Saturday, January 3, 2009

Victory Garden

I've spent the weekend pouring over seed catalogs. How I love seed catalogs! Just when it starts to seem impossible that it will ever be warm and green and sunny again, a little ray of hope arrives in my mailbox.

I am planning a rather large vegetable garden this year for the house in New York. It's all part of my drive to be self-sufficient-ish. I want to have more agency in my own life, if that makes sense. For me, growing my own food is a lot like knitting and sewing. Of course, my other motivation is my love of food and firm belief that nothing taste better than food you've grown and cooked yourself. 

So, seed catalogs. I can spend hours reading about the respective merits of each variety of tomato. Lemon Boy. Early Girl. Moneymaker. Black Krim. Costouto Fiorentino. German Queen. Martin's Giant. I want to taste them all. 

I read an article the other day by a man who is a sort of professional trend predictor. He predicted the last two big recessions and was quite gloomy about what we can expect in 2009. He said that people will be planting a version of Victory gardens in the coming years (he called them Bush Gardens, which  made me laugh) and that in 10 years people would be amazed at how much land and water we wasted on lawns. Am I wrong for seeing this as a positive development? For hoping that people- whether willingly or out of desperation- will discover the joys of digging in the dirt, watching seeds turn into plants, and harvesting and eating the fruits of their labor? 

If you've never grown your own food you won't believe how easy it can be. Even if you are without a proper yard you can plant a couple of tomato varieties in pots of your terrace. You can also check in your area for a community garden. There was a beautiful one across the street form my apartment when I lived in Harlem and it was always buzzing with activity. 

There are two great cookbooks that are also wonderful introductions to growing vegetable for your table- Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver and The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Both of these authors are British and that's not a coincidence- I think the Brits have done a much better job of educating people about the joys of growing your own food than we have here in the states. 

For the more ambitious among us I highly recommend Foer Season Harvest and The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman. You also might want to check out Food Not Lawns by Heather Flores.

For seeds I like to order from Seeds of Change and Johnny's Select Seeds, but order early because their most popular varieties do sell out. 

Are you planning a garden this year? What are you going to plant?

edited to add: Check out revivevictorygardens.org for lots of great info.

16 comments:

Hillary Dickman said...

Yay! I love that you're posting on this. I've always enjoyed home-grown fruits and veggies, but didn't consider the significance of it until I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She changed my whole outlook.

Although I don't have much deer-free space for a veggie garden, I do my best and usually plant as many tomato plants as I can possibly fit (usually around 12 or 13 plants). My favorite last year was my Lemon Boy. It produced early and kept going right through the first frost. I also love growing carrots because I can harvest them all summer and fall. My favorite, though, are the snap peas. They don't last long, but I love that they get my kids into the garden with me. My kids eat all of the snap peas straight off the vine -- I don't think any peas have made it into my house yet.

What I can't grow, I get from my local CSA. They amaze me -- the abundance they manage up here at high altitude in Colorado.

I'm so encouraged to know that a professional trend predictor sees people planting gardens and poo-pooing lawns. We're moving in a good direction!

inkdarkmoon said...

Good luck with your garden Susan!
I like to plant lima beans--they are difficult to find fresh--and they are like a different food when they are fresh. Many limas like the heat of the South, but the beautiful Christmas lima does well here in the Northeast.
And lots of tomatoes of course. Love Rose from Johnny's. Would like to try black cherry this year.
Anybody have any tomato favs with good disease resistance?
Oh! Another winner from Johnny's--Costata Romanesco zukes. Way more flavor than a normal zuke--just delicious...

KnittingBlueContent said...

I grew up "country" and my parents made us tend the garden every year (among many other farm chores).

Weeding, hoeing, watering . . . not my favorite things, and good LORD, the bugs, people!

If it weren't for bugs, I think I could get past the chore part.

The bugs were so gross though, I'm scarred for life, lol.

Turtle said...

yes the seed catalogs started to come in last week! I grew up on a dairy farm in northern VT, we had a large garden and were quite poor, we literally had to eat what we grew. With not much meat but lots of veggies and a bit of rice thrown in for good measure i loved it! I am still the "weird kid" who would rather eat her veggies first! My bummer bit here is we have a beautiful large grove of 200+ foot trees that block a good portion of the sun here and the temps are hard and short lived being warm anyway. Hubby is looking at a small greenhouse for me for my birthday this year to help out, lol i got the rototiller last year for mothers day!!

Viki said...

I vote for Lemon Boy. That was my favourite in my tiny plot last year. And I second the River Cottage Family cookbook. I bought it for myself a couple months ago and gave two copies for Christmas this year.

Julie said...

The Cook's Garden is my favorite seed source so far and their germination rate is unbelievable. I've always had some sort of garden and I can't tell you how pleased I was when oldest son came home for xmas and told me he had a basil plant in his kitchen. Most of my gardening years were spent in Alabama or Louisiana so I'm still learning what works up here but I've had great success with cutting lettuce and Lincoln peas. The squirrels always eat my tomatoes before they are ready. I have loads of herbs out front of the house and nasturtiums and zinnias are a must. My zucchini and summer squash (crookneck's as grandpa called them) did very well last year but the butternut succumbed to powdery mildew and I lost my potatoes to some little worms. I've got a row of asparagus but it's not established enough yet to cut any and probably won't be this year either, maybe next year. Arugula was my blockbuster last year, the stuff grew like crazy. I wish I had space for a little greenhouse because I absolutely suck at starting seed indoors. I was spoiled with a lovely large greenhouse back in Louisiana.

Susan said...

Thanks for the new source, Julie. I'm going to check them out now.

Steph said...

I have a bunch of earthboxes on my garage roof, and also plant various things in our side yard.. we have some fruit trees we planted a couple years ago..the rest of our yard is native plants.

--Deb said...

Unfortunately, no. I absolutely hate doing any kind of yard work. When I was little and Mom and Dad would force my sister and I outside to rake leaves or pull weeds or do anything at all, I'd last about 15 minutes before I was begging to come inside. I'd offer to do just about any possible chore INSIDE the house, just to be able to stop doing outdoor chores!

And the one time I tried growing basil in a pot out on the deck? Completely devoured by some kind of beetle. Because, did you know that it's not only DIRTY, but that there are BUGS? You can't knit with dirty hands, and you can't type or write with fingers that are going to stain the page ...

Besides, Chappy would probably want to help dig, and that would cause all sorts of problems....

missfire said...

This is a great post! I love fresh veggies, but have a brown thumb and NO time. I joined a CSA instead, but I'd love to try and grow a few herbs or something!

pd said...

I don't garden (other than maybe a few herbs or lettuce) but I do belong to a CSA and get lots of fresh local fabulous veggies that way.

Go CSAs!

Joan said...

I don't garden, but I have good friends who havturned their entire yard and side yard into a tiny organic farm. They love to give his produce away to friends. I plan to visit thim a lot more this year. (I started today, so it won't be too obvious when the harvest season starts)

Anonymous said...

Unless you put your garden in the pen where your babies are, or build a high-security vegetable prison, I predict there will be a lot of happy fat deer on Hortontown Road!

My garden was a walk-through restaurant for wayward beasties this summer. I hope you have better luck! Hmmm....on second thought, maybe your nice veggies will lure them away from my flowers!
- Rebecca

ps Bob dropped off our christmas tree as a new years treat for your hungry woolies.

Heidi said...

Harlem? Harlem! I live in Harlem! Where you responsible for the lone chicken out by the monument on 114th when I first moved in? I don't have any solid proof but I am guessing she was yours.

|chee-uh| said...

I just got my seed catalogue. Haven't had a garden in two years. Maybe I'll start a balcony garden. I hate apartment living.

suejm said...

I grow okra, black-eyed peas, onions, tomatoes and a variety of peppers every year - and yes, I'm a southerner, if that product selection doesn't give me away. It feels so good to come home from working in a office all day and go work in the garden, or when I'm too tired to work, to just stand and admire it and nibble on a totally fresh tomato.