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10.23.Islands-7-detail-e Nantucket Garden Highlights Relevant to Sustainable Design:

Note that this sketchbook has supporting information in USA 9: Detail (c).

Grow something, anything.

For this vacation home that I designed in Nantucket for a high school friend’s parents, I was particularly impressed when I visited the family after the house was completed to see something that was not in the plans. The father had built a vegetable garden on the property. He simply liked the idea of having fresh produce at hand all summer.

In the 1940s, during World War II, “victory gardens” were part of the American residential landscape, more out of necessity than anything else. We were literally sending so much food overseas to support our war fighters that American families started planting their own food. In this case on Nantucket, in the mid-1990s, the affluent family certainly had the means to stock their vacation home with produce from the local stores. However, the father chose a path of enhanced self-reliance. The joy of eating fresh homegrown tomatoes on a sandwich or in a salad trumped survival requirements and became part of the simple joys of life.

Twenty years later, my daughter, at about age three, refused to eat tomatoes. So, with her help and the support from my son who was then about seven years old, we planted a victory garden at our home outside of Philadelphia. I was hoping that she would get to see the tomatoes grow, experience the satisfaction of having a hand in the cultivation, and enjoy harvesting the fruits of her labor. I also really liked the idea of one more spoke on the wheel of sustainability at our home after my wife and I deployed over one hundred eco-smart initiatives in the renovation and addition construction process.

The results exceeded my expectations. As the large-size tomatoes started to turn red, we saw that the cherry tomato plant reached harvest status more quickly. On summer evenings after work, I would come home to an excited young girl that would run to the door and ask, “Dad, are they ready to pick today?” For a week in August, I would say “Let’s take a look,” and then after inspection and her help watering the plans from our rain barrel, I would let her know that we would need to wait another day to two. The build-up created great expectations, and the anticipation was exciting for all of us. I remember the smile on Carter’s face at harvest day. She got to go first. Her tiny little hands reached out into the cherry tomato bush that was taller than she was. Her little fingers touched a few of them before she found a nice plump one. It was bright red, and she turned to me with a nervous look and said, “This one?” I gave her the go, “Yes!” and she popped it right in her mouth, faster than a blink. Sweet and crisp to the bite, it yielded a huge smile and “Yummy!” to follow.

The produce ended up exceeding our family consumption capacity, and we were able to bring tomatoes and cucumbers to many friends as house gifts that season. We still brought wine, but the added personal garden-fresh vegetables were always welcomed. I attribute the high output and great taste in part to the nutrient-rich soil that we used from our compost bin. The cherry tomato yield was so strong that our son, Calvin, set up a garden stand at the end of our driveway instead of a lemonade stand. At age seven, his first dollar ever earned came from his efforts: ten cherry tomatoes for one dollar. Sustainability and environmental stewardship can come with some family fun, great memories, and profit.

Author and illustrator: Charlie Szoradi is an architect, inventor, and the CEO of Independence LED Lighting. He writes about many other topics related to Nantucket and island life through his extensive travels around the world.

If you have found this posting online, it is an excerpt from Mr. Szoradi’s book Learn from Looking that served as the inspiring seed content for this drawing share resource. For additional drawings and insights on Nantucket and other islands, we hope that you enjoy exploring You can search via general terms such as sustainability as well as narrower terms such as Nantucket.