Most of us are too young to remember a “Victory Garden” but a phone conversation with an elderly relative might shed some light. Otherwise, a quick search on the Internet will reveal all. People just like you and I were encouraged to plant a victory garden during the first and second World Wars, at a time when food rations were widespread. These vegetable gardens boosted morale by providing people with a sense of contributing to a larger effort, and increased access to food when food was scarce.
Fast forward by 100 years. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic and we see grocery store shelves emptied of canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, hand sanitizers and yes, toilet paper! While we may have little influence over the latter two–except for limiting our purchases to what we absolutely require–we can impact our ability to grow and consume local food.
Those who have a yard or a balcony can grow fruits and vegetables. Those with a sunny window can grow leafy greens like lettuce and arugula and herbs like parsley and basil. During this extraordinary time, we might consider minimizing trips out and using our time in isolation tending to a garden. Did you know, even the versatile, nutritious potato can be grown in a bag on your deck? An outdoor garden need not be large, and it need not be in a shady corner of a backyard. If your front yard has exposure to the sun then it, too, can be converted to a food garden. Imagine bringing lawn mowing to an end! If ever this has crossed your mind in the past, then now is the time to bring this idea to life.
Besides bringing a huge sense of mind-calming satisfaction, along with a bit of a challenge, gardening has numerous environmental benefits, too:
- Heat: With summer comes heat. Having additional plants in your yard can help to make your space a little cooler.
- Rain and run-off: Summer can bring heavy rains that pelt hard surfaces, including lawns, causing the water to run off quickly into the streets, overwhelming stormwater systems. A garden can help to slow the flow of water by absorbing the water deeper into the ground, holding it there for uptake by garden plants instead of it running off and into the storm sewer.
- Lawn mowing: By no longer having a lawn to mow, you will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions–unless you have already made the switch to a manual push (reel) mower–and you will no longer need to contemplate whether to rake up or leave clippings on the lawn (of course, you would always choose to leave them on the lawn).
- Compost: Tops and vines you don’t eat can be composted and used as a soil amendment the following year.
And if you’re not convinced about gardening, just think of this: there is nothing, and I mean nothing, like biting into a carrot freshly pulled from your own garden. It’s a taste like no other!
The Old Farmer’s Almanac provides some simple gardening plans to get you started for success. For more information on how, what and where to plant, visit the Edmonton Food Council’s website.