Plant a Victory Garden in Your Small Yard!
Do you have a garden at your house or apartment?
Have you been searching for a way to reduce your household food budget? Gain a better sense of community or reconnect with the earth and a more simple way of living? The victory garden may very well boost moral during this economic slump, foster a reconnection with the earth and provide a welcome ease to the pocket book. Victory gardens first sprang up in 1917 when Charles Lathrop Pack launched the war garden campain. Back then there was a large drop in food production.
Due to the war, resources were focused on military and there was a shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables. State and city parks were transformed into food producing gardens. During WWII the trend spread to the US where Eleanor Roosevelt cultivated a garden on the lawn of the White House. Families transformed their front yards, backyards and rooftops into herb, vegetable and flower gardens. Nationwide campaigns encouraged citizens to plant gardens for the war effort and to foster the spirit of self-reliance. In Chicago 14,000 plots were cultivated by kids on the lands of the Chicago park, there was even a law preventing theft from Victory gardens with fines of at least $600! Marshall Fields donated seeds and garden equipment. Interestingly 90% of the Victory gardeners had never gardened before.
Today a growing number of Americans are going back to their "roots" and planting small vegetable gardens in their yards, participating in community gardens on school grounds, apartment complexes, churchyards and even roadside plots. My son's elementary planted a half acre garden complete with chickens, pole bean tee pee and a cob earthen oven they use to make wood fired pizzas as part of school fundraisers and events. The options are limitless, just use your imagination!
There is a sense of satisfaction when you walk out to your yard and clip a bunch of fresh basil, pluck a ripe tomato from the vine and saute' a zucchini you grew from seed. Even our first lady Michelle Obama planted an organic "kitchen" garden on the lawn of the White House. Once again demonstrating that everything old is new again.
So can you plant your own victory garden? The quick answer is of course! My families plot is in an area of my front yard, it takes up less then 200sq ft. We are growing sweet potatoes, squash, red peppers, banana peppers, pole beans, tomatoes, basil, cilantro and thyme, mint and lemon balm. (our chickens will be here next week.) The first thing to do is make sure the soil is primed. My soil was mostly clay two years ago, but after two seasons of mulch a home composting bin and a few bags of Brown Cow manure the soil is a rich healthy worm filled heaven for crops. The front yard of our home was ideal because it gets over 6 hrs of full sunlight each day.
Each night when I pull into the driveway the sight of my garden makes me smile. No professional landscape company could bring me this much satisfaction. The neighbors stop by and pick a few cherry tomatoes or a sprig of basil. Families and neighbors share plant starts each season. Even the kids get in on the action and enjoy planting sunflowers, lavender and pole beans which are really easy to grow!
If the past two years have hit you hard economically consider planting a small amount of veggies in a sunny spot. Even apartment dwellers can do some container gardening. Get your hands dirty and claim your own victory! Come back and tell me how it went!
Steps to creating your own Victory Garden adapted from Blair Randall director of the project to revive victory gardens.
-Find out the condition of your soil and have it tested if you suspect lead may have seeped from your older home. Is your home located in a more sandy location or does it have a heavy clay base.
-Determine what planting zone you live in. Also consider the climate you live in. A more dry part of the country will plant different species that a hot humid location.
-Compost, this may be one of the most important steps. Compost is the "food" your plants need to grow and thrive. Healthy soil will help ensure healthy veggies. The presence of worms in your dirt are always a good sign. Purchasing a compost bin will give you year long food plus it helps cut down on your waste.
-Invite your friends and neighbors to the "victory party" last year some of my favorite tomatoes came from my neighbors plant cuttings. She really appreciated the baskets of corkscrew squash and fresh cilantro. Sharing with your neighbors helps reconnect you to your community and its fun!
-Tending to your garden is good for your health! Weeding and watering, digging and planting are what kept our great grandparents slim and trim. Not too mention all the healthy produce you will be eating!
-If you find yourself overwhelmed with a plethora of radishes, zucchini or roma tomatoes donate them to your local food bank! They will love the addition of some fresh foods and you will find yet another way to connect with your community and sense of pride in what you created.
A Victory garden is a win win situation for you, your family, your neighbors, the birds, the bees, the bugs and the environment. Being in the sunshine tending to your victory garden will raise you Vitamin D levels, ward of depression and stress. Tending to your rooftop container garden may bring you a greater sense of wellbeing and you may begin to feel a renewal in your spirit..
Browse through a gardening catalog or your local nursery and pick out whatever appeals to you. Keep it simple at first and only plant three or four different plants. Next season when your green thumb really grows you can branch out into fruit trees and blueberry bushes. But why wait? Get to planting now! Have fun and here's to Victory!
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