I'm an avid reader. One of my favorite genres is dystopian fiction. I have always been interested in how fictional societies thrive in the face of war, disaster, and even pandemic.
I never imagined I would live through an actual global pandemic. But like the rest of the world, I now grapple with finding a new way of life during the COVID 19 outbreak. Our family has been at home for nine days with plans to stay here for several weeks, at least. I have to consider the potential loss of sales for the next few months. All our clubs, classes, and events have been canceled. To say this is surreal would be an understatement.
Times are strange and trying. But if I learned one thing from reading all those books, it's that keeping hope and purpose will get you through the worst of times. For a farmer, nothing brings to mind hope more than a seed. Each winter, I start thousand of tiny seeds and hope for the plants they will grow into and the joy the flowers will bring.
We have seen in the last few weeks how disruptions in supply chains can lead to a shortage of items (hello, toilet paper!). Similar deficiencies were common during World War I and II, especially when it came to food. Beginning in World War I, the National War Garden Commission encouraged Americans to grow food to help the war effort. These war gardens, also known as victory gardens, fed the American people while large scale farms shipped food and supplies to those fighting overseas. In 1917 over three million new gardens were planted.
While we aren't at war and widespread food shortage is unlikely, I still believe there is value in planting a victory garden today. Growing your food, even just a few tomatoes and heads of lettuce, reduces your dependency on the global supply chain. It also lessens your carbon footprint by getting groceries from your yard instead of produce that has traveled hundreds or thousands of miles on fossil-fueling-guzzling transportation.
Aside from the economic and environmental considerations, watching seeds develop into lush plants is good for the soul. Gardening can provide meaningful work and purpose during a quarantine. It provides educational opportunities for the whole family. Lastly, knowing how to grow your food is a valuable skill in hard times.
Here are my top tips for beginning your victory garden.
1. Start with great seeds
This time of year, most home improvement stores, garden centers, and even Target sell seeds. If you are choosing to stay home, check out Johnny's Selected Seeds. They are one of my favorite sources for vegetable and flower seeds. They offer a wide variety, including organic seeds, and can ship right to your door.
2. Grow what you will eat
You know your family's palate best. If they hate broccoli, don't waste your time growing it. Our family has been growing vegetables for over 10 years. Our favorite things to grow are kale, cucumbers, peas, green beans, herbs, peppers, and tomatoes.
3. Use what you have
I believe anyone can garden. You don't have to have a massive plot of land. If you have a few empty flower pots around, you can grow a container gallon filled with ingredients for fresh salsa. Think about growing kales, cabbages, and berries in your landscaping. Be creative!
4. My ultimate seed starting tip
You probably have a mini greenhouse in your fridge right now, and you don't even know it. Milk jugs, salad clamshells, and even rotisserie chicken containers make excellent germination chambers to start your seeds. Check out my post on winter sowing for complete instructions on this easy way to grow amazing plants.
5. Don't forget the flowers
Did you know our flower farm started accidentally? A few years ago, we grew a few beds of flowers to bring more pollinators to our veggie garden. Flowers will bring lots of beneficial insects to your garden and give you an abundance of blooms to share when the worst of COVID 19 is past us. Consider joining the Growing Kindness Project as a gardener this year and share your bounty with your community.
The victory garden propaganda posters of the early 20th century encouraged citizens to "sow the seeds of victory." Maybe in this new time of need, we can sow the seeds of hope. Stay home, stay well, and grow hope.