In mainstream American society, the image of the horse and buggy has long been the most common depiction of the Amish people.
The Amish communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania can in no way, however, be defined or represented by a single image. Over the many years I’ve spent working closely with the Amish, I’ve learned that their unique culture and way of life offer much for the rest of us to soak in and benefit from.
One of the most noteworthy facets of Amish life is their undeniable expertise in the realm of gardening.
Farming has always been a top trade for them, as a good number of Amish families make their living through growing row crops and hay. And whether they’re primary trade is farming, woodworking or something else, many Amish families enjoy growing their own fruits and vegetables for household consumption.
Gardening is a practice that holds great significance for the Amish, and they’ve been mastering it for literally hundreds of years. They grow a diverse array of fruits and vegetables, including such favorites as carrots, beets, lettuce, onions, and tomatoes, as well as a variety of herbs and spices.
The women and young children perform much of the work involving the garden during growing season, while the men and older boys spend much of their time out in the fields, or working in whatever trade their families are involved with. The men do take part in the Spring planting of fruit and vegetable gardens however, and they also lend a hand when the time for Fall harvest rolls around.
After the harvest, many Amish families will take on the task of canning their fruits and vegetables. This is no small chore, and it’s usually accomplished by the women and children, for the most part. Families and neighbors will often hold gatherings in a barn, where they’ll help each other can the freshly harvested produce. These get-togethers demonstrate the strong bond shared by Amish families and communities.
Rich harvests and large pieces of produce are quite common in gardens throughout Amish country, although the methods used to grow these plants are somewhat different from those of the rest of the country.
To begin with, the Amish don’t use much, if any, pesticides or herbicides on their plants. Instead, they employ a much more natural approach in their efforts to fend off insects and weeds.
For instance, flowers, such as marigolds, are often planted right next to vegetable and legume plants as a means of fighting off certain pests.
The Amish also treat their soil with all-natural fertilizers such as animal manure and compost mixtures. Given the abundance of horses and other animals on Amish farms, there’s rarely a shortage of such soil-enriching treatments, and the Amish are amazingly proficient in their usage of these fertilizers.
In addition to making sure their plants yield high-quality produce, the Amish also take great pride in the aesthetic appeal of their gardens. Even the smallest of gardens in Amish country is given great attention to detail. The rows are perfectly spaced, weeded and tended, and each garden has a wholesome, attractive appearance.
While the Amish utilize a number of practices and techniques that enhance the quality of their gardens, they also have a deep-rooted connection with their vegetation. This special relationship is based largely on Biblical scripture, as the Amish strongly believe that one of their primary responsibilities on Earth is to serve God as stewards of the land.
Tilling the soil, sowing the seeds, growing the plants and reaping the harvest are all representative of the Amish community’s commitment to bettering the land they inhabit. This principal responsibility has been passed down among them for the nearly 300 years they’ve lived in America, and each generation of Amish youth learns to approach gardening with the same love, enthusiasm and sense of duty as the ones who came before them.