Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Victory Gardens make a comback

Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail
Growing your own food is one of the simplest, safest and economical things we can do for ourselves.  Working in nature provides us with fresh air and sunshine, physical exercise while social distancing, and improved mental health. One of my first instructions in learning how to meditate was “plant a carrot . . . and watch it grow”.

Photo by mali maeder from Pexels
What better way to stave off boredom than to map out a space in your yard and plant your very own first vegetable garden? 

Besides the self-satisfaction of eating food that you have grown yourself, the flavor is vastly improved compared to store bought. Some of the additional benefits of providing valuable plant life for bees, birds, 
ecosystems are as follows:

  • Specialized relationship between plants and insects that is vital to our eco system and provides us with natures music.
  • Nurseries are experiencing an increased demand and are now selling out of tomato plants and other vegetables, for first time gardeners who are new to gardening.
  • Seed companies are seeing a surge in orders
  • Start with seedlings that are in your “climate zone” from your local nursery
  • Plant what you love to eat and be generous and share.

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels
During the early 40’s, due to rationing, there were shortages of all commodities to support the war effort which encouraged patriotic Americans to grow as much food as possible. All across the country, families converted their yards, fields and vacant lots into Victory Gardens.

Early Community Leader
Photo by Akil Mazumder from Pexels

One of my favorite memories is of the story that my Father shared with my siblings and I about his Grandpa “Manuel”, who installed a water source to provided water to a corner lot in his community so that neighbors could plant a victory garden. He joyfully paid for the water with the one stipulation; that everyone had to share what they eventually harvested. During the world war era, there was a nationwide rationing of fuel, sugar, rubber products, food and supplies.  This community victory garden was successful because it brought the neighborhood together in a positive way. Great Grandpa Manuel knew that if his community volunteered together and planted vegetables, no one would ever go hungry.

Grandma Reep – The Pioneer of an Ultimate
Victory Garden
Photo by Brianna Martinez from Pexels
No one ever went hungry in Grandma Reeps neighborhood.

My husband Dennis Jones speaks with reverence of a similar cherished memory about his Grandma Reep who had an acre size Victory Garden in Ohio.  By all accounts, she was a remarkable woman who put her land to use by planting a thriving vegetable garden for her family. She planted different varieties of berries, row upon row of different types of greens, beans, peas, sweet corn by the rows and over two dozen varieties of fruits and vegetables. There were apple, cherry and pear trees, black walnut trees and grape arbors to run under. A look at any produce section of a market offers the same varieties.
Photo by Andretti Brown from Pexels

Family visits to her house were always an adventure and involved garden chores such as pulling weeds, raking, pruning, etc.  She taught the grandkids how to care for and harvest each plant correctly.  With each crop, she shared her bounty with her neighbors and family.  Her other talent was preserving as much of her harvest by canning: peaches, pickles, tomatoes, etc.  When she passed in 1965, her “Root Cellar” was bought at auction by a large orphanage who recognized the value of her abundant shelves of preserved food.

Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels
Growing our own food, even in a small way, offsets food insecurities that we’re all experiencing.  Home grown food tastes delicious because it’s fresh and is designed for flavor, not for its durability to be shipped to the supermarket.  We all might not have the space to convert our yards into victory gardens but consider a few veggie pots on your patio or balcony as a start.  Last summer we enjoyed the benefit of going into the garden to harvest dinner: lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, melons, herbs and more.

“If you’re not eating it, why are you watering it?”

My friend Cori visited us for the first time several years ago and enjoyed our landscape ideas and visualized the potential of converting more of our yard into additional vegetable gardens. At the time, we had just one vegetable garden that was thriving. “Why don’t you dedicate more yard into usable, productive space” she asked? “If your’re not eating it, why are you watering it”? Cori was right.

My Great Grandfather Manuel was a pillar in the community, and I may have been channeling his lessons of the joy and satisfaction when you plant your own food. He mentored my father who could grow anything and had a “Green Thumb”. Perhaps I was destined to follow in the family footsteps. It was then that I decided to go back to school and become a Master Gardener. Learning about climate zones, soil amendments, plant varieties, cultivation, etc., inspired me to want to plant even more. 

Photo by from Pexels
We cleared out two additional sections of our embankment and thoroughly amended the soil to create vegetable gardens, which now total three.  Each year we look forward to mapping out what we’re going to sew for this year’s crop to share with our neighbors. 

“Who can say no to a basket of fresh picked lettuce and tomatoes?”
Friends of the Pacific Electric Trail

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