Why do you garden?
- I like to know where my food comes from. More importantly I want my children to understand and appreciate where their food comes from and have an idea of the work behind creating a healthy meal or snack.
- Growing a garden, even if is just a few tomatoes in pots or strawberries in an old kiddie pool is an act of independence. Independence from the rise and fall of grocery store prices, from crude oil, and other transportation costs. A row of one's own to hoe allows us in a small but crucial way to be more self-reliant. It also allows us to share the wealth of a good harvest within our communities. Gardening is a powerful act, both politically and personally.
- Finally I am a maker and a doer. I express my creative streak through what I can grow using a medium of water, sunshine, and soil. I'm an experimenter not an expert. If something doesn't work out so well one year, for example the 16 stalks of corn each in their own little pot (captured for prosperity on Google Earth), I try something different the next year. Even better, I ask the experts at the OSU Extension Service for help.
Why the Front Yard?
Why not? In our neighborhood with large shade trees sunshine is at a premium. We put our small vegetable garden in our front yard for practical reasons. We get the most sun there and our backyard is a mud pit and slug haven most of the year. It is also hard to forget to water, weed, and pick when you walk through your garden to get to your front door.
It is also beautiful, even in early Spring when it is just a few small plant starts and bean scaffolding, there something about the sight of fresh soil that promises growth and potential. Having your vegetable garden in the front yard calls attention to your property. We live in an otherwise unremarkable ranch style home but the container corn field, the massive Russian sunflowers, and the Italian heirloom green bean vines growing up twine to the roof gutters turns the heads of neighbors walking by. Our tomatoes become red in scores while others in dark backyards hold green.
Victory Gardens were popular in WWII when everyone was expected to contribute to the war effort in any way they could. For many this involved growing your own vegetables to save otherwise needed fuel, tin, and manpower for the fight. The oldest continually operating World War II Victory Gardens in the United States are the Fenway Victory Gardens in Boston, MA. "Founded by the Roosevelt Administration, it was one of over 20 million victory gardens responsible for nearly half of all the vegetable produce during the war!"
Today, victory in our garden means being more self-reliant, having a little extra harvest to share, and experimenting to find new ways to successfully grow what we eat and then eat what we grow. One of our tried and true successes is growing Italian heirloom green beans each year from seed. We pop them in the ground, they germinate in about a week, and then grow, grow, grow! At the end of the season we save a few seeds and then we are ready for the next year.
This summer we also learned that we love heirloom tomatoes and are growing Juliet, Old German, and Lincoln varieties. They are thriving!
What are some of the victories to be found in your front yard (or backyard!) vegetable garden? What are your tried and true tips for Pacific Northwest gardening? What do you make with water, sunshine and soil?