Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tips from a Victory Garden

I've been reading my copy of Victory Garden Manual by James H. Burdett, published in 1943. It's a small, plain hardcover book filled with practical garden information. We can learn much from Victory Gardens because the times forced everyone to be as thrifty and practical as possible. It wasn't a matter of being "green" or taking up gardening as a hobby. For some families, it was a matter of survival. When we look at a home garden in this way it helps us to think of it in terms of providing food, and not something that requires the newest garden gadgets or the fanciest seeds.

The first tips revolve around picking a location for your garden. Here is a summary:

1. Convenience to the kitchen door
2. Will work well with the ornamentals you already have in place
3. 6 hours of full sun
4. Well drained and level
5. Free of tree roots and shrubs

I love the author's attitude on perfection in the garden:

If we were all perfectionists, there would be few gardens. I have made fine vegetable gardens for many years in soil which the experts assured me was not suited to vegetables. If your property does not provide a plot which seems right in all respects, so not give up the idea of the garden. Pick out the most suitable space and take steps to correct its deficiencies.

This goes along with my rant about perfect gardeners on television and in magazines wearing white shorts or pants, a pretty blouse, and lovely shoes when they garden. Proper gardening requires elbow grease and clothing that already has stains...something you won't worry about getting dirty while you are working.

The garden space should also be rather open, surrounded by a small to medium fence if you wish, but the air should be able to circulate around the garden. The book shows a garden that is 75 by 150 foot for a family of five. It's divided into four sections with paths between each, and the rows are neat and straight. However, the author reduced his own garden for a family of four to 24 by 50 foot using a picket fence on three sides to support tomatoes and beans. He also mentions having a surplus for family and friends, so this size garden was plenty for his family, yet smaller in space. Cucumbers can also be trained up a fence or trellis to save space.

My advice is to plan carefully, being honest with yourself about how much work you and your family will be able to put into the garden. The large garden mentioned for a family of five will need the entire family to put in daily garden work to really keep it maintained properly. It also was set up to grow 25 types of vegetables. It is most likely that your family may not need all 25 as listed:

brussels sprouts
string beans
lima beans

Look over this list and cross out what your family wouldn't make use of, then study the vegetables that are left and determine which ones would be eaten in a greater variety. My family, for instance, would eat many more cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers then they would beans or peas. Once you figure this out, you can plan your garden specifically for your family.

I'll share more from the Victory Garden next week.

On OFL learn how to grow and use Lovage in your cooking:


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