Return of the Victory Garden

victory-gardenSearching for fresh, healthy food for your family? Concerned about recent salmonella outbreaks in the food supply? Looking for ways to reduce pollution, cut your dependence on mass-produced food, create a sense of community, save on grocery bills? And oh yeah, looking for food that tastes great? The answer might be right in your backyard.

Popular during World War I and again during World War II, private citizens in the United States, Canada and England were encouraged to grow their own vegetables in an effort to reduce pressure on the public food supply caused by the war effort. These gardens popped up everywhere, including vacant city lots and even the dry moat around the Tower of London; 20 million Americans participated during World War II and by the end of the war provided nearly 40% of the nation’s vegetables. Called Victory Gardens or Liberty Gardens, they were also considered morale boosters, allowing people to feel empowered by their contribution as well as being rewarded by the produce they grew. Doesn’t that sound like something we could use right now?

Home gardens are becoming popular again as people rediscover the joys and advantages of growing their own food. Burpee Seed reports a 40% increase in seed sales in 2008, and expect another increase this year. The city of San Francisco developed a program that provides starter kits and information to help urban gardeners convert part of their backyard (or windowsill) into growing vegetables. Then there is Eat the View, an organization that is asking President Obama to plant an organic Victory Garden on the White House lawn (it wouldn’t be the first time this has been done – Eleanor Roosevelt had one installed during World War II). And Secretary of Agriculture (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack has recently announced that his department would create “The People’s Garden” out of a paved area outside their building.

Not sure how to get started? Don’t worry – the library is here to help. Here’s a list of books that will guide you through those first steps – and encourage you to try something new!

The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch – Great practical information, presented in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner. All organic.

The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant – Lots of info on all kinds of composting, including vermiculture (worms) as well as great gardening tips. All organic.

The Farmer’s Wife Guide to Growing a Great Garden by Barbara Doyen – As well as how to grow, Doyen has information on harvesting, storing and cooking your produce.

Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver by Fern Bradley – No problem is insurmountable – this book will show you all kinds of solutions. All organic.

Deer Proofing Your Yard and Garden by Rhonda Hart – Keeping those lovely creatures at bay.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver – Provocative and thoughtful examination of what it takes to eat locally.

Landscaping with Fruit by Lee Reich

landscaping-with-fruitThe next time you’re thinking about adding a tree or bush to your landscape, consider one that bears fruit. Most are just as beautiful as “ornamental” trees and they have the added bonus of rewarding you with fresh, delicious fruit!

Lee Reich, well known in gardening circles for his excellent The Pruning Book, now brings us Landscaping with Fruit.  He’s gone through all the varieties and types of fruiting plants available and compiled a list of the best – best for beauty, ease of maintenance and tasty fruit. Only plants that meet all three requirements are included. Among others you’ll find sweet cherry, raspberries, grapes and apples as well as exotic tropicals that can be grown in pots. You’ll find that alpine strawberries make excellent edging plants and blueberries make beautiful shrubs year round.

In addition to information on plant varieties, Reich has an excellent section on growing and maintaining, and lots of ideas on how to incorporate these plants in your yard (so it doesn’t look like you’ve plopped an orchard down in your front yard) What about an alle of pear trees along your front walk? Or a hedge of strawberries, Nanking cherry and red current? Or try surrounding a patio with huckleberry, blueberry and Juneberries. The possibilities are endless – and delicious!

Fallscaping by Nancy Ondra

There’s no need to limit your gardening to spring and summer – fall is also a great time in the garden. And while it might be getting a bit late to do a lot this year, now is the time to look around and see what autumn plants are looking their best in your neighborhood and in the local parks.

Fallscaping by Nancy Ondra shows you how to extend your garden into autumn with gorgeous photography, can’t miss plant combos and practical ideas. There are the usual suspects, of course – ornamental grasses reach their full glory in the fall, as do sedums, asters and mums. But Ondra also talks about also selecting plants for the color of their foliage and for berries and fruits that will persist long after flowers have faded and leaves have fallen.

There’s lots of practical advice too for all of the end-of-season jobs and for fun projects such as planting bulbs in pots, preparing tender plants for winter, garden clean-up, saving seeds, and quick fixes for bare spots in your flower beds. This beautiful and inspiring book will have you looking forward to your garden’s glorious last act.

Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch

The Garden PrimerSpring is coming. Really, it is. And despite evidence to the contrary, it’s coming soon. Now is the perfect time to get serious about planning your garden – those juicy tomatoes and glorious flowers don’t plant themselves you know!

The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch has long been one of my favorites – there is something about her writing style that makes you think “Sure, I can grow that. No problem.” Encouraging and practical, she covers everything – from digging the garden bed to how to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers and bulbs – without being overwhelming. Topics include composting, growing native plants, dealing with critters and essential garden tools. A new, revised edition has just been released with updated plant varieties and additional topics; recommended garden practices are now 100% organic.

And if you’re landless or just don’t have the time to garden but still love to eat well, the Davenport Farmer’s Markets open for the regular season on May 3! (Until then, winter markets will be held at the Freight House on March 1 and April 5)