Monday, May 12, 2008
The New Victory Garden
Photo from Wikipedia.
It's been some time since our last post, but we've been busy really maintaining our Fresh Mouth philosophy and eating well. And since we started months ago, we can happily say that none of us has been sick once. We're sticking with all natural ingredients and minimizing all the processed and chemical additives. Recent headlines, though, have prompted us to talk about our blooming garden even more with the kids and the growing importance of growing our own food.
Feeding our families is an international concern. Deadly protests to a global food crisis are unfolding in countries from Haiti to Egypt. In the US, Costco and Sam's Club are actually rationing rice. And a recent USA Today/Gallup poll revealed that 73 percent of Americans are concerned about rising food costs. Not to mention that the average American egg price is up - according to Time, "retail price for a dozen large eggs has risen 33 cents, or 28%, in just one financial quarter, 43 cents higher than a year ago." Food concerns have come home.
It's time to rally the homefront again and resurrect the notion of Victory Gardens, those plots of fruits, vegetables and herbs planted during World Wars I and II to ease pressure on the national food supply. We need to become more personally sustainable and self-reliant. And they really do make a difference. During WW II nearly 20 million Americans planted gardens, and there were approximately 9-10 million tons of fruits and vegetables produced - an amount equal to all commercial production at the time.
Victory Seeds, an Oregon-based seed company, says on their website, "A form of insurance is the ability to provide for yourself and your family -- having the knowledge to produce and preserve your own food is an investment vehicle in its purest form." We need to take back some of the responsibility for feeding ourselves instead of relying on commercialized, industrialized agri-business which often uses practices that leave more people hungry and vulnerable than sated and secure.
Here are ten tips for starting a Victory Garden assembled by Blair Randall, the director of a San Francisco project to revive victory gardens:
1. Get to know your soil. What is the history of your soil? For soils near freeways or alongside buildings older than 1978, when lead was banned in paint, consider having your soil tested for lead before growing food crops.
2. Know your climate. This will determine what plants you should purchase or seeds you can sow.
3. Add compost, add compost, add compost! Compost will greatly improve the nutrient profile of your soil and allow your soil to accept and release water. Compost is easy to make at home with either a backyard compost bin or a worm compost bin.
4. Give up part of your lawn. If you have a yard, consider turning part of it into a vegetable garden. If space is limited, use the sunniest part.
5. Plant a fruit tree. To eat a plum today from your garden, you need to have planted that tree three or four years ago. A large number of fruit trees can be purchased on semi-dwarf root stock, keeping them to a manageable size.
6. Share with your neighbors. You will grow too many tomatoes, and they will grow too much zucchini. Invite them over for a picnic, and make a salad with your extra produce.
7. Plan in the winter for your spring plantings. Order seed catalogs, and allow the excitement for the coming spring and summer to carry you through winter.
8. Eat locally. A frequently cited 2003 study found conventional produce traveled an average of almost 1,500 miles from farm to markets in Chicago and St. Louis, consuming a great deal of fuel in the journey. You can reduce those "food miles" by growing some part of your meal at home.
9. Get out into your yard by tending a garden. The flowers you plant will attract wildlife such as birds and beneficial insects to your yard, but it will also attract you to your yard.
10. Donate extra produce to your local food bank. It is common to have too much of, say, okra. Local food pantries will appreciate your homegrown produce.
Nugget o' the Week: View photos from the Time pictorial, "A Global Food Crisis." Pictures worth thousands of words.