When I began my initial foray into the world ofvegetables, I was a weekend gardener with limited time and no garden education. My only knowledge of vegetable gardening was definitely of the big-square-plot-of-dirt, row-each-of-tomatoes-beans-lettuces-etc. school of kitchen gardening. That was how I thought all vegetable gardens looked. Big. Plain. Rectangular. Aggressively functional with a nodding proximity to Tobacco Road.
Since then, I've learned that this strictly utilitarian model was a 19th-century invention. It developed as people moved away from rural life and home gardens to the cities, as production became centralized on industrial-size farms, and as machines that worked best when moving straight ahead replaced human labor. Then the whole thing got retranslated back to the backyard. The older, far more pleasing, approach, which reigned in backyards across the globe as long ago as the pleasure gardens of Babylon and right up through the 18th century, was based on smaller, more intimate plots, often divided into garden "rooms," incorporating a scheme of multiple raised beds planted with a diverse mixture of herbs, vegetables, fruit trees, and flowers.