weeks of spring rain.
  • Eating Healthier — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she learns to eat healthier and encourages her children to do the same.
  • The Beauty of Earth and Heavens — Inspired by Charlotte Mason, Erica at ChildOrganics discovers nature in her own front yard.
  • Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro talks about the challenges of gardening with two small children.
  • Creating a Living Playhouse: Our Bean Teepee! — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares how her family creates a living playhouse “bean teepee” and includes tips of how to involve kids in gardening projects.
  • Grooming a Tree-Hugger: Introducing the Outdoors — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her planned strategies for making this spring and summer memorable and productive for her pre-toddler in the Outdoors.
  • Sowing Seeds of Life and Love — Suzannah at ShoutLaughLove celebrates the simple joys of baby chicks, community gardening, and a semi-charmed country life.
  • Experiencing Nature and Growing Plants Outdoors Without a Garden — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares some of her favorite ways her family discovered to fully experience nature wherever they lived.
  • Garden Day — Melissa at The New Mommy Files is thankful to be part of community of families, some of whom can even garden!
  • Teaching Garden Ettiquette to the Locusts — Tashmica from Mother Flippin’ (guest posting at Natural Parents Network) allows her children to ravage her garden every year in the hopes of teaching them a greater lesson about how to treat the world.
  • Why I Play with Worms. — Megan of Megadoula, Megamom and Megatired shares why growing a garden and raising her children go hand in hand.
This entry was posted in Carnival of Natural Parenting, Gardening. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to The Tradition of Gardening

  1. Kelly says:

    What an amazing legacy! (and gorgeous pictures!)

    Thanks for the beautiful and inspiring post – though this will be my first veggie garden, I’m hoping it will grow into something that will be the norm for my daughter – I love the idea of it being ‘just what we do’. :D

  2. What a beautiful post :) My grandpa was a gardener, unfortunately he passed away when I was only six years old. The only memory I have of his gardening is the beautiful stone walkway in the back yard, surrounded by these delicate little flowers. I need to find those flowers and plant them in our garden this year :) Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks Dionna! What a lovely memory of your grandpa’s garden. I hope you can find those flowers (or similar ones!) to plant in his honor. I think that’s an extra-special way to keep his memory alive and make you smile. :)

  3. How wonderful that gardening is part of your family heritage – I love the story about you grandfather bringing the soil from his old house to his new house – how wonderful to treasure the soil that much, how much care he must have given to it, and what connection. LOVE the pic of your Grandma’s flower garden.

    • Thanks Lucy! I was thrilled and inspired when my dad told me that story a few years ago. To treasure something to that degree that I would have seen as “just dirt” really spoke to me. My dad still grows his rhubarbs and I hope one day to take some to grow in my garden!

  4. kbd says:

    your grandmother’s garden is beautiful! what an inspiration! how good it is to pass on to your child all those wonderful warm memories that you have from growing up. you’re an inspiration, too!

    • Thanks kbd! Maybe this year you can start a container garden too? Any particular south african fav food/flower that grows good here? OH I just thought, we could have an “around-the-world” garden for Pip! Inspired by all our friends!!

  5. Rosemary says:

    I love that you not only are in touch with nature and your food source, but are also in touch with your family history and are inspired to continue the tradition. Beautiful!

  6. Amy says:

    What a wonderful story! And grandma’s flowers are so very beautiful. My mother is a great gardener, and my father’s parents had a large garden and fruit orchard which fed their family. My partner’s parents are gardeners, too. I’m doing my part to keep those legacies alive with our small garden now, too. Thanks for sharing your story!

  7. Jennifer says:

    You are such a gifted writer! You bring light and life to everything you do. :-)

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  9. This is wonderful. I’m so glad you had that natural tradition of growing food, without pressure or fanfare. The picture of your Grandma’s flower garden is awe-inspiring.

    What I want to know, as a fellow pumpkin grower, is did the milk work?? :)

    • Thanks Lauren! I’m awe-inspired by my grandma’s garden, too! She was 85 when I took that picture!!!! O_O

      YES the milk worked!! Next time I am home I will look for the photo of the pumpkin that we “nursed” … it was massive! And I clearly remember going out to the garden with my mom and snipping off one of the stems and putting it into the bowl of milk. It was a riot, and oh boy we were so proud of that pumpkin!

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  24. Anna says:

    Yes! This is what I aspire to. To have rituals, habits and gardening knowledge so embedded into our family life that we take it (and delicious garden bounty) for granted. Of course it’s going to take a long time to get there but I think your post illustrates not only the importance of patience but also that the rewards can reverberate for generations. In fact I recall now the smell and the taste of the tomatoes from my grandfather’s greenhouse. He passed on before I was born but my dad inherited it and now my dad is helping me with my first veg patch!

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