As we adjust to this new way of life I believe it is time for a Victory garden again. The Victory garden movement began during World War I, 1918 to be exact. It called on Americans to grow food in whatever space they could. The idea is simple, it asks us to use rooftops, fire escapes, small and large containers, raised beds, flowerpots and yes, your back yard to be self-sufficient. We are living through an event with the COVID-19 virus that humanity has not seen in some time. The Victory garden can bring you peace of mind, put idle hands to work and take some fear out of what you are eating during this pandemic. During World War II the Victory gardens saw over 20 million gardens that produced 40% of all fruits and vegetables that were eaten during that time. Life Magazine even made it fashionable for women to be digging in the backyard, why Batman and Robin were seen on the cover of a comic book gardening. It was the “in” thing to plant vegetables and fruits. America got on board and now it is time once again. I have gardened for years and I welcome this spring more than ever.
For those who are first time gardeners there are many seed companies, on-line resources and Youtube videos to take the mystery and failure out of your first time gardening adventure. At a minimum, everyone can grow some herbs in flower pots or small containers that you can place on your porch, deck or roof. I have about 25 raised beds in my garden that are 4’ by 22’. Don’t think you need this much space, as this has been years in the making, but you can till up any portion of the back yard providing you have at least eight hours of good sunlight. It was only after World War II that America started having a backyard that had to be mowed.
For those of you who are hesitant to try it, I would like to share two recent stories. In a local village, I drive by a second-story apartment that utilizes the rooftop of the apartment below it and during the growing season, 20 containers can be seen on the rooftop growing everything from lettuce, pole beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions and summer squash and some beautiful flowers that can be cut for the table or just admired. If they can do it, you can too.
I have a good friend Greg who has been gardening with his children in their backyard garden to limited success. The largest problem that Greg had, as well as others, is enough space or quality space to garden in. It can mean the availability of sunlight, poor soil conditions or just not enough space to plant what you want to plant. Greg decided last year to rent a gardening plot from Capital Roots, a local community gardening site, for 2020 and what a great idea this has turned out to be. Please check out Capital Roots, as they accept donations for these plots that go towards people in need. Greg is an aspiring home chef and he welcomes the bounty and family experiences that will come from this Victory effort. They as a family will be getting outside, doing something together and in the end, will have something to show for their efforts. A Victory indeed.
As of late, we have all been transitioning from a lifestyle that was filled with work, deadlines and family commitments. A lifestyle that at times, can overpower us, consume our free time and thoughts. It is during these mandated time outs that we must become more introspective and decide what really matters in our lives.
I’ll use an old quotation, “to free ourselves, we must feed ourselves.” Gardening is work, I will not deny it. It is time spent outside, it is time spent alone or with others, it is time reconnecting with the earth and the benefits are endless. Do what is manageable for you, free your spirit and put something healthy on the table. The times they are a changing and quite frankly it was probably time for a change. Change is inevitable. I do not believe that America will be as we knew her before. Some have lost loved ones, portfolios have dwindled, jobs may have been lost and fears so deeply planted inside, that only time will heal. We will heal, we will overcome and we will be stronger. Help those who cannot help themselves, use your Victory as part of the healing.
This is the time to re-group, look at priorities and find that which makes you feel whole. There is no better feeling for me than seeing the sprouts of a young plant bursting through the soil and growing into a healthy and vigorous plant. The first cuttings of mixed lettuce are heaven. I will snip some herbs, chives and perhaps the tops of some scallions and there we have a bounty from the Victory garden. Go forth through these uncharted times and lead yourself to Victory!