I’ve always been into gardening. Ever since I was a child, and my mother planted her petunias and geraniums every summer and taught me how to dig the hole, pop the plant out of the flat, loosen the roots and “tuck it in” to the soil I was hooked. The older I got, the more I got into it. I now have beautiful roses (Queen Elizabeth & Intrigue, little white tea roses as well as a 57-year old rose bush my grandfather planted) and plant tons of annuals every year, as well as growing herbs (rosemary, parsley, basil and cilantro, usually). There is nothing like having your own fresh basil or cilantro for cooking. But this year I decided to expand past just flowers and herbs and I began a bunch of little container gardens. Growing your own herbs and vegetables is not only better for you (no pesticide!) but also a “green” way to enjoy fresh food. I was also inspired by a time in history when everyone had a Victory Garden.
Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany during World War I and World War II to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort. In addition to indirectly aiding the war effort these gardens were also considered a civil “morale booster” — in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown. This made victory gardens become a part of daily life on the home front.
Victory gardens were planted in backyards and on apartment-building rooftops, with the occasional vacant lot “commandeered for the war effort!” and put to use as a cornfield or a squash patch. During World War II, sections of lawn were publicly plowed for plots in Hyde Park, London to publicize the movement. In New York City, the lawns around vacant “Riverside” were devoted to victory gardens, as were portions of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
In 1946, with the war over, many residents did not plant victory gardens in expectation of greater produce availability. However, shortages remained in the United Kingdom.
We’re also in a time of war right now. And while we don’t have any “rations” going on, I think everyone who has a yard, or has a deck, or even a little terrace, should grow some things they use frequently. Everyone uses tomatoes and herbs, and I’m a big pepper person. I’m looking forward to fresh pico de gallo and making more sauce with my tomatoes, and who doesn’t love peppers in fajitas? Not to mention homemade eggplant parmigiana made with my own eggplant. So far I’ve got a Cubanelle Pepper, another variety of sweet pepper, Celebrity tomato, Big Boy tomato, Black Beauty eggplant, zucchini Elite squash and Marketmore cucumber. I planted each in it’s own large pot, some with decorative flowers or Dusty Miller to make it look prettier (veggies on their own, before they begin to “fruit” look much like weeds). I’ve also got fresh mint (awesome in summer Mojitos or on top of sorbet), variegated oregano, sweet basil and parsley this year, all of which are thriving. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any cilantro or rosemary. I have tons of room in my yard for a full-size, full-on vegetable garden, but we have a lot of bunnies around here, so I figured container gardens would be better to avoid them munching on my veggies. I wasn’t even sure if I’d have any luck growing anything, so I wanted to keep it small and not tear up half my lawn and end up wasting the space on wilted lettuce & rotten tomatoes. So far I seem to be having luck, so next year I might expand to carrots, etc.
Exhibit A: Bunny.
It may seem “rural” from the pictures, but I live in a suburban commuter town about 20-25 minutes by car from Manhattan and 10 minutes from Belmont Racetrack. As far as the bunnies go, when I was a kid there weren’t any around here at all. Seeing one was a rarity. I’m thinking a pet store let some go or someone let theirs loose a few years ago and the population just skyrocketed into craziness (you know what they say about rabbits…). They’re super cute though, aren’t they? I love them.
I normally wouldn’t share any of this, but since it involves food, I thought why not. Maybe it’ll inspire others out there to grow some veggies! Bring new meaning to the term “organic” and take matters into your own hands… and soil. A really good resource if you don’t have a lot of space (or live in an urban area) is the book The Urban Pantry by Amy Pennington. If you live in a more rural area, in the country, and have tons of space (or maybe want to get a bit more serious about sustainable food & sustainable living), a good book to get is MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook: For the Farmgirl in all of Us by MaryJane Butters.
My basil and parsley are out of control! They’re huge! Anyone need some fresh basil and parsley?
Fresh mint and oregano are looking good, aren’t they?
My Cubanelle pepper plant has started to blossom, which means peppers are on their way. My other sweet pepper already has a pretty large pepper growing.
This is the same pepper three days before the following picture…
Which is three days before the next picture…
Can you believe that!? In just three (really hot and humid) days!
And here’s the pepper on my other plant… again, each picture is three days difference.
My zucchini squash is also coming along. Blossom = future veggie. Plus there are about 5 more blossoms just starting.
Once again, the difference between each of those pictures is just three days…
There’s no sign of life on the tomatoes yet, just teeny little “buds” starting to peek out. Same with the eggplant. I’m hoping for luck with those more than anything though. My cucumber has no buds or blossoms yet but it’s early. I’m hoping for a few tomatoes by the end of summer. It really is pretty awesome to see these things grow. I think nowadays we take it for granted- we walk into a supermarket, pick out some vegetables and pay for them without thinking about the effort it takes to grow them or even where they came from. It puts a whole new spin on eating when you grow your own materials, even if it’s just herbs. And if you have kids, I’m sure they’d get a lot out of it.
As things grow more, I’ll share pictures of them. Who knows, I might inspire some of you to start your own “Victory Garden.”