I am sure the term is at least familiar to you especially recently with all the uncertainty in the food industry today. Perhaps since Covid-19 broke out into a pandemic, you have noticed a difference in the grocery store too. Fast food joints ran out of lettuce and tomato if you were ordering a burger. Shelves were empty where bread and eggs once sat. Milk was becoming scarce, as well as formula for babies. Toilet paper and wipes were disappearing, canned goods and dry goods of any kind were completely gone, and then you had to adhere to limits on how many you could purchase once they were back in stock. This sparked a wave of panic and people started to try to figure out how to feed their family including myself! I thought to check history on the pandemics and hardships of the past and how people overcame them.
Victory Gardens started in America during the World Wars. Neighborhoods and towns had victory gardens growing, and everyone pitched in to help create sustainability in uncertain times. The food grown helped many Americans avoid going hungry, and took pressure off of food suppliers who also provided for the military. Neighbors shared their bounty or traded their grown goods for other things they hadn’t grown but wanted. Everyone helped each other and looked out for one another.
Times were hard back then and with what is going on today, history is repeating itself. People are jobless after stores and restaurants have closed down due to the pandemic. Folks have been furloughed. Hours have been cut and lives are on the line for those deemed an essential worker. Children have to stay home when ordinarily they would be at school or playing with their friends on summer break. Virtual learning became the new normal, and so far it looks to be the best option for this upcoming school year for safety’s sake. We are continuing home school and I don’t see us throwing in the towel any time soon. (separate post about that later)
Perhaps you have asked yourself how you may be able to help yourself become a little more certain of where your food is coming from. Many have and it is so good to see people getting the itch to grow their own produce. For me, gardening has been so rewarding and sometimes vexing, haha. I am a novice myself, only having really gotten into it in the last few years. It helps me with my anxiety and depression, and it gives me a good hobby that I so enjoy. You can grow food in almost any space in any place. When considering growing your own food, first look at your space. Do you live in a home or apartment? Do you rent or own? How much sunlight does your property get? Once you figure out what you have to work with, then consider the following:
-Containers, raised beds, in-ground planting or even Hydroponics are great ways to grow food. What will be your style?
-What produce you enjoy eating regularly.
-What supplies will you need and where will you get them?
Once you figure out your methods, dive DEEP into research. Find a notebook and learn about your specific growing zone, as your specific climate and seasons will impact what you can grow and when. Burpee seeds has an awesome tool you can use to find your growing zone, and see what to plant and when! (https://www.burpee.com/findgrowzone) Look at seed or plant suppliers. You can get plants from local nurseries or big box stores. Many online companies like Burpee, Park Seed, and more offer plant starts for sale. Seeds can be purchased at the dollar stores, big box stores, or even online. We use Baker Creek heirloom seeds, MIgardener, Johnny Seed and Hoss Tools for our seed supplies. I try to get heirloom as much as possible, or at least an open pollinated seed that is free of chemicals or treatments. You can save the seeds from your harvest to plant for the next time you grow that specific plant. Personally, I find it enjoyable to start from seed and watch them grow. It is nerdy exciting for me and I have such satisfaction harvesting fruit from my hard work.
Once you find your source, you can look for the varieties of foods your family enjoys now. If you are completely novice to gardening, I suggest starting off with a handful of favorites and one of every variety such as a cherry tomato, green bell pepper, basil plant, green beans, and lettuce or kale (other greens if you hate those!). This will give you something to focus on perfecting before you add 3 different varieties of tomatoes that may be determinate or indeterminate, 3 different kinds of peppers, different herbs that may love or hate your set up area or spread like wildfire, and a gazillion greens that all the bad pests love. Trust me; Start small! a 4×8 foot bed is large enough to test the waters and see what you like, and learn to grow foods. Find out if some of the things you are growing requires trellising or supports. Will you have room for these in your setup? Now that you have your list and have researched what to plant, we can look at seeds and starting them.
Get Growing: Starting seeds is one of my favorite parts of gardening. I absolutely adore baby seedling sprouts. You can directly sow the seeds into your garden or containers if you desire, but for me, I personally like starting them in trays. For one, I don’t want to accidentally take them out with the weeds if I am putting them in the ground. I also like to control where the plants will be. I use seed trays that I recycle and use over and over. I purchase a good potting soil to start seeds in because potting soil is nice and loose, and holds moisture with good drainage for containers and seeds love all of that! This will give you good germination on your seeds. You do not have to use potting soil, you can use what you have and experiment with what works best for you! There is all kinds of seed starting soils and recipes to make your own out there, so its up to you! I usually put two seeds to a container when starting out. I separate them into the corners because if both germinate, I separate them and have two plants. Once they sprout, I give them a few weeks to get big and strong before separating them and “potting them up” into larger containers for the final stretch before garden time. I use solo cups that I re-use seasonally to put them into bigger pots and develop more roots. After the initial transplant into the solo cups, I give them about a week to make sure they are not shocked/stabilized and then I give them a dose of weak fertilizer. I like to use fish emulsion as a natural feeder but boy does it stink! hah. You can use what you like. They will form nice rich green leaves and really take off after a few days from their dose. They go into the garden for me between 5-8 weeks depending on season and variety. Not all seeds/plants will do well with transplanting and are a direct sow variety like mentioned below.
Planting by direct sowing is great too. I usually do this for lettuces and other greens, root vegetables and beans/peas. Sometimes I sprinkle random flower seeds through the garden for fun too. The back of your seed packages will have information on spacing and depth.
Watering: Keep soil moist but not drenched. I light sprinkle daily is good until most have sprouted, and then you can get on a normal watering routine. Remember rain is free water, so check your daily weather reports to see if its going to rain! Water is best conserved by watering at the root, and in the evening . If you water first thing in the morning, a lot of your water will end up evaporating. I usually like to water about an hour or so before the sun goes down because some plants don’t like wet leaves. These are usually squash and cukes. They can develop a mildew which is treatable, but if you can avoid it, please do.
Keep growing and adding to your garden, learn to save your harvest overage by canning or freezing! Dehydrating foods is also a great way to preserve for future use.
I hope this post is enough to get you started with growing your own food! It is an exciting adventure and a lot of fun! Along with gardening and growing your own food, it is a good idea to always have a supply of food in stock and on rotation in case of emergencies. Things like dried fruits and veggies, canned fruits and veggies, canned meats, jar sauce, peanut butter and jelly, pastas, rice, and dry beans are all good things to have on hand. Make sure you also have enough water for your family if a crisis should occur, and water is no longer safe to drink! Rule of thumb is a gallon a day per person.
Using these steps mentioned, you should be well prepared to start your gardening adventure towards food security.
Note: Images are not mine aside from the cucumber 😉
Happy Gardening, Friends!