As a history nerd (just shy of a history major in college), I love reading about the Victory Gardens regular families planted during World War II. I asked on Twitter a couple weeks ago if other people were also planting a COVID-19 Victory Garden, and the response was overwhelmingly yes. Apparently I’m not the only one who is planting a larger garden this year.
Whenever I get especially anxious and worried about the current state of our world, I head back outdoors. I realize that I am so very lucky to have the abundance of nature just out our backyard, and that we have a yard at all. I’ve always appreciated the woods and the garden, but this year that appreciation has grown to an entirely new level.
I’m not sure if it’s an experience the rest of you have had, but the fresh produce we’ve purchased over the last month or two has not lasted as long as we would have expected: rotting oranges, sprouting potatoes and onions, and molding bell peppers that were purchased just days before. Whether or not this is due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the ability to grow more of our own produce feels like a very good idea right now.
My Ever-Expanding COVID-19 Victory Garden
It’s been quite a while (October) since I’ve done a garden update, and I hadn’t honestly done much in the yard since last fall, other than minimal upkeep. That has changed pretty dramatically in the last month and a half, and my garden is probably the tidiest it’s been since my son was born over five years ago.
The weather has been pretty decent to very lovely most days right now, which is surprising given the time of year in the Pacific Northwest, but I’m finding myself in the garden for at least a few minutes every dry day (and even some drizzly ones). Being outdoors right now feels like such a gift, and every day I am thankful for my yard and my garden that has continued to grow over the almost nine years we’ve been in our home.
New, Creative Hugelkultur Beds
While I don’t want to spend a ton of money on new garden beds this year (the construction of raised beds and new soil costs a lot of money), I wanted to be creative and find ways to expand the space I could plant this year. Years ago, I attempted a smaller garden in our side yard, but due to lack of sunlight and extra dampness, the plants didn’t grow well, and the ones that did were rapidly overtaken by slugs and other bugs. I gave up after that first year and abandoned the garden in place.
This year, looking for ways to expand the garden in the front yard, I looked back to that side yard garden. I picked up and cleaned out the pots that had fallen over (yes, I’d left them there, whoops), cleaned them out, and set them up near my raised beds. I collected sticks from previous pruning to make some lazy hugelkultur beds. My husband has a archery range set up in the backyard as well, and some of the straw bales he’d used for that have been slowly decomposing, so I grabbed a bunch of that straw – full of worms – to add to the “new” garden pots.
After that, I added some of the old garden soil from the side yard that was left over from that failed garden experiment, and then got to planting. Like previous years, this was a balance of new seed packets and seeds I’d saved from the garden. And then a week later, my neighbors were about to throw out an old garden pot that matched the wine barrel ones that I already have in the front yard, so I snatched that up too.
Sprouting Produce? Plant Those Too!
Those organic potatoes that sprouted wait too quickly after we bought them from the grocery store? I let them sprout a bit longer, and then those went into the ground as well. That straw from my husband’s old archery target is also spread throughout the garden as some great mulch. My garden is expanding, getting a ton of attention, and should be even more productive than previous years – all for almost no cost.
I haven’t gone to the feed store to pick up chicks, but I’m tempted (we can have up to eight chickens on a property of our size, but we’d have to set up a secure chicken run first).
One positive thing that comes from being home so often – and attempting to limit our trips to the grocery store – is a refocusing on urban homesteading and being as self sufficient as possible on our quarter acre in the outskirts of the city. I’m doing a lot of from scratch baking, cooking from early garden produce, and keeping up our zero waste habits that limit the things we need to buy right now. (Along with buying lots of local take out, of course).
So What Are We Growing?
So far, plenty of the perennials are coming back, though not ready for consumption yet: raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, herbs, hops, hazelnuts, rhubarb, and, of course, plenty of garlic and shallot greens. I keep watching for the asparagus, but it hasn’t poked through the soil yet, and the wildflowers are growing but only green shoots so far.
There’s purple sprouting broccoli and cabbage that I planted last fall, as well as kale and Brussels sprouts, but both of those have bolted and gone to seed (that I will then save for future planting). This spring, I’ve so far planted snap peas, plenty of carrots, beets, lettuce, cilantro, parsley, and potatoes. I’ve practiced succession planting with the carrots in particular, so we should have a decent crop that lasts for a while.
We’ve been picking the spring garlic and shallot greens for meals already (and sharing with our neighbors), and having something in the garden that’s already ready for our meals feels pretty great right now. While we still won’t be able to grow all of our fruits and vegetables for an entire year, we’ll be making a pretty decent dent, especially during the summer months. I may still long for a larger yard and those someday chickens, I’m sure thankful for the home and property we do have, and that gratitude has grown threefold in this time of quarantine and forced semi-solitude.
I just want to make a final quick note for those of you who don’t have the space or ability to garden. I think about you often, and hope you have found other ways to cope with this “new normal.” Also, a sunny window can be great for growing some herbs and green onions, as well as sprouts. Not the same as a garden, but there are ways to grow a little bit of food without one.
For those of you who DO have a garden – are you expanding your Coronavirus Victory Garden like me? What do you have growing right now?