Over the years, the Irish American has tended small home gardens in their backyards. With the bad economy and rising food prices, as well as the growing effort to have organic foods, many of the Irish American’s in the Wilmington and Brandywine Valley are looking back at their ancestral culture and finding the home vegetable garden played an important role in their survival. Many of the Irish emigrated to American to escape the bad times in Ireland. Although many of the emigrated lack the funds to invest in large scale farming operations, they never forgot their close relationship with the land. This relationship allowed them to develop small gardens that helped them through the rough times. How many of us remember our own families’ victory gardens when times were tough and food was short or rationed?
This year, many of those Irish American descendants have started planning large-scale backyard gardens. They are researching vegetable planting zones and learning what vegetables need to be planned indoors and transfer out to the garden at the appropriate time. All this is to assist them in providing good quality healthy foods cheaply for their families. Urban citizens are finding ways to plant tomatoes and cucumbers in planters and pots on terraces and balconies. Others with large front and back yards are learning how to create garden spaces that intermingles with vegetables. Still, others have found that the Bellevue State Park provides excellent gardening programs and garden plots.
In Delaware, the growing season is a zone 7-8. Meaning that in February, a few cold weather seeds can be planted indoors for transplanting in March and April. Mid-March is usually the end of the freeze and frost dates. Onions, celery, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower can be start indoors in late February and then transplant outside in late March and early April. Other vegetables such as kale, lettuce, spinach and broccoli can be planted outside during the March. Beets and carrots are also great items to plant during this time. If planned right, a backyard vegetable garden can be planted and harvested all year. For example, once the onions are harvested in late summer, a quick growing cool weather crop such as lettuce, spinach or beets could easily be grown in the same space.
Herbs are also great plants that every Irish-American kitchen needs a fresh supply to supplement in cooking. Basil, dill, thyme, and chives are the most popular. These can be started indoors in late February and later transplant outdoors in April or May.
By growing your own herbs and vegetables, you will find that you may have enough to share with friends or neighbors. Alternatively, excess vegetables can be sent to local food banks. If you are industrious, excess vegetables can also earn extra cash for your family by selling at local farmers markets. Learning about backyard gardens and other ways to stretch our incomes has become very important to many Delawarean families. A few have also learned that adding dwarf fruit trees can add fruit to the table, or a bee garden can provide homemade honey and extra income.