- Author: Esther E Blanco
So, what’s a Handkerchief Garden? It’s my friend Martha’s British description of small cottage garden (backyard). I wanted to learn more, so I did what every self-respecting Master Gardener would do - I Googled it. I found out that a “pocket-handkerchief garden” as defined in the Cambridge Dictionaries Online is “a garden or field that is very small and usually square”. Several sites offered descriptions of patchwork of plantings, usually containing flowers, fruit trees or vegetables.
Then I found a fascinating book written by Charles Barnard titled, My Handkerchief Garden. It had been published in England between 1838 – 1892. Barnard recorded his personal experience and advice on planting a 25 x 60 foot vegetable garden in England 138 years ago. He carefully documents his expenses, the plant varieties he selected, seeds he used, the cuttings saved, the supplies he needed. He estimated a dollar value of his harvested, and what produce he gave away, and the time he spends toiling in yard (minutes daily) vs. working (wages per hour). It’s fascinating to read the costs for plants and stocks and to read about the bounty of a home vegetable garden in 1838. Barnard speculated that an average family could save enough money to help pay all their household bills. I don’t know if he was being overly optimistic or if families didn’t have many bills back then. If you’d like to see his book in its entirety, it available to read online or you can download a PDF http://www.archive.org/stream/myhandkerchiefga00barn#page/n5/mode/2up