April 22, 2009  
The Recession Garden.

Looking through some old magazines, I came across The National Garden Bureau's and the National Victory Garden Institute's posters gracing the front and back covers, respectively, of the July 1976 issue of Horticulture, the publication of the Massachusetts Horticulture Society. 

This bicentennial issue and its contents, historically, is like an echo that continues to periodically remind us of our national struggles with unemployment and food security. From the Pingree Potato Patches of the 1890s and on, the Liberty Gardens during World War I, the Depression gardens or the 1930s, to the Victory gardens of World War II, we come back to today knowing in our hearts one thing we can do to help. 

This is just so in keeping with the tenor of the times, that I had to write about this urgent call to garden, promote better health, and save money. It's patriotic, life affirming, community building, Vitamin D drenched, and fresh air and exercise enhanced. 


National Garden Bureau's and
the National Victory Garden Institute's posters.

Here are some of the headlines from a variety of newspapers in the past few weeks:

  • Homegrown Food Up, Seed Supplies Down. 3/22/09
  • Grand Rapids gardeners join other Americans planting vegetables. 3/29/09
  • Victory over food prices: Home gardens boom. 3/28/09
  • Growing your own produce: A cheaper and effective trend. 3/29/09
  • The Obama Vegetable Garden at Last. 3/21/09
  • 43 Million American Families to Grow Vegetables in 2009. 4/11/09

These are just a handful of the many enticements to join the home-grown/ green movement. Spearheading the effort in many cases are the nation's Cooperative Extension offices in every state across the country. Right here in our own backyard, we have Sullivan and Orange Counties' Cooperative Extensions affiliated with Cornell U., and Wayne County's with Penn. State U. Happily, garden centers are joining in with free advice and some classes, too. 

If you have an opportunity to visit The Who Farm (The White House Organic Farm Project) on the web, take a look at First Lady, Michelle Obama, and her time spent with the school age children on YouTube breaking ground for the new garden. These youngsters are definitely 4H familiar. A welcome glimpse into what matters, and what has for so long. And, on top of that, see "Eat the View: Edible landscapes for all". 

In keeping with this imperative, I thought I might, at least, begin to get the ball rolling with what you readers can do on any nice day. Sun drenched tomatoes seducing you from arms reach are some time off, but no less anticipated. 

Some of the most rapid pleasers are the herb transplants you can find now and put in as soon as you can work the soil. Keep them in the pots and move them inside if we have a "winter event". Or, simply cover them with some kind of protection. An empty gallon jug with the bottom cut out works like a miniature greenhouse. Take the top off so they don't cook. 

I know it's early, and we're longing to get out and turn the garden and begin your planting. If your plan is to grow in the earth, work the soil as deeply as you can: 8 to 12 inches is well worth the (strenuous) effort. Make sure the area you plan for your garden will receive at least six (eight is better) hours of sunshine. If compost or aged manure is available, work it into the top four to six inches. 

Form beds or rows, as suits you. I prefer three-foot square raised beds, because it gives more room to manage what's growing and provides adequate growing room for whatever is planted. You can be as ambitious or conservative as you like. Starting small may lead to expanding next year and you'll have learned from your mistakes. 

A key point is to avoid overhead watering whenever possible. Water the earth the plant grows in, trying to keep the foliage dry. It'll get wet from rain as it is. This greatly cuts down on the spread of disease and insects. 

Plants manufacture their own food, but some need a boost to perform up to your expectations. Water-soluble fertilizer works well, as does granular plant food applied as a side dressing. If you are inclined, make your own manure tea. 

Try a few perennial vegetables and herbs. Well cared for, they'll return year after year. There are lots to choose from. Plants that branch should usually be pinched back to keep them bushy. 

There are lots of fast growing vegetables including, but not limited to, lettuces, beets, peas and beans that can be planted in intervals of two weeks to a month apart. There are also lots of vegetables that enjoy cooler temperatures that can be planted early. 

Lastly, sow some seed in containers. Salad ingredients like mesclun, sugar snap peas, green onions and cukes are very easy to grow. None of this is new, except to those of you that it is. Happy planning, planting, and saving! Don't forget sharing if you are able. 


From The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on April 22, 2009

© 2009 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.