Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Roots of Eating Well

Our sons were finicky eaters until we let them have a vegetable garden.

It was a simple square plot, 2 long by 2 railroad ties wide, 8 inches deep.
We filled the back of our old green Silverado pickup truck (on a day it was running) with topsoil purchased from Wolfinbarger’s in Chino, California. Shovelful after shovelful, the boys and my husband emptied the truck bed by filling the wheelbarrow with the crumbly, chocolaty brown mixture that would magically grow bumper crops of all things vegetable, which up to that point, our sons avoided eating.

It took all weekend, but by the end of it we had a proper vegetable plot. Making mud was our son’s favorite part. Kenny, who was only two, had to be brought in to the house screaming because he didn’t understand why he had to take a bath. That first season, every day the boys would run outside with arms waving to chase away the rabbits and squirrels and gophers. Trevor was in charge of the noise and Kenny carried the big green watering can.

Through this interaction with “their” tomatoes and peppers and onions the seeds of eating well took root. The knowledge of seasons and connection to the natural world was established. Giving thanks for the bounty of the table took on special meaning.

Nan Sterman, author of the marvelous California Gardener's Guide, Volume II, wrote an excellent piece about gardening with edibles for the San Diego Union-Tribune this weekend. Please link to it at

Nan's book, pictured on the left, is worth the price just for that brilliant cover photograph of a Matalija Poppy. Published by Cool Springs Press, it's clear text is a blueprint for success in Southern California. If it isn't on the shelf of your favorite bookseller, it is easy to order off the Internet through at http://http//

Wolfinbarger’s is still in business! You can link to see the pricing on the best soil and amendments in this area at


Anonymous said...

Ohhh Lydia! How adorable is that!!! LOVE the photos of the boys! I was amazed at how blonde Kenny was!! You would have never guess that he was so blonde when little! Such a darling!! (Reminds me so much of my little toe headed Kevin) So glad you took those photos because the memories are priceless!
Ohhh if only our veggie garden hadn't been attacked by pests this year we would be reaping the harvest right now. Instead I am becoming a regular at Super H Mart which makes it all worth it! Amazing produce at amazing prices!!
Great article!!
XO Trisha

Anonymous said...

LOVED the photos. LOVED the story. What darling photos of your boys. This made me smile ... out loud!

Lydia said...

Thank you for being such loyal readers!
Trisha- take the season off- but I hope your husband doesn't give up on bringing the fruits of his labor inside your home. May be you can try espallied fruit on the fences for a change of pace? They are absolutely gorgeous and work well with your elegant design sensitivities. Not only that- you don't have to bend over like with most vegetables- easy on the back!

Loving Annie said...

What a wonderful way to teach your kids, Lydia !

I use Sundet Graden book, and have found it really helpful. As well as much trial and error, because the sun shifts all year long and so some shade plants get too much sun at certain times of the year. I wish I had a bigger garden.... Oh well, next house :)

Lydia said...

Hi, Annie! My boys were FUN. Still are as grown ups with WONDERFUL women in their lives.

The Sunset Garden book is the Encyclopedia of plants. Thank you for mentioning it.

What I love about Nan Sterman's book is the tighter focus on California and easy friendly writing style.

If you ever get a chance to hear her talk-GO. She knows her stuff and- shares it with enthusiasm- she talks about gardens the way Anne Murray sings- totally relaxing.

The good thing about a smaller garden is it teaches discipline and a higher level of perfection is possible than a bigger garden.
But all gardens are great.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

What a lovely story and a GREAT idea to get kids interested in a real way in Gardening and Veggies!
I LOVE the pictures, by the way...Adorable. Especially the one with the Green Watering Can....!

Lydia said...

Thank you. PBS was the inspiration. We would watch the Victory Garden together on Saturday mornings. We grew a garden- and grew in to a better family in the process.

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