Home gardening: The next generation

Published 2:31 pm Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Americans planted victory gardens during World War II as a way to support the war effort. By growing produce to feed themselves and their communities, these home gardeners allowed the nation to divert more of the national food and fuel supplies to the troops.

People felt personal pride in the labor they contributed, and the food they grew helped offset the hardships caused by war. Some 20 million Americans answered the call of “Plant More in ‘44.” Altogether, they produced about 40 percent of the vegetables consumed nationally that year. The victory garden concept changed gardening from a practical pastime to a civic duty and patriotic gesture. Eleanor Roosevelt even planted a garden on the White House lawn.Sixty-five years later, Americans are again struggling to make ends meet, and food gardening is experiencing a revival.

This time around, the reasons have less to do with patriotism and more to do with saving money and promoting self-sufficiency.

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However, what started as a simple trend appears to be growing into a full-fledged movement as activists try to rekindle the fervor for home food gardening as a means not only to harvest edibles but also to build community and increase environmental awareness.

Of course recent salmonella and e coli outbreaks make us concerned about food safety. For many this is also reason to grow their own food. And let us not forget the best reason of all- the taste and quality of those fresh garden vegetables.

When planning your garden, consider the associated costs. Before spending a lot to have a garden, make a list of the items you need, check to see what you already have, set a budget and stick to it! Remember that each garden will have different needs, and you may already have the tools you need.

The following are some suggestions for holding down costs of a home garden:

Start your own plants from seeds

If you buy plants, start with smaller plants

Share and swap tools with family and friends

Swap and share tools with friends and family.

Please do not get too ambitious.

The biggest mistake most of us make is planting too big a space to manage. Remember that the garden will have to be weeded and hoed. As the summer progresses it might have to be watered. And then- produce has to be picked.

If there are items you enjoy eating but may not have in your garden, visit your local farmer’s market.

Farmer’s markets are enjoying a strong revival. With the increase in number of small market gardens, farm operations and specialty food producers, farmer’s markets cut out the middleman, making the transaction more profitable for farmers and more economical for consumers.

By bringing farmers and consumers face to face, it also creates a stronger sense of community. There is a farmer’s market which is open on Saturdays in Demopolis and one open on Wednesdays in Thomaston.

To learn more about how Extension can help you, to volunteer, or to ask a question, please call us! The Marengo County office telephone number is (334) 295-5959. We are always here to help.