Throughout World War II, there was a growing fear that food sources would become scarce in many countries. To ease pressure on the food supply, a public works campaign was launched to entice patriots to grow their own vegetables at home. This worked so well that at one point nearly one third of vegetables produced by the United States came from small “Victory Gardens.”
It is not simply the volume of food that is impressive. It is all the additional benefits that surround the individual that voluntarily accepts this task. Think, for example, the exercise that folks would get by spending their time in the garden. Families would now spend time together outside, the children learning a valuable skill and one that seems to be increasingly lost upon today’s youngsters. By using heirloom seeds, many people would be ensuring that these precious treasures would not be lost to time. Instead, tons of organic and modified-free harvests would flood our dinner tables. More people would learn to appreciate the land around them as they studied the changing seasons and poured over garden plans.
During the 1940s these war gardens proved valuable not only for providing a respite to the food reserves, but for providing a model for what we could be accomplishing today. As our culture spires out of control, disenchanted and separated from the land, I would suggest that we grow “Needful Gardens.”
What is more needful than fresh, organic vegetables that have been grown as locally as outside the kitchen door? For those folks that understand that it is not only needful but rather an obligation, I provide some starter tips to begin.
First, find some stone that is readily available for creating a raised bed. I prefer to use cement block since I can buy them in bulk and I enjoy the added ability to plant in the holes. If you go this route, save the holes for companion flowers or plants that attract beneficial insects.
I see recommendations all the time that first time gardeners should start small. I dislike this opinion and offer that you should build as large as you can. With attention, raised beds rarely ever fail. You will produce a harvest. That is, if you follow these general guidelines:
- Create the bed so that you can easily reach to the middle from each side
- Craft the bed so that it is in direct sun light. Plants need Balder’s strength.
- Fill the bed with a combination of topsoil, leaves/grass, and rabbit manure.
- Watch for harmful insects throughout the growing season. Pick them off!
- Water as appropriate. Put your finger in the bed about an inch down. Is it dry?
See here for how I set up a bed from scratch.
Raised beds offer a variety of benefits to the landsman. I have found that since no one is traveling over the soil, I rarely have to turn it over to plant. For the most part I simply keep it heavily mulched and pull back the plant matter when I’m ready to sow seeds. Also, I can more easily control the manure and compost that I am applying at the end of each year.
Lastly, use the square foot method to gardening. The easiest way to do this is to arrange the beds so that they are 4 foot across. This creates 3 square feet of planting area between the blocks. In addition, crafting a wooden planting grid makes sowing much easier. Square foot gardening is great because it allows for a more organized and intensive use of space.
We come from the earth.
We return to the earth.
And in between we garden.