Growing a Modern Victory Garden
“What all gardeners know, and the rest of you may discover, is that if you have even the smallest space, a pot on a window ledge, a front step, a wee yard, there is no balm to the soul greater than planting seeds.”
– Charlotte Mendelson, The New Yorker
Lately, our days spent in quarantine have created both the time and opportunity to try our hands at something new. Whether it is baking bread, home schooling our children, or raising chickens in the backyard, there is no time like a pandemic to sharpen your survival skills. One popular trend that is on the rise is the planting of victory gardens.
Also known as war gardens, victory gardens began during World War One and gained momentum during World War Two to reduce the strain on public food supply and supplement rationing. Private yards and public parks were turned into gardens to grow produce of all kinds. Civilians were called “soldiers of the soil,” and the American people successfully grew over 40 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States between 1942 and 1945.
While the coronavirus pandemic may not be as dire as a world war, growing your own food can give you a rewarding sense of hope and self-sufficiency in these unprecedented times. Not only do you have the benefit of tasting something that is as fresh as it comes, there is a special kind of joy that comes from rolling up your sleeves and working in the soil. If you have children, there is no better way to soak up some sunshine by getting out of the house and enjoying a hands-on project together.
While we’re in the middle of harvesting spring-planted gardens, it is never too early to start planning your very own victory garden! Start with thorough research and become familiar with your planting zones. This is a crucial first step to help you determine the hardiness of what you are planting and its prime planting season. Next, choose a location that gets adequate sunshine, has well-balanced soil, and easy access to water.
If you do not have a spacious plot for planting, do not let that dissuade you! A lot can be grown with container gardening. You can grow plants such as tomatoes, peppers, micro-greens, herbs and so much more in raised garden beds, pots, or salvaged paper and plastic receptacles that you would otherwise discard. Egg cartons and pint containers used for produce like cherry tomatoes make excellent seed starters and are also the perfect growing environment for flavorful sprouts and micro-greens. Certain lettuces, colorful chard, carrots, and edible flowers can easily be grown in pots and planters and they look beautiful as well.
Two of my favorite resources for gardening are the Old Farmer’s Almanac guide and Texas horticultural legend Neil Sperry. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is available in most farm and ranch stores and nurseries, and Mr. Sperry has written numerous books dedicated to Texas gardening. However, both have websites and podcasts to help you explore everything you need to know about gardening in your area. With endless resources right at our fingertips, you can also order gardening kits online or utilize YouTube tutorials on how to build a DIY container garden yourself. Your local nurseries will also serve as a great way to glean more knowledge and familiarity with what to grow — so start planning and get planting!
Finally, it is important to remember that you might not be immediately successful. Embrace the process of trial and error. Get creative, experiment, and have fun! It takes work, but just like persevering through difficult times, maintaining a garden is all about patience, persistence, and building a tangible legacy. However, if gardening is not your forte, you can still support your local farmers. Along with small businesses, they depend on our help to continue doing what they do so well. Find a local CSA or go to farmers markets that do not allow reselling. [Editor’s note: both Cowtown and Clearfork farmers markets do not allow reselling.]
So, whether you are cultivating the ground yourself or shopping regularly at your local farmers market, in your own way you are declaring victory over these difficult times. It is times of stress and unrest that show us the things that matter: living and loving with more intentionality, choosing resourcefulness over panic, and carrying a spirit of hope and victory amidst uncertainty. Declare your own victory by celebrating the simple things – planting seeds in faith and supporting your local community.
This article was written for Madeworthy by Gretta Rebstock Hendricks.