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Pioneer Gardens

Pioneer Gardens

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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Imagine, if you can, the gardening possibilities that faced those that entered this valley 149 years ago. The prospects must have seemed pretty grime. None of these pioneers were desert natives. These people were native to the beautiful maritime climates of the British Isles and Northern Europe or the forested areas of the eastern United States. The treeless valley before them may have caused less faithful individuals to think that this was not the place.

I would be very reluctant to start planting my garden today, knowing that I needed to feed my family through the entire winter and until harvest the following year. These hardy individuals had never had to irrigate their crops and had never had to grow anything in the harsh climate of the Great Basin.

Nevertheless, they were undaunted. When they had finished planting on August fifth more than 100 acres of corn, potatoes, beans, and all manner of seeds were in the soil. In addition much of the seed was set aside for planting the following spring. All planting was done in common fields. Brigham Young knew that if the Saints spent time fencing and building individual lots they could not survive the winter. The late planting yielded little produce.

Most survived by eating indigenous plants that Native Americans showed them how to harvest. The first cultivated fruits were transplanted from nearby mountains. Currant, elderberry, serviceberry, chokecherry, wild raspberry, thimble berry and wild strawberry were all grown. They were supplemented with hundreds of introduced species.

The General Epistle of the Latter-day Saints called the Saints to come to Zion and to Abring all kinds of choice seeds, of grain, vegetables, fruits, shrubbery, trees, and vines, everything that will please the eye, gladden the heart, or cheer the soul of man, that grows on the face of the whole earth.@ The immigrants took their mission seriously and brought all kinds of plants to Amake the deserts blossom as a rose.@

In 1848 distribution of the lots began. The fee was $1.50 for surveying and recording the plot of ground. They divided the city into eight one and one-quarter acre lots. These became the major production areas for horticultural crops. Whatever their occupation, everyone was expected to work the soil and produce food for their family. All family members helped and gardening soon became a very popular pastime.

Food production was a vital consideration. Tree fruits, small fruits and vegetable gardens took most of the room. Ornamental gardens were mainly in the front of the home. The desire to make the desert blossom evolved into a style Adescribed as hodgepodge that evolved out of sheer gluttony.@ So many plants were included that the trees, shrubs and vines would almost obscure the house during the summer.

We owe much to these early pioneers. Because they were looking at building their homes they brought plants from throughout the world to beautify their surroundings and produce their food. They developed a diversity of crops that most areas of the west never achieved until much later. During this holiday season remember these hardy individuals and the plants the brought here for you to grow in your garden.

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