Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Victory Gardens

Feeling like Helpful Heloise of the Apocolypse, I'm going to talk about Victory Gardens today.

I was fortunate enough to be raised by my parents and grandparents on both sides. That meant I was exposed to many stories that most people haven't heard first-hand. The most prolific storyteller was my father's mother, who still vividly remembered The Depression and World War 2, and told me many stories about that time.

She remembered being the only child (of a family of eight kids and 2 adults) in New York state that could find work. Every evening she would wash out the only pair of panties and the only bra that she owned. Although they were often damp in the morning, hygiene was more important to her than comfort. She represented the entire family, her father was the Town Drunk, and she was their only way to stay alive. She worked as a telephone operator.

Then she met my grandfather.

The United States was just coming out of the depression, all was looking up, and suddenly WWII was declared.

Grandpa couldn't make it into the military due to a physical problem of some sort (I believe it was flat feet), so he became one of the town's marshals in charge of enforcing citizen compliance. That meant he had to make sure that everyone blacked out their windows during practice air raids, as well as making sure no one was hoarding anything during a time that the soldiers needed it more.

Almost everything was rationed. Meat, salt, sugar, vegetables, butter, pantyhose, extra metal, and other things were hard to find because they were going overseas to our troops. It was during this time that margarine was invented as a butter substitute. People learned creative ways to make baked goods with very little standard ingredients (I still have some of those recipes).

And people planted Victory Gardens.

It now looks as if we'll need to plant them once again. Experts are recommending that we begin them now. Why? Well, we're in a recession. Granted that's not a depression and we hope it won't grow into one, but there's no getting around the fact that our economy is struggling.

In addition to that, we have flooding taking place in the Midwest, which is already boosting food prices.

The time to plant is NOW.

Just as they did in WWII, we can plant our Victory Garden in a variety of places. If you live in an apartment or a condo, you will probably have no access to tillable land. You could locate your garden on the rooftop if you can't find space below (make sure your rooftop is designed to take on the load of foot traffic). Or, you could set aside a porch or possibly a well-lit room (in a pinch) to house your garden. In those cases, your answer is Container Gardening.

If you choose to use a room with carpeting, you can buy plastic sheeting at your local hardware store. Do make sure you put that down under your Container Garden, as you don't want the unexpected surprise of mildew.

Where do you find your plants?

You can certainly go to your local hardware store or nursery to buy seeds or plants. However, most of those plants are not suitable for smaller environments. To do this properly, you need something known as "compact plants".

In my opinion, the best source of compact fruit and vegetable plants/seeds is the Burpee company. Just put in the word "compact" into their search engine, and you'll find a great starter variety. Hurry, though, as stock is always limited.

Another good source can be the Park Seed Company or Ebay, although their Plants, Seeds & Bulbs section varies wildly.

If you have the luxury of owning a home, you can simply stake out a corner of your yard and begin a garden.

That's not as easy as it sounds, since you have to rip out the grass, do the planting, and then fend off any creatures that want to enjoy your garden too. If you have a rabbit or squirrel problem (as I do) and don't wish to kill them off and bring the ASPCA down on your head, I recommend that you build a hardware cloth or chicken wire cage around the garden. Yes, it's work and yes, you'll have to figure out how to install a door, but ultimately it will save you a lot of headaches.

No matter whether you plant your garden in the ground or in containers, make sure it's mulched (to help the plant retain water and discourage weeds) and keep it regularly maintained.

Choose a safe pesticide spray such as Safer's Insecticidal Soap. Remember that some pesticides aren't suitable for edible plants and if you use them, you'll end up poisoning yourself.

Choose plants that won't take up a lot of space, even if they aren't compact. Your goal is to utilize as much space as possible: If you end up with extras, there will always be friends, relatives and neighbors who will happily take them off your hands.

Begin your Victory Garden this weekend. For a small investment now, you will have a large payoff in the fall. While others are settling for canned vegetables, you will be enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables.


Ed Abbey said...

I have always had a garden of some sort just because it saves lots of money. An $1.39 packet of seeds can raise over $100.00 of produce. I eat and preserve what I want and give away or sell the rest.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

This kind of thing is all the rage in the UK, cool idea Saur.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Daniel, it's catching on here, too. I hear it more and more and even the news is beginning to speak of Victory Gardens once again. I used to garden a lot, so it may be a little easier for me than for most people but the truth is that it's very easy - period. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, you know?

I got lucky and inherited a greenhouse on the property I bought, so I'm utilizing friends to help me clean it out (it's been used for storage all these years) and I'll start setting up all the plants at that time. Florida's REALLY hot this time of year, and some plants can get scorched, so it's a good compromise.

Ed, Very smart! What do you grow?

The Lazy Iguana said...

I would recommend NOT doing the indoor garden thing. The police and DEA might raid your place.

Seriously though, indoor hydroponic is a GREAT method to grow stuff. There is no dirt, no bugs, no critters, no pesticides needed, you can optimize all conditions such as nutrient levels and light cycles, and so on. Everything is in your control. You can even control the color of the light! Try that outdoors.

The BAD thing is that the DEA will raid your place. And your electricity bill tends to increase.

But is "victory garden" the right term here? I would think that you should call them "inept stutter bum garden" or "monument to failure garden" or even "thanks for NOTHING you moron garden". Or something.

I should grow my own tomatoes. Then I would not have to worry about getting the squirts from contaminated produce. Strawberries also do well here.

but I think that for most places, planting season has come and gone. People who live in the frozen north may be out of time already.

Here in FL planting time and harvest time is not as critical.

doozie said...

lazy should grow his own beer too. This sounds like a lot of work

Uncle Joe said...

For the first time ever in recorded history (mine) almost every seed display from Lowe's to SuperWalmart was WIPED out this years.
If you didn't shop early you missed out.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Lazy, ;o) You are nothing but trouble, my friend. Hydroponics ARE a wonderful thing, although cost prohibitive unless you have a high-sell ratio.

Yeah, perhaps Victory Garden is passe. I like your suggestions but they're a little long for usage in the news (after all,they like sound bites). Let's see... you know, it's hard to find something short and snappy that covers it but a couple that come to mind are:

1. Garden of Saud
2. Oil Cartel Garden
3. Third World Garden

You're right about planting times elsewhere - all the more reason to plant a container garden, though.

Doozie, ah, a good old fashioned German biergarten!

Uncle Joe, REALLY? Wow. Here in Florida we have a really weird assortment of citizens:

1. Many people moved here because they couldn't make it anywhere else. That type of mentality doesn't do well looking after itself.

2. Many of the natives in metropolitan areas (like myself) are very urban, usually educated at least to a certain extent, and somewhat intelligent. But they're a little TOO urban and can't see beyond next month.

3. Natives in other parts of Florida vary - the ones in Central Florida are sometimes the real backwards Confederate-flag waving shoot-anything-that-moves types, but they are on two sides of the seesaw. One type is the typical white trash type, and can't fend for themselves. But the other type is the farmer type and they'll be OK.

4. The northern transplants: Usually the most educated and business savvy of the bunch. However, they're not well prepared for disaster because, frankly, none of us have seen anything like the climate of the WW2 era.

I guess that explains why seeds are still sitting around in stores.

Floridians are also calloused about disasters. Strangely, most don't prepare for hurricanes despite repeated government warnings. They live day to day for the most part, and can't conceive of a time that they wouldn't be able to walk into a supermarket and buy fresh corn.

Ed Abbey said...

Every year is a little different. This year it is tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, strawberries and cucumbers. Last year it was tomatoes, peppers, peas, onions and herbs.

I usually get enough tomatoes to can all my tomato sauce for the next year. (I'm down to one quart until our harvest later this summer.) The onions and peppers I pickle. The eggplant we grill and consume as it ripens.

My garden is ten feet by five feet in the backyard.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Ed, I wasn't going to do strawberries, as we grow them here and they're relatively cheap. But I'm thinking I will do a couple strawberry plants, too.

Why onions? They seem common enough... were they anything special like Vidalias?

OldHorsetailSnake said...

During WWII I had a Victory Garden. Boy that was a long time ago -- but I can still remember the corn on the cob.

Paul Nichols said...

My little family had a garden once. Not a victory garden, just a garden with a ka-zillion veggies. We gave away a lot and traded for stuff we didn't plant ourselves.

My First Wife still hasn't canned our first harvest, so we aren't planting the second garden till she does.

The Lazy Iguana said...

If I plant my garden on my boat, and that boat sinks, can I open a tourist attraction?

Worked in St Pete.

exMI said...

The squirrels and rabbits are just another addition to the larder. they are quite good and if you live in town where they won't let you use firearms a good pellet rifle is more than adequate to kill them.