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Homegrown Heritage

Adding outdoor elements reminiscent of your homeland can reconnect you to your ethnic roots

En español | Like her Spanish ancestors, Loretta Fresquez, 61, and her husband tend a farm in northern New Mexico. Not only does gardening connect her to her ancestors, who arrived from Mexico in the 1600s, it also revives childhood memories. In her father’s orchard, Fresquez says, “When the cherries started just taking on a little bit of tint of red, we’d be yanking them off the tree.”

See also: 10 Tips for Photographing Your Garden.

lush garden

Adding outdoor elements reminiscent of your homeland can reconnect you to your ethnic roots. — Photo by: Tim Street-Porter/Getty Images

Less sweet are her husband’s early memories of gardening. “When I was growing up, it was just a survival thing,” says David Fresquez, 66, who remembers having to sell wild asparagus and other plants as his father struggled to put five children through Catholic school. Only when he neared retirement, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, did his thoughts wander to his own garden. “I like to just grow things,” he says. “I like nature by itself, just being out there and enjoying the fresh air. It makes me just feel real happy inside.”

Whether yours is a farm of many acres or a small concrete square, you can turn it into a haven that makes you happy. And digging up your emotional connection to the land can lead you down the perfect garden path.

The Lay of the Land

Get to know your landscape by sketching it out, suggests Andres Mejides, who teaches organic gardening at Miami Dade College in South Florida. “I have students bring me a drawing of their property and show me where different structures are, like the house itself, walls, and existing trees, so that we can mix tropical fruit trees with vegetables they’re interested in, consider where the sun’s going to be [strongest], and things like that.”

Then list the elements you have available. Is the yard made mostly of brick or other patio material but has at least two borders that could become sheltering walls? If so, the inviting charm of a hacienda-style courtyard with potted plants, rustic wooden tables, and iron candelabra might be a better fit.

With a sketch in hand and knowledge of how the sun crosses your land, you can note areas that remain in the shadows and sheltered from wind and rain, and places where plants might be exposed to extreme temperatures. Once you have the lay of the land, you can dig deeper and consider soil type and moisture retention, perhaps seeking input from a local gardening center.

Next: Spice up your garden.>>

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