Grow your own vegetables! Many Americans depended on their Victory Gardens during WWI and II in order to reduce dependence on the public food supply, both at home and on public land. They were growing whatever they could, wherever they could; in schoolyards, in flower boxes, on fire escapes, on the roof, on the White House lawn. Canning, fermenting, and pickling were a common practice. After the war ended, this self-sufficiency became less and less common. The idea of growing one’s own food supply is slowly coming back into style as we realize how much healthier it is for us and for the planet. There’s nothing like a pandemic to make you question the availability of what you and your family need. We lost access to toilet paper and countless other products in the past year, so why wouldn’t we strengthen our own access to food? We believe that any empty outdoor space can be used in a practical and intentional way. Though it is thrilling to grow things that look lovely, it is even more rewarding to be able to eat what grows outside your window. If you haven’t heard of foodscaping, it is the practice of integrating edible plants into your garden. You can grow your favorite flowers and shrubs alongside fruits, veggies and grains.
Along with the magic of growing one’s own food, nature lovers savor that feeling of digging their hands into the soil; breathing in the scent of earth and feeling infused with pure goodness. Any opportunity for a connection between humans (especially children) and the alchemy of nature is a kind of magic that can’t be beat. Observing pollination, finding butterfly eggs, watching a monarch emerge from its chrysalis, or witnessing the first seed sprouting in front of our eyes inspires a new vision of Mother Earth and how all living beings dance in a harmonious ecosystem. Participating in gardening’s great cycle of life and death is such a treasure, and adding in the desire to grow our own food brings a sense of purpose; a new meaning.
Begin your victory garden in late winter or early spring. Your house is the perfect climate for tiny seedlings to get their start. Refer to our blog on seed starting. Once the spring has sprung, you can then transfer them to your front yard, a community garden, a vacant lot, or all three. If you’re planning on skipping the indoor seed starting and planting outside, determine which growing zone you are in (just type in your zip code and it’ll show you your zone). Once you decide which seeds you want to plant, they’ll tell you on the back which growing zones it will flourish in! They’ll also tell you when to plant, how deep to bury the seed, how much sunlight it needs, and several other helpful hints. Make sure to note days to harvest to help you determine whether to sow inside, outside or even purchase seedlings at a local nursery.
If you live in Michigan area, Michigan Municipal League offers resources on finding seeds during a pandemic, guidance on when to plant (they reference Dave’s Garden, where you can type in your zip code and learn approximately how many days of frost-free gardening you can expect), and a link to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which shares more insight on starting seeds indoors.
Once you have learned about your particular growing zone and what kinds of plants flourish where you are, ask yourself what you enjoy eating. This will make gardening way more appealing, if you’re the type to be motivated by food! You can also ask yourself which types of edibles will fill you up. Potatoes are easy to grow from kitchen scraps, and are high in nutrients. Don’t forget grains in your foodscaping journey! We planted barley last summer, tucked among our perennials and annuals. Brie Arthur inspired this venture; check out her book Gardening with Grains. Here is her how-to on growing grains in containers. “Grow everything you love in the same space,” says Arthur. Challenge the idea that vegetables must be grown in a raised bed, and sprinkle them alongside your perennials.
Learn how to grow veggies from food scraps that you already have! Garden Tech offers clear guidance on giving scraps a second life. Various parts of produce, including spring onion roots, sweet pepper seeds, lettuce heads, etc. that are ordinarily thrown out have so much potential for growth. It saves money, it’s fun, and it cuts down on food waste.
What about pests eating our food? Plan to grow edibles with things that naturally deter munching creatures. For example, aromatic herbs are not liked by deer and rabbits, so grow them by your vulnerable leafy greens. Surround the garden bed like a fence with garlic or chives; anchor them in corners or high traffic areas to help repel pests. Low growing oregano can sometimes be enough to keep deer out.
Take the opportunity to connect with neighbors through their gardening journey. Hang over the fence and compare gardening tips. Take a page from our book; plant sugar snap peas on your fence. The ones that grow on your side are for you, while the other side is for your neighbors on the other side of the fence! Share the bounty! Grow healthy veggies while you grow healthy relationships.
Brie Arthur’s words echo in our minds: “Every landscape in the world offers an opportunity to cultivate beauty and bounty.”
Until next thyme,
My Thyme Gardens
“Victory Gardens” featured image photo credit: Peoria Magazine