Monday, March 31, 2008

#197 - To the Victor Go The Spoils

Planting a Victory Garden

Back during the major World Wars, citizens were strongly encouraged to plant "Victory Gardens" - small vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted on private lands. These gardens not only reduced demand on the public food supply system, but also gave individuals a sense of empowerment. The gardens were were so popular that in 1944, over 20 million Americans were sowing their own seeds and reaping 40% of all the produce for the nation. Not a trivial amount!

I learned all about Victory Gardens through the Riot for Austerity, of which I am a member. One of the group's founding members, Sharon Astyk, has a great blog where she provides oodles and oodles of information on sustainable living, victory gardens, food storage, you name it. If it involves self-sufficiency, Sharon is on it!

Anyhow, although I am now a full-fledged (or at least fully-paid) member of my local CSA, Sharon's writings convinced me that it is still important to grow at least some of my own food. If, for no other reason, than to teach my kids how it's done.

Now, understand that I'm not a newbie at gardening. But I am a newbie to gardening on a patio or in flower beds. You see, all the while growing up we had our own gardens. They ranged in size from 1/4 acre to a couple of acres - depending on how many hours my Dad was putting in at the mill that particular planting season.

We girls were generally enlisted to help with the really fun stuff - like picking rocks out of the soil or hoeing up rows for planting. It was fun when we were little, but as we grew older that enthusiasm waned a bit. As teenagers, we would start out all gung-ho, then wimp out after an hour or so and go hide somewhere - usually with friends.

Whether it was good soil, the constant oversight and care from my Dad, or just divine intervention, most everything would grow and we would always end up with a great bounty of our own 100% organic 100-foot-mile-diet food. It was delicious plus five. Nothing beats standing in the warm, dark soil eating snowpeas right off the plant. And no grocery store tomato smells the same as one picked right off the vine in your own backyard. Of course, there's also nothing quite like a late September rotten-tomato fight with your sisters, but that's another story.

So a couple of weeks ago, I went and bought my (overpriced) organic seeds and peat pots and the kids and I planted beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers, radishes, chives, oregano, sage, zucchini, and some other goodies. They have since blossomed into seedlings and will soon be replanted in various containers and raised flower beds. How very suburban!

The kids have THOROUGHLY enjoyed this process. They run into our bedroom each morning to check their plants' progress. Ethan can actually identify several of the plants ("look at the radishes mommy! They is SOOOOOOO big!") and even though he insists he is never going to eat any of the produce, this is still the closest he's ever been to touching an actual carrot.


I hope to supplement my CSA bounty this summer with whatever I don't accidentally kill off. This will reduce the pollution associated with transporting produce from miles away. This will also ensure that the food produced is 100% organic, with no pesticides or poly-fertilizers.

Difficulty Level:

I am having so much f'ing fun with this I can't even tell you! The only thing that would make it better is if my Dad could come down for a visit to oversee my work! :-) HINT HINT Well, that and not having to pay for dirt. Who ever heard of that?!?!


gregra&gar said...

I find it essential that children become aware of the pace of nature through gardening their own food. It is a patience nothing in our expedient civilization can ever teach.
I have a picture of me riding on my Dad's shoulders while he plowed up the victory garden for new planting. It was my only exposure to farming until I began my own project three years ago.

gregra&gar said...
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organicneedle said...

I'm so jealous. I am still waiting for board approval to dig up the little patch. You would think I was proposing a dog-fighting ring for children for all the hoopla. Hey...maybe if I suggest that they will be so horrified that my garden/composting idea will seem so tame they will pass it through just to shut me up. Better yet...a kid-fighting ring with dogs as managers. I have simply been going about this all wrong. Strategery!

Alec said...

Hi there Burbanmom, I've been following your blog for a couple months now but have never commented. I love all your eco friendly ideas. If only I could get my wife to embrace them all... a work in progress. I plan on planting more of our own food this spring and summer to supplement our CSA. We don't have any yard space but that's what containers are for!

Isn't it sad today that our government promotes going out and buying useless crap as patriotic (to continue our consumer driven economy) while 65 years ago the government 'got it' and promoted Victory Gardens as patriotic.

Wendy said...

So, where's the picture of your green? For a blog with the word "green" in the title, that color is pretty scarce :).

Good for you! Until I moved here to my suburban home, I never had a garden, and it's only been recently that I've considered that I might actually be able to grow, on my quarter acre, a significant portion of the food my family needs to subsist. I'm anxious for the snow to melt so that we can get started :).

leslie said...

Howdy Burbanmom,
Glad to have you back!
This topic begs that you mention the use of hybrid seeds vs. 'heirloom' seeds.
It used to be that 'saving seed' from a desireable variety of plants, i.e. tomato, was easy to do. Just save the seed.
Hybrid seeds will not reproduce, requiring that you have to buy 'new' seed again every year from the holder of the hybrid seed patent.
Sustainability is sustainable if you can save seed. If you have to buy new seed every year from, say, Monsanto...well...

There are not enough sno peas in the world, are there?

Green Bean said...

How fun! I love that you are planting them in your flower gardens. Now are you inter-mixing them with other flowers or solo?

This is something almost anyone with a yard can do. It's super fun for the kids and, frankly, for the adults too. :)

MamaBird said...

Well, burbanmom, the only thing less agriculturally sound than your suburban version would be our urban version of gardening -- in our 1/2 community garden plot and on our teeny patio -- we are foregoing growing our own seedlings this year altogether (15 month orangutuan arms get everywhere at the moment) and are (most expensive option possible drum roll plz) *buying* organic seedlings where we can find them. Yikes! But still fun. Love to hear any gardening tips you have for little ones....

LMH said...

Love the victory garden! I am a planting a small garden this year with limited space so I have decided on Square Foot Gardening. It is basically raised bed planting a different crop every square foot. Sounds promising.

N. & J. said...

Good luck with your plants. My fiance and I started a container victory garden this year. So far we have beans and lettuce sprouting. We purchased a mix of hybrids that do very well in containers and heirloom seeds which should still do well. Eventually when we have a house we would like to purchase heirloom apple trees.