This article originally appeared on GlennBeck.com in June of 2009.
Planting a Victory Garden
by: Michael Glassman
Back in World War II the United States Government urged people to plant food in order to help ease the burden on the nation’s food supply during a very difficult time in the history of our nation. The resulting gardens were nicknamed “Victory Gardens”.
Today’s economy is not exactly the same as it was back then, but we are facing challenges of our own. Our food supply is not necessarily in danger of going away, but in case you haven’t noticed prices on the most basic of things are going through the roof—and that starts to add up. I realize not everyone has a giant corner of their yard to dig up and turn into a farm, but there are things you can grow in just about any landscape that will not only yield food, but blend in with the surroundings.
Vines that Fruit: Do you have a blank wall that needs something growing on it? Try building a lattice trellis on the wall and planting grapes to grow on the trellis. “Red Flame Seedless” or “Thompson Seedless” grapes are great vines to plant on a trellis or on an iron gazebo, the beautiful fruit bunches hanging down make a great addition to your landscape. Do you have an empty iron arch? A great vine is Kiwis. You need to plant a male and a female vine in order for them to cross pollinate and produce fruit. Plant one of each on either side of the arch. Sweet Peas or Snap beans also make a great vine for a trellis or an arch. If you have a blank spot in your garden that only gets morning sun, try planting Blueberries.
Pot Veggies: A bare patio could use a large pot planted with vegetables and herbs. In the center of a large pot place a wire topiary frame and plant a tomato. Tomatoes are the fastest and easiest to grow they take about 2 to 3 months before producing fruit. Place them in full sun and water daily. Around the tomato, plant basil, oregano, thyme and garlic-this pot has the making of a good pasta sauce. Or plant a pot with Butter lettuce, Romaine lettuce, radishes, a cherry tomato plant and you have a salad in a pot. Herbs make good ground covers: such as creeping thyme, lemon thyme, chamomile, strawberries, all make great ground covers and all grow in full sun.
Privacy Food: If you are looking to create some privacy between you and your neighbors, don’t just get any old plant. Plant “Laurus Nobilus”, common name Bay Laurels, for a good privacy screen. This is better known as Bay leaves, the same spice that we dry and use in our spaghetti sauce. They are an evergreen bush or tree growing up to 35 feet in height. They give you plenty of privacy. Or plant “Feijoa Sellowiana” common name Pineapple Guava. They make a great evergreen screen growing up to 20 feet in height and have delicious fruit that can be eaten and will also make great mixed drinks.
Made in the shade: Fruit trees make a great shade tree or patio tree. Try planting a self pollinating Cherry Tree. Cherries are so expensive in the supermarket and yet one “Bing Cherry” can produce over 10 to 15 lbs of fruit. My family just harvested our Cherry tree. The fruit was delicious and we picked over 10 lbs of fruit. Other fruit tree options would be planting a Santa Rosa plum or Apricot. These trees produce beautiful white and pink flowers that turn into delicious fruit. If you have a very small yard plant a dwarf or semi-dwarf variety. Full size fruit trees can grow up to 20 feet in height, yet a semi dwarf fruit tree grows about 12 feet and a genetic dwarf fruit tree grows only to about 4 to 5 feet. Genetic fruit trees are great to grow in a pot or large tub. Peaches, nectarines and apples are also great trees to plant in your garden. If you have very limited space and only have room for one fruit tree but you like so many of the summer fruits, you can buy a fruit tree that is called a “fruit cocktail tree”. These are fruit trees that have been grafted with several different kinds of fruit on one tree, such as a cherry, plum and peach.
In warmer climates citrus trees and bushes are wonderful. A full size citrus tree can grow 20 feet, it is an evergreen tree with fragrant flowers and wonderful fruit. If you like navel oranges plant “Washington Navels” or “Robertson navels”. If juice is desired plant a “Valencia Orange”. If you are interested in making Lemonade, plant a” Eureka” or a “Lisbon” Lemon, if you want a decorative Lemon with an orange skin plant a Improved Mayer Lemon. Genetic dwarf citrus grow to a height of 4 to 6 feet are great to grow in a large pot. If you do get a cold spell you can cover them with a plastic tarp making a tent (try not to touch the leaves) or bring the pot inside or on a sheltered patio. Plant strawberries to drape over the container around the dwarf citrus.
Melons are very expensive to buy at the store. Take an area that gets full sun and build 12″ high by 24″ wide mounds of dirt. Place two melon plants “Ambrosia” cantaloupes or “Sugar Baby” watermelons on the top of the mounds and water daily for two weeks. Melons should be planted after the last frost. After the first two weeks water every other day. It takes 65 to 85 days for your melons to ripen and be ready to eat. When preparing the soil mix in coffee grounds or compost to add organic material to your soil. Aged horse manure is one of the best composts since it is not as high in Urinemic acid as cow manure is.
These are just a few starter ideas help you create an edible garden. Will it solve all of your problems with high food prices? No. But you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll gain from the work you put into growing your own food. You’ll gain a little in the pocketbook; you’ll make a few less trips to the grocery store. But most importantly you’ll experience the satisfaction of growing your own fruits, herbs and vegetables—and you’ll possess the knowledge that you are prepared to provide for your family (at least basic nourishment) no matter what is going on in the world—which is a bit of a ‘victory’ in its own right.
Michael Glassman is co-host of the Discovery Channel’s “Garden Police”. He has over 20 years experience, and a degree in Landscape Design and Horticulture from the University of California at Davis. He currently lives in Northern California with his wife and daughter and his work can be viewed on his website.