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Archives 2 060 - R-A1251Garden in the Prince Albert area of Saskatchewan, [192-?]Saskatchewan Archives #R-A1251 R78-431

The pioneer prairie woman’s garden served as an essential supply of year-round food for the family, and was often also a source of farm income. Their gardens required careful planning to ensure that the vegetables stored in root cellars and the berries and vegetables that the women canned, pickled and dried could last through the long harsh prairie winters. Gathering and storing seed for next year’s garden was another important task.

Seeding, hoeing and harvesting took up a great deal of time. There were no sprinklers to water the vast garden – it had to be hauled and the garden watered by hand.

Prairie women also fed their souls through their flower gardens, which not only reminded them of the home they had left far away, but added a homier and more genteel touch to their utilitarian prairie shacks.

Archival photographs of gardens show the size of some of the gardens, and reveal not only the hard work that was required, but also a pride in what these women had created through that hard work.

PC012645 Sasakatchewan [19-] - Peel's postcardsThis photograph is titled only Women, Saskatchewan, [191-?] It is from the Prairie Postcards series #PC012645, Peel’s Prairie Provinces website, Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta.

Archives 2 058 - R-A6154Mrs. T. Howard in her garden, St. Luke district, Saskatchewan, early 1900s, Saskatchewan Archives #R-A6154, Acc. 654

I have come across some very detailed garden diaries in archives, replete with all of the satisfactions and disappointments of gardening. The difference between their gardens and ours was that their family’s survival depended on their gardens.

I based this watercolour painting on excerpts from the diary of Jane Frances (Warne) Sutton, Saskatchewan Archives #R-2007-209 F-398

Jane came to Outlook, SK (south of Saskatoon) in 1903 from London, England.

Jane Frances (Warne) Sutton's Garden

April 25, 1908: Jess and I put in 1 pt of shallots and 1 pt of onion sets; it was too cold to stay.
May 12, 1908: Peas nicely up, turnips just through, onions left in over the winter growing good ones.
June 20, 1908: 54 turkeys all told out at present, put chicken eggs under turkeys to hatch.
July 14, 1908: A cool morning. I went to the garden and hoed 5 rows of onions, 3 beets and some carrots til tired out. It began to rain gently and gradually increased til it poured lovely for several hours. I set out 200 cabbage plants, just right for them.
July 23, 1908: Turkeys devoured all our onions.

Posted by Marlena Wyman