Gardening:an ancient art continues
By Guest Columnist Gary R. Bachman
I speak with new gardeners who seem to think that the idea of having a home garden is a brand-new idea. In reality, it is a new idea for them, but it is not new at all for many others.
When you look at the development of human civilization, having a garden was a pretty big deal. In fact, it was one of the main reasons that humans became civilized. I don’t have the exact date, but it’s generally recognized that about 12,000 years ago, humans were hunter/gathers constantly searching for their next meal.
In this time period, Atouk, who was portrayed by Ringo Starr in the 1981 comedy documentary film, Caveman, discovered that, with the domestication of plants and animals, he and his family could live in one place.
Agriculture was “discovered,” and it would provide a consistent food source, putting an end to constant wandering. I’m sure that gardeners bragging about who grew the best tasting tomato started shortly after that.
Evidence of gardening dates back to the Egyptian pharaohs, who documented the gardens of their various kingdoms in elaborate tomb paintings.
Among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. These gardens were said to have been built on terraces and were probably the first raised garden beds, a style of gardening we still practice. The story goes that King Nebuchadnezzar had the gardens built for his wife. Many modern gardeners, myself included, grow flowers and vegetables because our spouses like them.
Let’s fast forward to gardening today. Many of my gardening friends know that I have quite the home vegetable garden. I really enjoy the taste of homegrown vegetables, and I go all the way back to starting my own seeds. I’m poring over the catalogs that are stacking up, and selecting new varieties to try in 2020. With all the selection of seeds and plants we have available today, I'd kind of feel sorry for Atouk if he were still gardening.
There is satisfaction in knowing that the home garden can produce good, nutritious food. One crop I grow for my wife is fresh heirloom tomatoes. She loves them, and she loves me for growing them for her, even though I really don’t like fresh tomatoes.
So, I’m encouraged when I talk to homeowners who are starting their first gardens or Master Gardeners expanding their landscapes and gardens. While we don’t have to rely on our gardens for survival anymore, I’m encouraged that the human species is still practicing and benefitting from this eons-old tradition that was a leading force in stabilizing our society.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi. He is also the host of the popular Southern Gardening television and radio programs.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Locate Southern Gardening products online at