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The Kitchen Garden

By Virginia R. Manuel
Growing up in Johnson County, most of the food we ate came from the kitchen garden and we always had plenty to eat. The garden was located just outside the back door, very handy to the kitchen.
As soon as the snow was gone in the spring we would begin preparing the garden. During the winter the cornstalks were dumped on the garden after the corn was shucked. Ashes from the wood stove had also been dumped into the garden. One corner of the garden was dug up and used to plant tobacco seeds for when we were ready to transplant them to the field. In the end of the tobacco bed would be planted lettuce.
After the tobacco bed was planted the plowing would begin and then the disking and the harrowing and the ground was prepared for planting. The lettuce that was grown at the end of the tobacco bed was the first spring crop. After the winter of not having fresh vegetables, that lettuce was a special treat on a nice spring day.
The garden was planted the same way every year. We had peas, onions, lettuce, carrots, beets, cabbage, Swiss chard or turnips, beans, potatoes, corn, cucumbers, tomatoes. When the peas came off, we dug them up and planted more beans. At the end of the garden we grew horseradish, on the side there was rhubarb.
We had half-runners and cornfield beans were planted in between the corn. We always planted two rows of peas and two rows of onions. Among the corn we planted different varieties of beans; their vines grew tall and wrapped around the cornstalks and were great to pickle along with the corn. We also raised pole beans. A makeshift trellis was set up in the garden using pieces of lumber and twine string. Those pole beans just grew up the string. It was easy to pick them because you could stand up. Pinto beans and October beans or shellies were planted with sweet potatoes after the tobacco bed was harvested.
The first year we had electricity was 1951. It was determined that our electric pole would be placed in the edge of the garden. My grandmother had just planted her garden and the peas were beginning to sprout through the black dirt. I remember my grandmother being so worried that the men from the REA (Mountain Electric) would stomp on all her peas and we would not have any peas to eat. As luck would have it, those men dug the hole, placed the pole in the ground and strung the wire, all without a footprint in Grandma’s garden. She was so proud.