Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A garden by any other name ...

During World War I and II, people in Canada, Germany, The United Kingdom and The United States were asked to plant Victory Gardens. The war effort was top priority in those days and food items such as sugar, coffee, meat, dairy products and canned goods were being rationed "at home" so that the troops would be well fed. Resources of all kinds were commissioned into service. That meant the discontinuation of transporting fresh fruits and vegetables across the country. Victory Gardens, sometimes called War Gardens or Food Gardens for Defense, sprang up to help ease the situation ... to give people fresh food while also boosting their morale. After all, it was considered patriotic to have a Victory Garden ... so, people ate well while doing their part to defeat the enemy. They pulled together and strengthened their communities. It didn't matter whether a family had a large piece of land or lived in an apartment ... they started gardens, shared resources and kept each other going.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 20 million victory gardens were planted in this country. Eleanor Roosevelt had one at the White House. Approximately 9-10 million tons of fruits and vegetables were harvested ... an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables. It made a huge difference.

Today, with the US in a recession and the world economy suffering, people are once again turning to gardens ... this time coined Recession Gardens. With costs going up and wages going down, people are looking for ways to ease their food budget ... and growing fruits and vegetables is becoming popular once again. Even people who don't have any space for growing things are getting in on the act ... did you know that in the U.S. there are approximately one million community gardens? There's probably one near you.

Those of us trying to live a green life have utilized home gardens for a long time. Whether we have a plot of land or just some containers ... we grow fruits and vegetables. The White House is recognizing the value of locally grown food as well. Mrs. Obama recently started a garden where 55 varieties of vegetables will be grown. And it isn't just for show ... the kitchen staff will use them for the Obama's meals as well as White House dinners.

Whether you call it a Victory Garden, a Recession Garden or, in my case, The Farm (as I affectionately call my apartment patio) ... growing your own produce makes a difference. Here are a few reasons why:
  • It's economical ... for the price of a package of seeds (approximately $2.00), you'll get fresh produce throughout the summer. If you share seeds or use ones from previously grown crops ... the price is even less. Imagine ... for the price of one head of lettuce in the market, you can get an entire season of lettuce.
  • It reduces waste ... composting is a wonderful way to nourish your home garden. And it saves landfills and waterways.
  • It's healthy ... growing your own veggies means you control what goes on them. You get to decide if chemicals touch your food and, hopefully, you'll opt for organic gardening methods such as the use of lady bugs to control aphids and other pests.
  • It's good for the earth ... rather than traveling across country to reach your grocer's shelves and adding to air pollution, your veggies reside just outside your kitchen door. And no processing such as chlorine washes for your veggies ... just pick them, rinse them and eat.
  • It's educational ... children love to garden and watch things grow. Having a garden is a wonderful family activity and one which teaches children about sustainability.
  • It's fun ... we loved digging in the dirt as children and I'm betting that most of us (perhaps secretly) love it as adults.
There is a saying ... "When the going gets tough, the tough get going". Today, things are tough ... not just with the economy but for the environment as well. We can help! So let's get going and plant some fruits and veggies.

A garden by any name ... is a good thing!

As always ... I would love to hear from you!