When money and supplies were lean during World War II, families were encouraged to start gardens instead of shopping for their food. These gardens, which came to be known as Victory Gardens, were a way everyone could contribute to the war effort.
Victory Gardens are no longer common, but in an increasingly dangerous and expensive world, there are many advantages to planting a garden of your own (plus, gardening is a great stress reliever!).
Whether you plant a garden in your backyard or join a community garden, or just want to know the basics in the event of a survival situation, the below guide should help you get your garden growing:
Choose the type of garden
Do you want to grow herbs? Vegetables? Maybe just some springtime flowers? The type of garden will determine the shape, size, placement, and foundation of your garden. Some flowers, for example, thrive in shady areas, while a vegetable garden is going to need full sun. An herb garden can easily be fitted into a planter on the patio, but a pumpkin patch is going to take a lot of space. If you aren’t sure, start small. It can be a lot to learn, but the best way is to just get started.
Here is a rough guideline for each type of garden:
- Herb garden: Requires relatively little space. Most herbs will grow in partial or full sun.
- Vegetable garden: A basic vegetable garden will take up a medium-to-large amount of space, depending largely on what you plant. Aim for an area that gets direct sunlight for 6 to 8 hours per day. Some fruits and vegetables have special requirements:
- Pumpkin, squash, and melons need a lot of space to produce fruit. Set aside an entire garden space just for one of these crops.
- Some leafy greens can get sunburned (yes, literal burn spots on the leaves!) in high-heat high-sun areas. They may need a location with partial shade. Always check the label if you aren’t sure.
- Peas, cucumbers, tomatoes and others are climbers. You’ll need to build a trellis for them to grip; the tendrils can choke out other plants if they aren’t trained to climb vertically. Plus this saves space!
- Flower garden: Check the label on the plant you are interested in. The needs will vary dramatically based on type and your geographic area.
- Fruit garden: Fruit is more work-intensive; save this for the pros! If you are sure you want to enjoy the “fruits” of your garden labor, you will need a steady water supply, lots of light, and plenty of space, as many fruits grow on trees or large bushes.
Prepare the Space
Now that you’ve chosen the type of garden you’d like, you need to prepare the area. In most suburban or metropolitan areas, you’ll probably need to construct a raised bed — the soil in these areas is often contaminated or just poor for growing. In all areas, you’ll need to remove any existing grass and till the soil to make it loose enough for a plant to grow. Then, add some organic matter to build up the nutrients in the soil. This can be as simple as grass clippings, recycled compost, manure, or store-bought solutions.
Think ahead about the proximity to water — do you need to buy a hose? Will you use an automatic drip system? Buckets from the well? — and the sunlight for the area.
Pick and Plant
Choose the plants that work the best with your new space and needs. You can use a variety of plants, starting from seeds or from seedlings. Seed packets often have basic instructions on the back, and store-bought seedinglings come with information on the plant label. Be sure to read these for last-minute information on how to plant them, during what time of year, and other information. (If you don’t have this information, pick up a gardening book from your local library or bookstore.)
When you first plant, you’ll need to keep the soil moist but not soaking (if water is splashing or pooling at the top, you’ve overdone it!). After that, water two to three days a week, depending on your plants, your area, and the weather, for about 15 minutes a day. Remember, overwatering can be just as deadly as leaving plants too dry!
It is better to water slowly, letting the water sink in deep to the roots, than to flood your garden quickly with a lot of water. The best time to water is usually in the evening; avoid watering midday when the sun will counteract your efforts. If your plants begin to wilt, you aren’t watering enough.
You’ll also need to tend your garden: pull weeds, combat slugs and insects that want to eat your food, and pick your produce before it over-ripens on the vine.
Enjoy Your Labors
A garden is a big commitment and there is a lot to learn at first, but it is worthwhile: you can feed your family more affordably and without having to worry about interruptions in food supply. Plus, many people say home-grown vegetables taste better!