In Praise of the Backyard Garden

May 13, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Eve Calder

Lately I’ve been craving a little time in the backyard garden. The only problem: I have neither. Not a backyard. And definitely nothing that qualifies as a “garden.” Unless you count the cluster of bamboo plants in my sunny living room. And, between you and me, they looked a lot healthier before I brought them home from the store.

I’m not alone. I’m hearing from friends and family members that, as they spend more time at home, they’re discovering and rediscovering skills—like gardening and baking. To me, a home without a yard always seemed like the smart move. Nothing to mow, water, or rake. And any free time, however rare, would be truly free. Sure, I’ve had the window boxes full of flowers. And at one point in the not-so-distant past, my balcony looked like a greenhouse with planter boxes barely containing the basil and mint that were threatening to take over and invade my living room. But I traded that sun-drenched balcony for nicer digs. And my green-thumb ministrations tapered off as my writing schedule grew.

So is it any wonder that, as I was plotting the Cookie House mysteries, one of the main characters turned out be a florist with a green thumb? Maxi Más-Buchanan never met a plant, neighbor, or customer that she couldn’t charm. Like my grandmas. With four green thumbs between them, they both had a way with plants. And it wasn’t all roses and petunias, either. Their gardens, like the ladies themselves, also had a practical side. Tomatoes, zucchini, and beans were summer staples. And the harvest was often traded across the back fence with neighbors who had other garden goodies to share.

It was community and common sense. As long as you could grow something, you’d want for nothing. A house without a garden? Maybe. A home without a garden? Unthinkable.

My mom has the same gift. When I was growing up, she planted yards full of vibrant blooms and decorated sun porches and patios with thriving pots of color. And she encouraged my early experiments with everything from bachelors buttons and begonias to, for one memorable class science project, corn.

Face it, seeds equal hope. Faith in a future you can’t yet see or touch. I don’t know about you, but when I browse the seed packets online or at the store, I’m not buying the little dried up kernels inside. I’m buying the big, healthy plants pictured on the front of the envelope.

My brother and his family planted their own backyard garden for the first time this year. Besides getting out in the fresh air and sunshine, they already have a bumper crop of salad greens and veggies to show for it. Which could explain my sudden urge to feel the sandy soil between my fingers. Or maybe it’s just the idea of disconnecting from everything electric and electronic to connect with something more basic—something I can smell and taste.

As my grandmas would say, the good stuff never goes out of style.

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Florida native Eve Calder writes the Cookie House mysteries featuring pastry chef Kate McGuire. Her new book, Sugar and Vice, was just released by St. Martin’s Press. When she’s not dreaming of bakeries and gardens, she’s working on her next mystery, A Tale of Two Cookies.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


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