Victory gardens were popular during World War II. During the war the lawns in many public parks from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the lawn on the Boston Commons were turned into vegetable gardens. In the peak years there were more than 44 million victory gardens in the U.S. feeding families at home while farmers fed the troops overseas. Victory gardens were a family affair with dads, moms, and kids working together.
With the country deep in a recession and with families more concerned about both the food budget and the quality of what they eat, it is time to bring back the victory garden. I made that suggestion to a buddy who was out fishing on Rice Lake. The fish weren't biting and he was unemployed. But when it came to a victory garden, he was at first a hard sell.
While we waited for the fish to bite, I gave him seven reasons to plant a garden this summer.
First, you will eat better than ever before. Most food travels 1,200 miles to get to our dinner table. With your garden you can eat fresh produce with greater variety than you will ever find at the grocery store. The taste of vine ripened tomatoes or fresh sweet corn is 10 times better than store-bought produce. On that he agreed.
Second, you can save big money on the food budget. For seventy-five dollars in seeds you can produce twenty-five hundred dollars of great food. Buy a few simple garden tools and you will be in business. You plant, weed, water, and harvest. My friend was skeptical about my food budget numbers, but if you are willing to can and freeze they more than work out.
Third, you can grow some flowers which will give your family enjoyment in the garden and provide cut flowers for the dining room table. Plants like marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers are easy to grow. Flowers pick up spirits during troubled economic times and you can grow them in abundance for next to nothing.
I told him it would cost him nothing to bring flowers to his wife several times a week and I call that a depression picker upper and more.
Fourth you can get the kids involved in gardening with you. Ask them what they would like to grow. It may be radishes, a big pumpkin, or a sunflower more than twelve feet tall. Getting the kids interested in the history of vegetables, and how things grow is exciting. Ask them to do some research on the Internet about their favorite vegetable or flower. Far better for kids to research vegetables on the information highway than to use it as a race track to trouble.
Fifth, you can experiment and get a little exotic on the things you grow. Over the years I have grown peanuts, sweet potatoes, and okra on our farm. This year I am growing hops not because I want to flavor my home brew, but because the vine is supposed to grow more than 25 feet straight up in a single year.
Sixth, with little effort you can make your garden a hummingbird and butterfly sanctuary. There is something special about growing flowers that produce nectar for the hummers who at 3/8ths of an ounce fly from the Caribbean each year to spend the summer with me at the farm, go back to the Caribbean for the winter, and return again to see me. And the Monarch butterfly lays its eggs on the milkweed in my garden, the young Monarchs hatch and fly to Mexico - to winter in the same tree that their great-great-grandparents did last year. Oh for the mysteries of nature. More research projects for kids.
Seventh, I garden for the pure joy of it. Many would say you can't beat a summertime of fishing in the Brainerd lakes area. I agree, but even when the fish are biting my victory garden is a close second.
I hope my friend tries a victory garden. How about you? Creating your own garden may well help you survive the current recession-financially and spiritually.
WIN BORDEN is a farmer and writer who lives north of Merrifield. He may be contacted at Win@BordenFarmMarket.com.
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