Remembering Grandma’s Garden in the 1940’s


I’m always interested in history, especially our family history.  So I asked my Grandma Betty to write a short article about what it was like growing up in a poor family, back in the 1940’s and what she remembered about their garden.  Here’s what she had to say!  -Stephanie Benson

By Betty Gallentine

When I was a young girl back in the 1940’s, our large family of 9 kids had a huge garden. We lived off the land almost completely.  We had chickens, & my Dad and older brothers went hunting for squirrels & rabbits to add to the menu.  Once in a while they would bring home pheasants, which was tastier than the usual game.

In early April the parsnips that had been planted in the past fall were harvested.  We all loved them, usually were in soup or fried.  The garden was plowed with a hand steered wheel-less plow pulled by a team of horses.  After the plowing was done the horses pulled a harrow (commonly called a drag) to smooth out the plowed furrows.  The driver would ride the harrow standing up. I believe it cost $5.00 and was done by an old bachelor & his 2 large horses. They lived in the country a few miles out of town from our place.  I remember my Dad pulling me on the wooden row marker that he made, to mark the straight rows.  He needed a little extra weight on it so I got a ride.

The first vegetable planting was potatoes on Good Friday!  I used to drop 2 or 3 cut up potatoes in each hole, while my brothers or dad would mound them into hills.  When it got a bit warmer we would then do peas, green beans, radishes, carrots, and beets. I believe we traded some seeds but most was saved from the year before in jars. The garden had perfectly straight rows and there were boards in between, so we wouldn’t step on the planted garden. We planted a lot of popcorn & sweetcorn as well. Ground cherries, was one of my favorite, which Mom would make preserves out of.  We planted numerous varieties of tomatoes, lots of cabbage plants, both were started from seeds in the winter months and from some of the harvested cabbage we made sauerkraut in crocks. My Dad & Mom managed to plant rutabagas & turnips, (least of my favorites.)

Old-scan-Feb2015We all had jobs weeding, the older family members cultivated with a hand pushed one wheel plow that had a big front metal rimmed wheel, about the size of a bicycle wheel, and a 4-6 blade attachment for digging out the weeds and loosening the soil. but I mostly pulled weeds by hand so I wouldn’t hoe off a valuable plant, until I got old enough to hoe.  I remember watering everything from the cistern, (which was saved rain water.) We had metal sprinkling cans to carry the water down to the garden. We definitely prayed for rain so we wouldn’t have to water!

We had a very small house without a basement, so some of the canned vegetables were even stored under our beds.

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