It’s very rare to be able to say that your Mom taught you to appreciate the things that you still find most beautiful in life: the way a fresh strawberry tastes straight from the summer garden, hot in the sun, the way a bone china teacup looks, resting in place in the curio cabinet; the smell of a fresh batch of organic chocolate chip cookies, or how to properly set a table for company, (with your best china, of course).
My Mom taught me to appreciate and cherish all the beautiful things about making a house a home, and my children regularly tell me that “you’re a good cook Mom, but Grandma’s cinnamon rolls are even better” (and yes, she actually makes them organic!)
The smells of fresh made rolls rising in the oven on Thanksgiving mornings is as fresh in my mind now, as when I was 10 years old, and just goes to show you, that the effort we put into the little touches in life, mean the most to the ones we love.
They may seem small and overlooked, but here I am, decades later and with children of my own, longing for a piping hot roll with melted butter on top, right now, even as I write this!
My Mom knows how to make the everyday things more beautiful, and so, I’m very honored today to introduce you all to her, as she teaches you about a topic that we both share a true love for- gardening. She’s much better at growing an organic garden, (her garden looks like something out of a storybook) but every year I learn more from her!
In these uncertain times, there’s nothing more wise or more therapeutic than having your own backyard garden, no matter the size. I’ll let my Mom tell you why 🙂
Victory Garden 2.0
By Jody Senna
Have you taken a trip to your local supermarket lately? The recent Shelter In Place lockdown caused by COVID-19 has created empty shelves that I never thought I’d see.
Some days I feel like I’m living in a black and white WWII movie in which I must decide what I’ll be making for dinner based on what foods happen to be available.
How did wives of the last century deal with this type of food rationing? They started growing food in their own gardens!
War Gardens (later known as Victory Gardens), became quite popular during World Wars I and II.
In fact, they were such a success that over five million gardens were started in the first war, and twenty-million home gardens were started during the second war, supplying one-third of the food needed for our country!
Gardeners proved to be a formidable foe against the enemy, fighting the battle against food shortage right here on the home front!
In fact, these gardens produced a significant amount of healthy food, allowing agricultural produce to be used for the military and our allies. Despite rationing, the average American ate better during the war than before. 2
The garden is the poor man’s apothecary.
Our war in 2020 is against a silent killer – a virus that is said to spread quietly and quickly, plus our economy is in the scariest position in my lifetime. Millions of people are suddenly out of work and wondering if and when they’ll be able to start working again.
But I have great news!
Victory gardens are making a comeback!! And this time, the fresh, healthy food we grow is our best ammunition as we fight against our enemy, COVID-19.
Helping our families and our loved ones build strong, robust immune systems is how we can defend them from becoming susceptible to the coronavirus.
And one way we can do this is by growing tasty, organic foods for them to enjoy while also providing food for our family and friends.
No Green Thumb? No Problem!
Victory gardeners of the last century found help from pamphlets and publications printed by seed companies and our government. We might not have information such as that, but we have the internet!!!
And almost anything you need to know you can find by using a good search engine or asking in a Facebook group or on a blog (like this one!).
But trust me when I tell you that God created plants to grow, produce fruit, and reproduce. The seeds you start or the plants you put into pots, or in your yard WANT to grow! There are just a few things you need to do to help them along.
Here’s my easy way to remember what you need:
- Good soil
- Good seeds (or seedlings)
- Good sun – 6 hours per day minimum
- Good service (sweat equity)
If you have these four things, you can start growing healthy food for yourself and/or your family! So let’s take a quick look at each one.
“You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt.”
Did you know that a teaspoon of good quality soil contains more living organisms than there are people on Earth? Crazy, right? I hope that helps you see dirt in a new light! It’s not just the dusty stuff under our feet; it’s much much more than that! Soil is what determines how nutritious our food is, and how plentiful our crops will be.
Whatever is in your soil is going to find it’s way into your plants, and whatever is in your plants will find its way into your body. Feed your soil well so it can feed your plants well. The better your soil, the fewer problems you’ll have with disease and creepy-crawly pests. (They’ll always be a part of gardening, but good soil certainly helps!
Do yourself a favor and PLEASE do NOT buy a bag of garden or potting soil that includes ingredients like Miracle-Gro.
You don’t need it, and even if the bag says “Organic,” if it’s an MG product, you’re not serving the soil of your garden very well when you put it in your garden. I buy bags of organic soil from Costco that I like, and for larger areas, I contact my county and purchase compost from their facility.
Last Fall, I bought an inexpensive bag of dirt from a local big box hardware store so I could plant a few cuttings from my blackberry bushes and care for them in my basement over the winter. Over time I found out what a lousy idea cheap dirt can be!
The soil was so bad, every time I watered them, the water passed right through the pots and puddled on the trays I was using. After a while, I started getting gnats, and then more gnats, until one night, the gnats finally came up from the basement and took over the ceiling in my kitchen. I immediately took all the pots outside, we vacuumed the gnats, and morning none were anywhere to be seen.
The moral of this story is, start with good soil and add organic matter in to keep it happy. Cover your ground with mulch even when you aren’t growing anything (I get free wood chips from local tree service companies). You can also make a compost pile to develop your rich, fertile organic soil.
“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Now that you have beautiful, loamy soil (or are working in that direction), it’s time to put out your seeds or plants. Look for organic seeds or starter plants from local nurseries or gardening friends.
There are several excellent sources online for organic, heirloom seeds that will help you create the garden of your dreams!
Avoid plants containing Miracle-Gro; these plants are usually found at big box stores and are grown using synthetic fertilizers. These synthetics have the “ability to harm the microorganisms that are responsible for making both soil and plants fertile.
Additionally, they can make it difficult for soil to hold water and nutrients, and they also cause major nutrient imbalances that can be very detrimental to the health of soil and plants. 3
The seeds and plants will cost a bit more than conventionally (aka synthetics and chemicals), but remember that you want to care for your soil, and giving it a meal of synthetically produced fertilizers pollutes our water system (from run-off).
Organic seeds and plants are also more potent as natural pest resistance.
I plant marigolds each year as companion plants for my tomatoes, roses, etc. They help ward off several types of invading insects that want to eat my plants. I used to buy sets of them at Walmart, thinking that since I wasn’t going to eat them, I didn’t need to plant organic marigolds grown from seeds.
One year I decided to plant a few from organic seeds and also bought a few containers from Walmart to subsidize in case my seeds didn’t grow.
The seeds did grow, and I planted the bright yellow marigolds on one side of my garden and the flowers I bought from Walmart on the other side, not expecting there to be any difference between the two sides.
But there was! I had a horrible problem with slugs on the side of the garden with purchased plants, but barely any slugs on the side hosting my home-grown marigolds! I’ve been growing my marigolds each year since that time. I save the seeds from one year and plant them the next.*
My one packet of organic marigold seeds keeps giving year after year!
“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.”
I love the warmth of the sun on my face as I work at setting the stage in my garden for her summer performance.
We all benefit from spending time in the sun each day due to the vitamin D our bodies absorb. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, “Ultraviolet (UV) B radiation with a wavelength of 290-315 nanometers penetrates uncovered skin and converts cutaneous 7-dehydrocholesterol to pre-vitamin D3, which in turn becomes vitamin D3.”
Just a few minutes of exposure every day provides enough UVB to kick off the vitamin D process. (4)
If our bodies benefit from a few minutes of sun, think of what those rays of glory can do for your plants! Most summer vegetables need six to eight hours of sunshine each day but check the seed packet or the instructions on your plant before you bury it in the soil.
A few plants that don’t require as many hours of sun each day are spinach, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, berries, and squash all need to be planted in full sun.
“The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over, never weeded a garden.”
Ray D Everson
I love that garden centers are called “nurseries” because our responsibility as gardeners is to tend our gardens and work with them to coax life from the soil.
The soil wants to produce, and the plants want to grow, but our job is to care for them as we would care for a child who longs to grow up and spread her wings.
Serving your garden means putting our hands in the soil and digging out the weeds that are stealthfully pirating the nutrients in the soil delegated for our plants. It means watering the plants when they’re thirsty and looking for pests that might be hiding or laying eggs on their leaves.
Organic gardening takes time and energy, but the payoff is more significant than I can explain.
You’re increasing your vitamin D by working in the sunshine, you’re providing your family with fresh, healthy food that will help protect them from hard, and you’ll get to know the Master Gardener who created it all as you work.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”
Whether you call your garden a Victory Garden, a War Garden, or the Pots on My Porch, you can know for sure your efforts will not be in vain.
Before I close, let me leave you with these three beginner gardener instructions:
- Start Small – Grow with your garden
- Start Smart (don’t buy more seeds or plants than you can use)
- Start Now (I don’t put out my plants until Mother’s Day, but find your garden zone and plant accordingly.
Also see this helpful infographic below for even more practical gardening tips!
And be sure to visit my website at www.libbyandme.com, where I write about all things related to hospitality, organic cooking and recipes, gardening, homeschooling, and much more!
Leave me a comment below if this article helped you, and have a blessed Spring!
2 – http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/History/Victory_Gardens_in_World_War_II/
3 – https://www.epicgardening.com/is-miracle-gro-organic/
4 – https://www.healthfully.com/vitamin-d-excessive-sweating-6086867.html
* – This was my experience with planting cheap flowers, it might not be yours.