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PRESIDENTIAL GARDENING Historical victory we can all enjoy

Updated on August 16, 2011

Victory Garden wisdom

"The Essential Companion"
"The Essential Companion"

Food still remains a first essential to winning the war. Victory gardens are of direct benefit in helping relieve manpower, transportation, and living costs as well as the food problem.” stated Roosevelt on April 1, 1944. He gave figures from the previous year that may surprise you as much as they did me. “The total harvest from victory gardens was tremendous. It made the difference between scarcity and abundance. The Department of Agriculture surveys show that 42 percent of the fresh vegetables consumed in 1943 came from victory gardens.

This year Michelle Obama continues to show us her worthiness as a leader by reviving the victory gardens on the white house lawn. “My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Does your own victory garden sound great but a little too labor intensive for your fast paced, busy lifestyle?

Here are a few suggestions to limit the hard work while still enjoying the benefits:

Index for less labor intensive enjoyment

Layering – “no digging, no tilling, no weeding, no kidding!"

Companion planting and miracle mulching

Edible Landscaping

(including tips for free plants, mulch material and soil free potatoes)

From grass to goodness

The first step - a plan and a joyous trip to pick the babies...
The first step - a plan and a joyous trip to pick the babies...

Layering – “no digging, no tilling, no weeding, no kidding!”-

Whether you have a small rooftop patch or acres of possibilities, Patricia Lanza’s book “Lasagna Gardening” will add chemical free ease. As she states at the very beginning,

 “Lasagna gardening is for busy people who have the urge to put their hands in the soil. It’s for people who are power-tool challenged. It’s for anyone who is not able to garden traditionally because of age or physical limitations. It’s for the new gardener. It’s for the environmentally conscious. It’s for the legions of us who are stressed and overworked. It’s the way to have it all without doing it all.”

Although pre-planning and starting the layers of mulch to “cook” over winter is recommended, it’s not essential. You can achieve the same effect by purchasing compost. The idea is to layer the essential nutrients and ingredients in a raised bed depending on what you want to grow and how much space you have to dedicate to your garden. One of the greatest advantages I found was being able to have a combination of vegetables, herbs, and flowers in one area.

Her book beautifully details a variety of choices from vegetables and herbs through self-sowing gardens you could enjoy for years to come.

A little bit of labor can yield a world of pleasure

Michelle Obama digs a new beginning
Michelle Obama digs a new beginning

Companion planting and miracle mulching

Just the thought of pulling weeds regularly makes my back ache. There are all sorts of ways to eliminate ever having to pull more than a couple weeds here and there after planting your garden.

One of them is by utilizing Louise Riotte’s companion planting. If you’d like any of the 2,000 species of the rose family from apples to the intense Vitamin C of rose hips, you can cut down on spraying by following her advice in “Roses Love Garlic”. Her formula shows which plant strategically placed will deter another’s natural enemies. Her other book, “Carrots Love Tomatoes” for example, will suggest planting Bee Balm (a gorgeous plant!) by your tomatoes to improve both the growth and flavor. Alternatively, planting Horseradish in your potatoe patch causes healthier, more disease resistant potatoes and protects them against the blister beetle. She’ll even continue by suggesting making a tea from horseradish to help your apple trees against monilia.

Dick Raymond shares more tips on companion planting in his “Joy of Gardening”. He too offers time and back savers including his "In Row Weeder" design. Rodale even included a whole book on it in their series of "Successful Organic Gardening".

Before getting too far from the subject of potatoes though, let me give you one of the easiest labor avoidance tips I discovered on the organic farm: grab some used tires (free from the tire store). Put a tire on the ground, fill it with hay, and place potatoes on top. Add a little more hay and keep it moist. As the potatoes grow, just add more hay and more tires whenever the plants pop through the top. Your potatoes will be ready after about a four tire height and half a bale. Harvesting them is as easy as tipping the tires over – no muss, no fuss and NO SOIL!

This worked so well I ended up finding dozens of uses for more free tires. One of the neighbors even joked asking where I got my “tire seeds” before grabbing a truck load himself. Using it as mulch around small saplings is a good example. The tires kept the moisture in, kept the deer away, and cut down on how much plastic mulch and staples I needed to prevent weeds. Recycled, chopped tires are available as mulch now and I believe it lasts for years.

The miracle mulch I refer to is a red plastic covering that statistically will improve your yield 40-60%. I tried all sorts of plastic because after soil preparation, all you have to do is cover the whole area with it. Then, you simply cut an opening for each plant. Instead of having to dig through weeds continuously, after watering your plants and the soil is nice and loose, pull the odd one or two found at the base of your plants - they'll come up easily, as if laying in butter. 

A further time saver and considering our water shortages, if you add a drip hose under the plastic, set a timer on the spigot, the entire garden needs less than a 15 minute watering daily depending on your crop. The 15 minute estimate is for very thirsty tomatoes.

Hopeful view

we can watch as ideas grow and bloom
we can watch as ideas grow and bloom

Drying herbs makes the whole house smell glorious!

Herbs are easy to grow with benefits through-out the winter. Maureen Ruettgers has been drawing her family and friends into her hobby for years.
Herbs are easy to grow with benefits through-out the winter. Maureen Ruettgers has been drawing her family and friends into her hobby for years.

Save yourself time, money and work - keep grass for the cows

Edible Landscaping

Although grass can offer a peaceful, non-cluttered look, if you’re tired of mowing there are easier alternatives. Landscaping courses, filled with which chemicals to use, say our polluted soil and waters are primarily causes by what we put on our lawns and golf greens, not the agricultural industry. Would you too prefer to help save our environment and keep grass for the cows?

The Victory Gardens book gives details on 14 different maintenance free ground covers. I personally love the smell of Thyme so I covered areas in between raised gardens with it. Every moment in the garden after a rain or watering, weeding or harvesting, was a delight. Marge Clark wrote a whole book on ways to utilize this one lovely herb called “The Best of Thymes”.

If you’d like thorough details, Rosalind Creasy’s “The complete book of Edible Landscaping” is amazing. From the history through planting and kitchen uses – it’s one of the best. To dispel the idea of fruit trees being large and messy, Fred Hagy’s “The Practical Garden of Eden” shows the landscaping value of each semi dwarf tree. It’s filled with ideas of which plants will enhance your yard – even on a tiny plot in suburbia. There are abundant edible landscaping suppliers in California and one in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Check with them for the new organic powder of clay as well. It puts "Seven" to shame and is edible, biodegradable and requires fewer applications (of course it's still recommended to wash off before eating).

On the other hand, if you prefer to stick with the ease of potted plants there are an array of books showing how easy and time saving those can be. Adding a mini table top water fountain can offer the same peaceful sound as a full time Koi pond. Cathy Wilkinson won the Julia Child cookbook award with her “Edible Flowers”. Whether decorative or for flavor, the 66 different edible blossoms are sure to add a touch of delight to any routine. Even dandelions can be useful.

Finally, if you would love to plant more than your pocketbook will allow, check out the American Horticultural Society's "Plant Propagation" or see Free Plants from Easy Cuttings – Snip ‘n’ stick details. Without a doubt this book has saved me thousands of dollars by simply heading to a friend's garden and asking for a few clippings or limbs for free new "babies". Every gardner I've had the pleasure of spending more than 2 minutes with, is more than happy to propagate sharing and helping each other out!

So you see, we don't need the same resources and manpower as Michelle Obama. All we need is a desire to make our lives easier and less expensive. As our tasteful first lady points out on the video, "It's so much easier to like something when it tastes good." And I'm here to attest to the fact that a garden is so much easier to like without the backbreaking labor!


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    • SEM Pro profile imageAUTHOR

      SEM Pro 

      4 years ago from North America

      I'm so glad Marie! I'm sure you'll love it as much as I do if you let it be an additional fun, peace filling, creative outlet. Herbs touch every sense - when we listen with our third eye that is :-D

    • VioletSun profile image


      4 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Just noticed I left out words in my previous comment but glad you understood what I said. lol! I am going to follow your advice and start small and not turn it into a chore. You are a wise lady, Sylvia.

    • SEM Pro profile imageAUTHOR

      SEM Pro 

      4 years ago from North America

      Delighted you liked it Marie. NY apartment raising or not, I bet you would love to watch the miraculous growth of 'babies' - and fresh, fresh, fresh herbs to cook with? OMG - it becomes a peaceful moment of total connection with nature to snip off a few sprigs of love and delectable delights before cooking. When I started gardening it was all with potted plants. Not in clay pots that take conscientious daily watering or protecting from too much water etc, but different sizes, styles, types and thus creating the same serenity as a Japanese garden - art with nature. The earth drains any shreds of anger from our soul - somehow. And so, after awhile, whenever we focus on the plants, have created our haven amongst them, enjoy watching them grow and the wafts of incredible aromas, creativity is sparked. I can see you loving every second of a serene spot to write, to visit, to play, to relax, to nurture - a mini expression of your wonderful energy growing peacefully, embracing you in the perfection of quiet gratitude...

    • VioletSun profile image


      4 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      Sylvia, I am not a gardener as I lived in apt building in NY most of my life, but you encouraged me when you say it's for all levels of gardeners. We have a small garden in the back of the house that often collects weeds and can be used for a small raised garden. Thank you for letting me of this very informative article! Don't know yet how far I will go but will read the book as soon as I am done reading the books I am currently reading. :)

      I have pinned this hub in Pintrest.


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