Monday, February 11, 2008

A Return to Victory (Gardens)

There's an interesting movement afoot just in time for spring. All across the grassroots network of eat local and "green" activism is a call for a return to the victory gardens that were once a community program during world wars. Call it the extremely local version of local food.

There are several programs to be found from "Victory Gardens" to "Food not Lawns" all about using your green space for food instead of care- and water-intensive grass.

I've been planning my own garden project, End the Curse of the Black Thumb, for a bit now. It is thusly named because, well, I kill every house plant that ever comes across our threshold. Every one. The idea of me gardening beyond my hard-to-kill herbs is pretty funny.

I'll be using the square-foot gardening method, mainly in containers, and I am going to make it an educational garden for my kiddo. So far, my garden is a few packets of seed and 4 square feet each of vermiculite and peat moss, a shovel, and an eye cast upon my husband's cherished compost pile. But, the starter seeds can go into containers right now indoors.

Honestly, when I visited the deserted garden center last weekend, I figured I jumped the gun. I did. But this whole garden thing is getting me through the depths of winter. Were it not for all the family birthdays to celebrate this month, I would have to argue that February is the cruelest month — at least for locavores.

So far, our little garden will just be growing a few heirlooms that we can't seem to get enough of at the farmers market; Roma beans, purple hull peas, black crowder peas, papa del rola peas, red Russian kale, Romanesco cauliflower, orange chiffon chard, lettuce mix, blue-green pumpkins and a few other heirloom winter squash, and these little ball-shaped carrots that are a French heirloom. And lots of strawberries! I chose primarily heirlooms because I love the unusual varieties and great flavors, but also because I want to do my part to support diversity.

I know many of you are gardeners, so any advice is welcome! I am starting small with just a few varieties, and hoping for the best.

Resources for Heirloom Seeds:
Kitchen Garden Seeds
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Seeds of Change
Seed Savers Exchange

Educational Garden Resources:
School Gardens
Links on School Gardens and Health

How to Garden:
Square Foot Gardening
Cornell Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners
Frost Dates and Hardiness Zones

Victory Garden Movement:
Revive Victory Gardens


Rachel said...

Well, you know how enthusiastic I am about gardening and growing veg. Definitely start some of your stuff in seedling pots; you can get a real jump on things and start harvesting sooner.

The stuff I've been growing for the summer season are just starting to come to harvest. Last night, I picked Dragon's Tongue beans (gorgeous purple streaks on a stringless bean), lightly steamed them and served with a dash of oil and white vinegar to Jess's and my great delight. The Black Krim and Tiger Stripe tomatoes are heavy on the vine; I'm going to be distributing them around to all and sundry very soon! I've been snipping stalks from the celery for weeks now; I can't believe how flavorful celery can be; I use it almost like a herb and not a veg, it's so tasty!

I've also had a lot of fun teaching Jess about plants and gardening. I've given her a large-ish oblong planter of her own, plus several pots of flowers and various things. We grew sugar snap peas in the spring and early summer (which she loved eating), and are now growing radishes. The other day she asked me if we could grow more peas for her- which I'm only too delighted to comply with, so I've allocated another terracotta pot for her use.

Can you give the Kiddo a bit of land or a planter of her own, where she's totally responsible for what goes in, and maintaining it? Jess has enjoyed having "her" garden so much!

I'm also growing almost entirely heirloom stuff, ordered from the Diggers Club. I love it!

Crikey - better stop now before I monopolize the page! Happy Gardening!

Anonymous said...

Over the last 3 years I have tried growing vegetables in plastic pots, bushel baskets, and 4 x 8 foot raised beds. The one problem common to all of them quickly the plants dry out! This has been aggravated by our rural township instituting non-watering rules due to low reserves, especially during droughts (when the plants need water most). The raised beds work best because of the volume of moist growing medium, compared to pots. Plus, unless you have a drip-irrigation system, you'll find that the soil in the pots gets as hard as baked clay over time, even with mulch.

How many times I've left my home for work in the morning, during June-August, with a container garden well-watered, and returned home that late afternoon to a group of wilted, languishing plants crying out for a drink. Cucumbers, in particular, hate this.

My advice: Plant a traditional garden in the ground or in raised beds with lots of compost. Container gardens are nice for apartment terraces and gardeners who aren't gone all day long. "Serious" gardens fare better in the ground, where there's enough moisture to keep your plants from being dried out each day.

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