I am finding regular trips to the grocery store to be super stressful. Last week I went to the store primarily to buy salad greens. It was upsetting because there were very few salad green choices left. I snagged a large container of arugula which I have been working on for the last week. Kind of too much of a good thing!
You may have also found yourself making more trips more frequently because you like fresh produce. Sure, you can buy canned and frozen, but some things just don’t translate well and fresh tastes better.
What can we do about it? Since social distancing may be leaving you with some extra time on your hands, this is an excellent time to start a garden. During the World Wars, victory gardens were planted both at private residences and on public land to enhance the public food supply.
Victory Gardens have also been called “food gardens for defense.” During the COVID crisis this label makes sense. Everyone needs to defend their health by making sure their most important defense system, their immunity, thrives.
Fortunately, several years ago we started our own organic vegetable garden. It is not huge and doesn’t cover all of our needs, but it does a good job providing beautiful produce all summer long. And I have loved the experience. It’s fun, good exercise and a sure way to eat more nutritiously.
Tips for creating your own garden:
- Consider starting with a small garden — One of the biggest mistakes a novice gardener can make is to start a garden that is too large. Why not start with a small bed of salad greens, a couple of containers of tomatoes on your deck/patio or a small raised bed to see how you like the experience.
- If you are feeling ambitious, use raised beds — Raised beds are great for low-maintenance gardening. You can add fresh, weed-free soil, which will not get walked on or compacted. Probably the best advantage is that you sidestep the back-breaking work of digging in our New England rocky terrain.
- Round out the soil in your beds — Raised beds become more efficient by gently rounding the soil to form an arc. For example, a 5-foot-wide bed at the base with rounding becomes more like 6 feet for planting. That extra foot may not seem like much but when you multiply it by the length of the bed you can accommodate substantially more plants. Also, a mound will add depth which means more growing room for the roots like carrots, beets, and parsnips.
- Pick a good spot — You may not need as much sun as you think. Leafy greens are the most shade tolerant while potatoes and carrots grow well in sun for half the day. Plants with seeds such as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and squash do best with full sun.No crops will grow under a tree or in deep shade. Pick an area that’s level, has good levels of sunshine and is sheltered from the worst of the wind. Access to a tap or a hose nearby will cut down trips with a watering can.
- Container gardens — An easy way to enjoy the garden experience with minimal time investment and little worry about acreage is container gardening. It’s easy to get started and anybody can do it — even those of you who don’t think you have a green thumb.
All you need is a little balcony or a deck, a few containers, healthy soil and compost and some seedlings, preferable organic.
If you live in the Monadnock region in southwestern New Hampshire, a great source for plants this year is the Cornucopia Project. This is a new program developed to respond to the COVID crisis. The plants are going fast but check here (https://conta.cc/2KAumXK) if you are interested.
Fortunately, it is easy to grow container gardens organically. There are many types of organic fertilizers. And container plants are easier to protect against insects.
- Grow easy crops — For the first-time veggie gardener, it makes sense to pick crops that thrive in our northern New England weather. Some good choices include kale, other leafy greens, potatoes, green beans, radish, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, parsnips and summer squash.
Growing a garden is a great way to keep track of the seasons. Also, it is so totally satisfying to walk out to your garden, pick some fresh veggies and cook them up for dinner. Have fun and keep it simple!