Tend Your Own Garden: Personal Food Security During the Age of COVID-19

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

I am all alone at the moment, stranded whilst traveling, thousands of miles away from my husband, and other family – although I’m lucky to have many friends nearby. We’re all locked down and we can’t see each other, but we do connect via ‘phone, frequently and often.

The news blares all COVID-19, all the time, and although I try to remain calm and level-headed. the occasional stray possible symptom – a cough, a touch of morning congestion, a sneeze – has my inner hypochondriac consulting Dr. Google.  I’ve learned from chats with friends and family that my behavior, while perhaps a bit alarmist, is not all that unusual. And, at least I confine my queries to my keyboard –  and don’t inflict my concerns on my nearest and dearest. Nor do I ring up my doctor or the health authorities and burden them with my angst’.

I’m focusing on eating healthy food – especially lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. I cannot go to the gym, so I’ve stocked up on on-line exercise videos. These stir childhood memories, of watching my babysitter sprawled on the floor, imitating Jack LaLanne’s antics as broadcast via our family’s black and white TV.

Food Security

On a larger level, I find myself increasingly worried about food security in the US – even though the authorities say there’s nothing to worry about. But then, they would do, wouldn’t they?

And my concern extends to the global situation, although here, I’ll limit myself to the US only.

I notice that some humungous meat processing facilities have closed, as COVID-19 has felled a critical mass of their workers at various locations, according to the Wall Street Journal, Trump Announces $19 Billion Relief Program for Farmers. Operators promise to come back on line – eventually. I’m struck with how large some of these are, and how we’ve centralized so much of our food production.

There’ve been other hiccoughs, since the supply chain for food has been optimized assuming  people eat a proportion of their meals in restaurants. Restaurants tend to serve different types of  food then people cook for themselves at home — most bacon, for example, is eaten at restaurants. And even when what’s eaten is the same, the portions sold to restaurants are different – they tend to buy much bigger quantities, cut in bigger increments, than do households. So, now, with most restaurants closed, they’re not claiming their normal orders, while at the same time, there’s more demand for the things people buy to cook at home. I imagine the problem of this mismatch  will eventually be solved, as it’s more one of allocating and distributing existing supplies, rather thansituations of outright shortages.

A bigger problem is that with so many people out of work, many have turned to food banks. Food banks are facing huge spikes in demand at the same time that they are receiving less supplies. Much of what they distribute either has come from restaurants – many of which are no longer operating – or supermarkets –  many of which are selling out on popular items, and no longer have excess to send along.

Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), announced a $19 billion relief program for farmers. This includes $16 billion in direct relief payments to farmers, as well as $3 billion in mass purchases of dairy, meat, and produce, to be distributed via food banks, according to the WSJ:

“This $16 billion in aid will help keep food on Americans’ tables by providing a lifeline to farm families that were already hit by trade wars and severe weather,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, an industry trade group. “The plan to purchase $3 billion in meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables will help to stabilize markets and keep farms afloat.”

USDA plans to make monthly purchases of $100 million each of fresh produce, dairy products and meat, and work with the nation’s food distributors to assemble a “preapproved box” of food for distribution at food banks and other outlets.

What Can You Do?

Okay, we can all sit back and trust the market – with the help of the government – to sort this problem out.

Yes.

We could do that.

But, is there anything else individuals can do?

I grew up in New Jersey’s northernmost county, Sussex, at a time when there were still lots of small farms there. My mother always had garden, and my first job – other than babysitting -was as a laborer on a local tomato farm – first picking tomatoes, then sorting them for sale locally or to be sent to New York City.

Some local  farmers raised meat. We had seven people in my family – parents and five children – and my mother would sometimes but sides of livestock certified by the local veterinarian as what we would now call sustainably raised. My parents kept chickens – which, alas, occasionally found their way into the neighbor’s pool – making us a very popular family.

Other farmers raised dairy cattle – including the family of my best friend from middle school. We lived near state game land, and during hunting season, we weren’t allowed to play outside – as well-tanked hunters from the City, out for a day’s hunting – ran wild. Better they plugged Bessie than each other or a local child – which, alas, they all too often did, and not infrequently either.

Nearby there were a couple of local orchards, Orchard Crest and Windy Brow,  which grew apples such as my favourite, Stayman Winesap, and peaches – especially the white varieties: so good for eating, but with too delicate a flavour for cooking, although last summer, I found an interesting recipe for white peach and basil freezer jam. And nearby, there were also thickets of raspberries or blackberries, wild strawberries too, some on the state game land, others in little byways that no one else seemed either to know about or bother with.

Haven’t been back to my childhood stomping grounds for years, ever since my parents moved to North Carolina, but when I was last in this part of NJ., I noticed that most of the unkempt acreage had been mowed, and divided, into large household plots. The location was, I like to say, about 60 miles and 60 years distant from New York City, and I guess it was inevitable that the small towns such as the one I grew up in would eventually become bedroom communities, crowded with individual homesteads, the trees chopped down, the thickets gone, now replaced with all-American lawns

Growing up in a place where we typically grew at least some of our own food and where food was produced all around us, we enjoyed a certain amount of  food security. I’ve lost that – even though my pantry is typically well-stocked with staples. In my Brooklyn home, all I now I plant is herbs. I’ve not been more ambitious than that – except for the couple of summers when my father was dying, and I spent lots of time with parents, cooking for them. Then, I planted a big kitchen garden, and a couple of dozen varieties of herbs.

My Mom still typically plants a kitchen garden stocking it with plants she buys from the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market. But she’s locked down and not visiting the farmers market now – although their website says it remains open . My musings on food security prompted me to ring up a local garden center near where my Mom lives. I had them deliver her some vegetable and herb plants: tomatoes – Jersey beefsteak, heirloom, cherry –  peppers, zucchini, summer squash, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli,  basil, and parsley. I also selected some blueberry bushes. They’re unlikely to fruit this season, but there;’s always next year. And  a hanging basket to brighten up her Easter weekend.

(I mention here that I know there are various local restrictions throughout the US on opening of  garden centers. Those in NC remain open – and I didn’t have to look hard to find one that delivers. I checked out one I happen to know on Long Island, and that too isopen – and one can preorder plants and pick them up. California nurseries are also open. I suppose one could have a debate over whether vegetable plants comprise essential services – I think yes, particularly if one can pick out plants and have them delivered. The produce may be eaten throughout the growing season, and prevents having to make future grocery runs.)

The plantman delivered the plants to Mom – and they were green and healthy. But he made some mistakes – and forgot the blueberries! I called him up, and asked him to deliver what was missing.  He graciously agreed  to make another delivery and I ordered some extra plants. His omission was an honest mistake and his margins no doubt are small, so I wanted to make it worth his while to deliver the remainder of the order.

Plus, I have a sister who lives with her family near my Mom, and as the quality of the plants was so high – and the price reasonable – I ordered a passel for her as well.I know that each year, they usually plant at least some tomatoes and herbs. My selection for her overlaps with what I sent to Mom, tweaked somewhat to their different tastes: Barb’s also includes eggplants, cilantro, some hot peppers. I’m curious as to whether the blueberry plants will flourish that far south – although the chap at the plant nursery said they do, and he stocks the plants – which I don’t think he’d do if they struggled in that locale. Yesterday, my sister sent me some photos of the plants, now in the ground, all lined up, perky and well-watered. She told me they’d already eaten some of the herbs.

What’s the upshot here?

If I’m worrying for naught about unstable supply chains, my gifts of plants still bring benefits beyond mere goodwill. My Mom – a very social person -is climbing the walls at being alone and locked down. Putting in a bigger kitchen garden gives her something more to do with her time.

She, my sister, and her family will be eating more fresh, home-grown vegetables this summer. And they won’t have to leave the house to hit the local grocery store  or farmers market- thus enabling them to practice their social distancing. Nor is any fossil fuel wasted putting produce on the table  – either in trucking vegetables to the supermarket, or in jumping in the car to make a grocery run. One other benefit: decentralizing food production. What could be more local than your own backyard?

Now, if we could promote more home Victory Gardens, we would somewhat reduce the vice grip of agribusiness. I have no idea what types of agricultural practices my Mom, sister, and her family typically employ. Nor do I want to intrude. Yet even if they don’t practice the type of cultivation that would satisfy organic purists, I am sure their small-scale, local vegetable plots are better for the environment than massive factory farms. I know, for example, they don’t use any glyphosate.

Reading the comments threads I’ve learned that the Naked Capitalism community includes many avid gardeners: people whose food security strategies put my meager efforts to shame. So I ask you, dear readers, to pipe up in comments. What are you doing to increase your food security?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

97 comments

  1. carl

    On a bit of a lark, I planted tomatoes, peppers and basi in my back yard last year. It was such a resounding success that I planted kale, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, celery and strawberries (!) late last fall, and we’ve been eating off these ever since. It helps that we have quite a long growing season in South Texas (the last two months of summer are pretty brutal and are equivalent to winters up north). The benefits extend beyond just revved up salads, though; it’s been very satisfying to step away from all the virus news and just work outside in the fresh air (I’ve decided to expand the area in the backyard and that means clearing beds of Bermuda grass, which is a lot of work). Guess my timing was lucky, and also the fact that I have a space which permits gardening; don’t know what I’d be doing if I was sitting in an apartment. The food security is quite the thing; it’s a good feeling to know that we’ve got plenty of veg for the next few months, and cutting down on grocery trips makes things safer for everyone.

    Reply
    1. Rosa Eberly

      In addition to having a home garden and serving on the board of PA Certified Organic a few decades ago, I’ve put a lot of energy into resurrecting a Student Farm at Penn State — a Land Grant University whose College of Ag long ago sold its soul to corporate Ag and the Farm Bureau. Teaching students how to collaborate on small-scale agriculture — to grow their own food and enough for some of the dining halls — and seeing how small-scale Ag helps bridge the rural-urban divide in the Commonwealth — all of this has given me a perennial sense of hope, even in this current crisis.

      Reply
        1. wilroncanada

          My daughters went to the last high school in Canada (I think) that had an agriculture program (in the 1980s). The (qualified) teacher owned his own farm, which the students used. They planted and grew crops, raised chickens, cows and sheep. He retired, and after about five years with another teacher the program was eliminated.

          When we moved from the west coast to the Annapolis Valley, I questioned the ministry as to why it did not encourage agriculture programs, especially in the Valley where many students were farm children.

          Students had to finish high school, then go to an agriculture college outside the Valley.

          Reply
  2. MT_Bill

    We had taken a 4 year hiatus from the community garden after our kids were born. Thankfully we started up again last year, and this will be the second year back in the garden. We have the space for chickens or ducks in our yard, but city regs prohibit it. Maybe this will help change that. Meat is not an issue in Montana. With issues in normal processing chain, I expect local beef and pork might get easier to come by as they can’t ship it out of state.

    Funny you mention restaurants and bacon. I just scored an absolute killer deal on Boar’s Head bacon ($1 per pound), but I had to take it in 15# food service packs.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Wow, that is a good deal! I don’t eat a lot of bacon as in eggs and bacon, but I do use it for cooking – a couple of rashers transforms many things. Lots of flavour, without ODing on too much of the stuff we all know is not particularly healthy about bacon.

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        Look for “uncured” bacon – no added nitrites. Otherwise, it’s made with salt and smoke, much less of an issue. And greasy pork, of course. But if you cook it thoroughly, you cook off a large portion of the fat – we like it pretty crisp, short of burnt.

        We have it about once a week, plus occasionally as seasoning. It was nice to learn that the saturated fat is less of a health issue than was once thought.

        Reply
  3. wol

    I’m in the process of putting in a Square Foot Garden in the sunniest part of my wooded landscape. Raised beds are common in the rocky clay soil here in piedmont North C. Starting with newsprint and cardboard (as in ‘lasagna gardening’), then a mixture of homemade compost, Black Cow manure and garden soil. https://squarefootgardening.org Deer are a huge problem and I’ll fence it. If it works out I’ll keep adding footage.
    For years I’ve been content with 1 1/2 tomato sandwiches for lunch during harvest, varieties make it interesting. Swiss Chard keeps on giving.

    Elsewhere I’m letting deer resistant native plants take over, especially milkweed and Black-Eyed Susans. Many friends are tending beehives and priority is given to bloomers.

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Mom and sis are in High Point. I know that Piedmont clay well. They’ve had vegetable gardens before, and already have raised beds. I didn’t mention I sent along some soil as well – I actually think I sent some Black Cow manure, although I can’t remember. I relied on the advice of the plantman, who is originally from NY.

      Reply
      1. jo6pac

        If they haven’t put the soil in yet you can use gypsum first then the soil it helps the clay to drain down instead of water laying on the surface.

        Reply
    2. Amfortas the hippie

      “lifebouy” bar soap in a sock will discourage deer for some reason(i don’t know why it works, but it does).
      also just being active out there when deer are venturing too close…pee on the fence, lol…and both twilight times.

      and lasagne gardening is an awesome way to jump start a garden…especially the part about suppressing whatever weeds are growing in that spot.
      a note on manure: if possible, before importing a bunch of manure to your place(it’s heavy), do a bean test in a couple of samples.
      put some in a pot and plant a pinto bean in it, and see what happens.
      for the last 15 years or so dowpont has been pushing “persistent herbicides”, that go through the livestock’s digestive system unharmed, and then even through a very Hot composting process.
      this means that you can easily have herbicidal compost without knowing it until it’s too late.
      very frustrating….especially after hauling a few tons of it by hand.
      a correlative to Know Yer Farmer….is Know the Source of your Manure.

      Reply
    3. Bob

      Milkweed is a very interesting plant – food, fiber, insulation (think down jacket) and a crucial food for certain insects.
      The first sprouts in spring are excellent when steamed.

      Reply
    4. John

      You will probably need a fence. But you could surround the garden with rosemary. The Californis deer here did not even eat the roses when they wer surrounded with rosemary. Rosemary is a decent herb for venison as well.

      Reply
  4. lyman alpha blob

    This morning I am having a woodchuck removed from my back yard. Not only will my vegetable garden be more secure, I may just be able to enjoy some tulips this year, rather than having them decapitated and the buds eaten right before they’re set to flower.

    And yes, I am taking the expensive route – having someone come and trap it and then relocate it elsewhere. Please don’t tell my farming family who always use the cheaper method when removing varmints from their property ;)

    Reply
    1. HotFlash

      Somewhere I have a recipe for Marmot a la Microwave. Kill, skin, and gut, carefully removing musk glands. Put some unpopped popcorn in the cavity together with any desired seasoning, sew up or skewer, then microwave until the corn pops. Enjoy!

      Also have recipes for roast raccoon, squirrel, and pigeon. You never know.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        We have a medium sized pecan tree in our back yard. Plenty of pecan fed squirrel available for backup larder!
        It being in the City limits, a nice break style air rifle does the trick. All of the neighbors are cool with it. No one here likes these herbicidal squirrels.

        Reply
        1. Wukchumni

          I’m not sure how you’d prepare Marmont Cong, but it’d be damn near the last thing i’d eat, no matter how hungry I was.

          Reply
  5. Louis Fyne

    absolutely agree with the tone of the piece, but warning to novices, gardening is not easy. and not every yard has the sun or soil to grow what you see on TV.

    decided to skip planting a veg. garden this year as my neck of the woods seems to have a surge in possums and raccoons—and I’m looking to avoid attracting them

    good luck to all the new green thumbs

    Reply
    1. Carla

      @ Louis Fyne — I second all your remarks. Although I do well with flowering perennials (pollinators!), my small attempts at vegetable-growing over the years have come to naught. Now, my daylilies provide a sumptuous buffet for the families of deer that live throughout our street-car suburb (so-called for its age; we used to have street-cars!). I was very excited about blueberries and planted 6 bushes (mixed varieties for cross-pollination) a few years ago. Even though we netted them, birds managed to get all the berries before they were even ripe — I mean, I didn’t get enough to make a single batch of blueberry pancakes!

      I’m going to try this route, which other Ohioans might want to pursue, as well:

      https://www.cleveland.com/entertainment/2020/04/cleveland-produce-company-selling-discounted-fruit-vegetables-directly-to-customers.html

      Interesting that our local news site of record seems to think that procuring food is “entertainment.”

      Reply
    2. TXMama

      Agree there is no guaranteed return on gardening, but you can learn from the experience of others. Join a local online gardening forum or Facebook group. People are happy to share what worked for them and what didn’t. You can post photos of your plants that are having problems and get advice on what to do from experienced gardeners.

      Reply
  6. rob

    For those of us not feeling sick… this spring has actually been a fantastic time to garden more. Both in getting more land space ready for plants.. and more thought to container growing… whatever we think we want..
    A thought on food security here is the reality that were we to “really grow” something… and “need it”.. a fence with a full roof will be needed at some time. So the plot will eventually have to fit in a shape that can be easier to enclose. Letting the sun in.. and keep the deer out.
    permanent plots /soil amendments
    irrigation/water collection and storage
    Right now… All these things are fun.. and a great hobby and useful.
    As far as food security ;on a larger level..
    Here in north carolina….the way things were @40 years ago and before…. with small landowners farming pigs/pork,cows/dairy/meat,chickens/eggs/meat… and bringing these to sites( local butchers or agricultural buyers) to be processed and distributed… either locally or further… There is a lot less of that now.. from what I hear..
    This seems like it would keep the supply spread out everywhere.. physically.
    Now the big companies like smithfields(which is owned by a chinese corporation)and others,, have concentrated the production of animals to obscene practice. All of this is geared to their profit.. at the expense of a better food supply model for everyone else.
    for a ham and cheese omelette
    ” the chicken and the cow are involved,but the pig is committed.”
    The animals farmed that I see today living in “small” farms… live a decent life… Until they don’t… but that is much better than being farmed by the corporations… where your whole life sucks… until it doesn’t.
    And getting things local is one benefit of not living in a city.

    Reply
    1. wol

      I helped a friend paint an ag mural at a children’s museum. The funders complained that we painted the chicken cages too large. We repainted them smaller.

      Reply
    2. a different chris

      >And getting things local is one benefit of not living in a city.

      Google “Pittsburgh Farm” and see how not true that is anymore, seemingly suddenly to old-timers like me. It’s the suburbs that are the fresh food deserts.

      Reply
  7. Wukchumni

    I learned at a tender age on my grandparents farm in Okotoks, Ab. just how tasty green peas are eaten out of the pod, almost candy-like, so delicious. I’ve planted a bunch of them about 2 weeks ago and they’re just emerging now and it should beat the heat wave looming in the summer when it comes time to harvest.

    I’ve also got 6 different kinds of tomatoes, 10 strawberry plants, onions, Japanese cucumbers, potatoes, and watermelons, along with beans & beets.

    My emphasis has always been on fruit trees, as I acquired the gene from my dad, who planted a dozen in my childhood home, and set me on a course where our orchard has around 90 trees now, with 11 additional bought in the past week from a favorite local nursery, mostly apricots-plums-peaches with different ripening times, not that there’ll be anything for a number of years, for it doesn’t matter as the old guard will be the ones we’re relying on to come through with a cornucopia of delights from the branch office.

    I really ought to take an inventory of what’s what, ha!

    Roughly it boils down to 45 mostly different apple trees, 13 different cherry trees (they’re looking great-ought to have around 1,000 cherries this year) 11 different citrus, and around 2-5 each of different varieties of nectarines, plums, peaches and apricots.

    I’ve resisted getting the hybrid crosses such as pluots and the like, but who knows, I might make another visit and get some more to get us to 100 trees, it’s one of those nice addictions, tending an orchard.

    Reply
  8. Samuel Conner

    Lots of starts, most of which will be given away. Trying to weight more toward “heirlooms” so that the seeds can be saved and used to grow the same variety again without the uncertainty one has with hybrids. That’s mostly a “resilience” measure in the event that it becomes hard to get seeds from online sellers (which did happen a bit this Spring).

    I’ve been shipping spading forks (“Lesche King of Spades” garden fork, made in USA, all steel, all joins welded) to friends who at last have acceded to my appeals to dig their own gardens,

    Critters, probably squirrels, are digging in my containers, which is annoying and damaging to small plants that are still establishing their roots. Dilute urine (male may be more effective than female, I’m told by a sibling who is a far more productive gardener than I am) sprinkled on the periphery of the container soil seems to be helping.

    I’m going to get serious about hot composting this year, as I don’t expect to be able to source my preferred fertilizer as readily as in prior years, and may need to make my own soil amendments. Fortunately, following Lambert’s dictum that one should never let organic material leave one’s property, I have lots of semi-rotted plant matter lying around in old cold compost piles.

    In the last couple of years I made a 1 cubic yard capacity compost bin from cedar balusters and hardware cloth. The 4 sides clip together with simple latches and the bin easily disassembles and re-assembles for pile turning.

    I think the plans can be found in this book. The parts list was pricey (one could do it cheaper with plain lumber and chicken wire, but the frame may rot more quickly) but the bin should last many years.

    https://www.amazon.com/Vegetable-Gardeners-Book-Building-Projects-ebook/dp/B00592ABT4/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=Garden+projects&qid=1587386916&s=books&sr=1-8

    “Classic Compost Bin” is the section I followed.

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      my 5 main compost bins are the housings from various dead washers and dryers…there’s no place nearby to get rid of these carcasses(much like with tires), so i saved them in my scrapyard.
      I was surprised(until i thought about it) at how difficult they were to disassemble.
      it’s almost as if they were designed to discourage repair….

      see above comment regarding manure…which is essential for hot composting.

      and Cover Crops!!

      I like Vetch, myself. this time of year, it pulls up easily, leaving a dense root mat that the heat will kill off just when it’s time to set out seedlings.
      everything goes into the compost….and vetch makes excellent compost fodder.
      i plant it in fall, and it…along with the rescue grass…is the first thing to green up in the pastures…
      for summer, after most of the harvest, cover cropping, I like buckwheat(likes the heat) and millet(ditto), and either harvest them(for food or for seeds saving) or mow them down before they seed out.
      everything goes into the compost.

      Extreme Composting is more of an Art…or a Lifestyle, even…one must incorporate it into daily life.
      Cousin gets scolded for putting compostable material in the trash…because he ain’t used to it.
      Boys feel weird putting such stuff in the trash when we used to go places…”it just feels wrong, dad…”

      Reply
    2. jaaaaayceeeee

      I felt sad for my nice neighbor, who grew such lovely fruit trees, for getting told on to the city, by a nasty neighbor, for trapping and killing so many hundreds of squirrels a year. The squirrels that get fed by same are constantly, desperately, looking for places to dig and store their prizes. If the area is not crumbly soft soil, your pots will do.

      If I want seedlings to grow in beds or in pots, I stick bamboo shish kabob sticks half way into the soil, every few inches, or it’s impossible to grow anything. I buy packs at the dollar store or where ever barbecue stuff is sold. This also helps retrain feral cats, once trained to litter boxes. Some bamboo skewers last for years, and I am always pulling out old ones, proudly, as seedlings get so big that the sticks are going to start stabbing the plants!

      Reply
      1. Amfortas the hippie

        there are numerous surveyor flags on my place where a squirrel has inadvertently planted a pecan tree…or an oak…
        just sayin’

        i consider those trees as meant to be, for the most part.

        Reply
        1. jaaaaayceeeee

          heh heh, yeah, I regularly thank squirrels for starting new walnut trees, because I plan to take one with me and give it lots of love (when I have enough space to let it outcompete using its jugalone to surpress growth of other plants).

          Reply
          1. Amfortas the hippie

            re: suppression of other plants.
            Thats called allelopathy.
            sunflowers and wheat do the same thing.
            walnuts are notorious for that.

            Reply
            1. jaaaaayceeeee

              Wow, I did not know about sunflowers and wheat, so thanks. I have had a hard time getting amaranth to grow nicely with other plants, and now that I know the word, I looked it up and allelopathy is the reason – thank you!

              I had taken to growing a bit of the showy red, in a pot for the look of it and will stick to using it only decoratively.

              Reply
    3. marieann

      For the squirrels digging in the pots, I place broken shards of old clay pots around the plants and they don’t dig it anymore

      Reply
  9. Nonna B

    Here in northern Illinois several towns have stated community gardens. Folks are given a plot, and there is water piped in and available for the gardeners.i had grown up in a similar situation of yours. My grandparents – both sets- came from what they called “the old country” and they were wise enough to buy two city lots: one for the home, one for the garden. They grew vegetables but also had several apple trees that produced fruit to eat and enough to can for over winter. My parents had a small garden and when my husband and I bought our house we have a 1/3 acre which was enough for us to have a good size garden. And now both my home owning children have small gardens. Growing up, I just took it for granted that having a vegetable garden was something you did. And yes, the Victory Garden concept should definitely be revived!

    Reply
  10. marieann

    I have been gardening ever since I had a patch of ground to cultivate. My garden now is 50% herbs and veggies. A few years ago I got into canning so I grow lots of tomatoes and that keeps us over the winter.

    I grow green beans to freeze and my herbs I dry. I also grow strawberries and rhubarb…those are in small amounts so they get eaten when they are ripe.I also grow some carrots,kohlrabi,broccoli, turnip and salad greens…they all help fill the dinner plates in the growing season but are not enough to store for winter.

    I live in a area that has lots of small farms so I buy local apples to turn into apple butter and applesauce, I also get local strawberries (pick your own) to freeze for winter desserts.
    I hope this year will not bring too many changes to the local farms and their roadside stands.

    Reply
  11. Amfortas the hippie

    Good on ya, Jerri-Lynn.
    when i had the diamond cutter moment about this pandemic….early on, thanks to you all, here…
    Food Security was the first thing that entered my mind.
    I had planned on another year of fighting grasshoppers and spreading manure and excessive cover cropping to get all these new beds ready for next year…but we went balls to the wall, instead.
    it’s less than ideal…not being to my idea of Readiness like this means more weeding and such.
    But I fear that i will be feeding my neighbors in addition to the 7 people on the Farm.
    when y’all are planting….with the caveat that I’m in the Texas Hill Country; your specifics will vary….remember Squash and Pumpkin…loaded with nutrients, and a bunch of them keep all through winter if stored properly.
    We ate the last pumpkin from last year a week or so ago…grilled most of it with brown sugar and cayenne…and used the rest for pie.
    the leftovers went into soups and stews and stirfries.

    It is my fervent hope that this disaster…which is a disaster of BAU as much as anything else…leads us collectively to think about how we do things, and to change that How to a more sustainable and cooperative and caring model.
    “Strike while the Iron is Hot”-Bob Marley
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Tk-FoiX_0

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      The looming food crisis in our country (and elsewhere) will be one hellova wake up call for oh so many.

      I think of food deserts such as LA/OC/SD where the nearest foodstuffs grown or livestock in any quantities are 50 miles away, man what a scene that’s gonna be when 20 million people in SoCal get hungry.

      It was so different when I grew up in the City of Angles surrounded by Haas avocado trees and oh so much citrus, all of it gone now replaced by single family homes.

      Reply
  12. carl

    I’d also add that for folks who find a garden daunting, just finding connections with local farmers is a good substitute. Even in a largish city, at least around here, there are groups of like-minded folks who can help you find your local farmers/ranchers. We have connections to local meat and dairy producers who are still producing, and their offerings are superior to what you can find in the supermarkets.
    If there’s anything good about this virus situation, I hope to see more people connecting locally, using barter for food and goods. Since it’s clear that government is impotent and unhelpful, we should encourage people to connect outside the formal systems.

    Reply
    1. freedomny

      I think people in large cities don’t realize that a barter economy still exists in many parts of America. My BIL is a plastic surgeon in a affluent small college town that is surrounded by a vast rural area. He once bartered taking off a melanoma from a farmer who didn’t have health insurance in return for a refurbished snow blower because he was sick of shoveling his driveway…

      Reply
  13. Krystyn Podgajski

    Jerri-Lynn, I grew up in Rockland County, NY, and living now (for 20 years) in the Piedmont, so, yeah, weird. We used to get all our apple’s at Davie’s Farm in Rockland and my dad, a NYC kid who white-flighted out of Queens to the suburbs, had a 20 by 20 garden in the backyard that he lost himself in instead of trying to figure out how to communicate to his kids.

    I say let’s lay off the term “Victory Garden” or “tend your own garden” and focus more so on “Community Gardens”. There are people after all, like you and I, who do not have space for a garden but would surely help. And there are people too old or sick to so anything.

    We should in every way possible be fostering community over the individualism that pervades the average Americans mentality. We should open up local farms to the community as coops instead of private boutique neoliberal copy cats of agribusiness that charge a 20% premium at the local farmers market because they have an “ol’ timey” sign.

    i mean, if health care is a right, food should be even more of a right, right? Right.

    Reply
  14. Barbara

    I’ve been vegetable gardening for about 8 years. And I, too, have been thinking that more of us should be thinking making at least some of our food. Actually, I’ve been thinking about turning my front lawn which gets the most consistent sun throughout the day – even in winter – into a veggie garden as well. Get rid of the lawn. I’m just not sure my town of well-groomed lawns is ready for anyone to give up the front lawn.

    Eight years ago, I used 10″ high raised beds. Three years ago I raised all of them. I have 6 at this time: 1- 36″ high; 1- 28″ high; and 4 22″ high.I built a drip system (which helps to keep me from being outdoors in the worse heat of the summer at the wrong time of day). I plant vegetables that I like the most: tomatoes – 3 varieties; seedless cucumbers (if you think cucumbers are tasteless, try some you grow yourselves); zucchini; golden beets; white turnips; carrots; herbs – basil, thyme, rosemary, lavender; flowers: mums, nasturtiums, geraniums. The only reason why I don’t grow things like cauliflower, cabbage, etc., is that you have to rotate where you grow these vegetables and I don’t think my spread is really large enough to do the rotation properly. If I added six more large beds on my front lawn, then I could add all kinds of plants.

    Nasturtium are great to plant with Cucumbers and Zucchini. But not actually with – the first year I did this, I put one Nasturtium plant in the bed with Cucumber and one in the bed with the Zucchini. The nasturtiums took over the bed.

    The next year, I put the Nasturtiums in a big pot that I placed between the bed. I staked the plant to contain its growth to the pot. It benefitted both the Cucumber bed and the Zucchini bed.

    I’ve been lucky to have an excellent on-going harvest from July through October with enough to freeze for winter months.

    Reply
      1. Barbara

        I definitely will check, but here’s some history of my town. My dh hated, hated mowing the lawn. We went on vacation at the shore for two weeks. We have two kinds of grasses which grow at different rates, so we came home to a lawn really looking like it needed a haircut . . . and a notice from the town that if we didn’t mow our lawn in 48 hours we would be hauled before the borough council.

        What’s next? I thought – putting us in stocks in front of boro hall?

        That’s when we hired a landscaper.

        But I will definitely check before I put down boxes.

        Worst comes to worst, I will change my front lawn to species that are local and are more habitable for bees and butterflies.

        Reply
    1. HotFlash

      Nasturtium leaves are sooooo tasty and great for a sandwich, a lot like watercress. The flowers are tasty, too, and pretty in a salad. The seed pods pickled in (homemade) vinegar are a very nice substitute for capers. Waste nothing!

      Reply
      1. Barbara

        ah! meant for Amfortas

        Thanks for the info/advice about rotation and the reference on companion planting. I really appreciate advice from experience

        Someone once suggested I join a garden club, but I have a friend who has been a garden club member and her stories of sabbotage, backbiting, and God know what all – the thought just makes me cringe. Plus I don’t want to grow my garden somewhere else as my friend’s garden club does. I’d rather find a local network of gardener’s who kibbutz with each other, share experiences. etc.

        Reply
    2. Amfortas the hippie

      “I’m just not sure my town of well-groomed lawns is ready for anyone to give up the front lawn.”
      if ever there was a time for Civil Disobedience regarding the whole Lawns not Food nonsense, it’s right now.
      You can point at the nearest TV, or the nearest Grocery Store to have the point made for you….and, if you’ve been sharing some of the raised beds harvests with your neighbors(doesn’t take much…it’s the thought that matters most), they can back you up against the Lawn Zealots and their little rulers.
      (a perfect example of Nietzsche’s “Last Men”, who “hop about…and blink…”)

      and, as far as rotation: you can get away with not rotating, as far as nutrients goes, so long as your adding compost and manure in sufficient quantity.
      disease and pests, not so much.
      This goes for everything, not just cauliflowers, etc.
      so if you have a rash of aphids one year in a certain spot, on a specific plant,, don’t plant the same thing there next year(indeed, plant a trap crop for aphids and zap them the next year,lol(turnips and mustards trap aphids, and a bunch of other bothersome critters…as does wheat. I do most of my trap cropping in the hedges and such…but i have more room, it sounds like))
      and the Nasturtium thing is great, and you can save the seeds, too.
      for other instances of companion planting, this is a neat little book:
      https://www.biblio.com/book/carrots-love-tomatoes-secrets-companion-planting/d/1290601185?

      Reply
      1. Kfish

        Possibly edible ornamentals or things like nasturtium that don’t really look much like food could get around the restrictions. If you make it look like a well-manicured country garden, it might work. I remember seeing ornamental cabbages used in public gardens in Paris – lovely floral-looking things that added colour in mid-winter.

        Reply
        1. Amfortas the hippie

          and here i’m all recommending revolutionary measures with regard to the ruler bearers…..the “Last Men…who hop about..and blink,,,”

          Frelling Eat Them.
          Can we get the Burning Times over with?
          I’m fundamentally more interested in what comes next.

          Reply
  15. Annieb

    I live in a townhome with a courtyard near Denver. Several years ago I turned the lawn area into a small raised bed, 5 x 6 and have been vegetable gardening with mixed results . This year I made a more concerted effort to start lettuce, peas and tomatoes seeds. The lettuce and spinach planted in March grew very well, first under plastic tarp, now under a floating row cover. The snow pea seeds were eaten by birds so I had to replant a few weeks later and cover them. Now they are growing well. I tried winter sowing in plastic jugs via Instructions from a YouTube gardener but the Tomato seeds didn’t sprout. So I took the jugs indoors and now have a few sprouts. I will also be planting in grow bags this year. I am interested to see how much I can grow in a small space.

    Reply
    1. jaaaaayceeeee

      I bought some ‘on-sale’ grow bags a few years back, just to see if there is anything to the claims that the roots will get more oxygen and plants be healthier. They seem to me to be just bigger pots, that you can jam into odder spaces, and although they appear to be designed to last only a growing year (I bought 25 gallon bags), most are still going strong, especially if you don’t use the handles or lift the bags with heavy dirt inside.

      Reply
  16. John Siman

    Square Foot Gardening was one of the great innovations of the last century! I am getting a cubic yard of leaf compost for my boxes today — I already have lots of vermiculite + composted chicken manure + composted cow manure + kitchen compost. Here’s a link to the website:
    Welcome to Square Foot Gardening Foundation | Official Site
    https://squarefootgardening.org/

    Reply
  17. Rod Foley

    Essay sounded much like an area and how I grew up, sans the large family. Watched my Grandma supervise the first potato crop planted on our farm–jabbering in Polish but beaming as she was nitpicking the rows and depths. We had just bought that place amidst much derision from the family about a single Mom living so far out and the silliness of wanting to live in the country. Grandma told stories from before she came to America in 1911, which my Mom and her two brothers interpreted, as she supervised.
    I still remember eating that crop throughout that cold first winter.
    Nowadays I just do not feel Spring is right unless I am turning the ground and nurturing the growth.

    About 20% of the 138 people I graduated HS with still live and work the Family Farm in that School District. It hasn’t been an easy 45 years for them.

    https://www.sovereignman.com/trends/the-us-is-losing-9-5-acres-of-farmland-per-minute-15599/

    Connecting people to their own food source does way more than satisfy the physical hunger and should be on the National Agenda.

    My first new crop in years-Garbanzos-broke through last week and it is showering on the Piedmont this morning.

    https://www.nal.usda.gov/topics/home-gardening

    Reply
  18. William Hunter Duncan

    We have 200 species of plants on our 1/6th acre in Minneapolis. 30 fruit trees and shrubs, a dozen grape and hop vines, hundreds of raspberry canes, 500sq ft of garden beds, a greenhouse made from reclaimed lumber and sliding glass doors, 87 mushroom logs and a 200 sq ft mushroom wood chip bed. There used to be a lot of animosity about what we have built here, but lately and especially this year, people seem truly interested.

    We also just went live with our website for our non-profit, Food Forest, Farm and Restaurant. We are trying to engage a municipality to build a large scale example, to provide good, meaningful, dignified, well compensated jobs growing food and teaching people how. We need to have a nation-wide discussion about producing more food and essential products locally – and how that could be very healthy for working people and pollinators too.

    https://foodforestfarmrestaurant.org

    Reply
      1. William Hunter Duncan

        Pollinators would think so too ;) (And America would be a lot more healthy).

        Stay tuned for Tuesday’s blog post…pictures of our lot with explanations and a bit of backstory, to be updated through the season!

        Reply
        1. jaaaaayceeeee

          Lovely work, WHD, and especially lovely to show people, who once looked at you askance, just how much you can accomplish in Minn! My sister has been doing something similar in high desert CO and switched a lot of her effort, since shelter in place, to selling take out for minimal prices, if you bring back the tupperware. It has really changed how people look at her projects to get people helping each other.

          Reply
          1. William Hunter Duncan

            Thank you! Glad to hear too about your sister. My guess is a lot of people are going to ask her this summer about the process of her garden.

            Here over the years in good faith we have offered for free left-over vegetable starts, raspberries and assorted wildflowers I have removed, and we have a sign on the sidewalk, “Feel free to sample the berries; no gathering please,” next to the large stand of wild black cap raspberries. We also have a mating pair of Mallards who spend their days in our pond in the Spring, by far the best ambassadors we have had for this place.

            Reply
  19. Jonathan Compton

    I run a small urban youth farm in Camden, NJ where food security has been a long term issue well before the current crisis. We have ramped up our growing efforts this year in anticipation of increasing food instability and are distributing seeds and plants to local residents to encourage backyard gardens. The neighborhood community garden that we manage is sadly closed to the public for the time being as it is located in a public city park, all of which have been shuttered by the state. So, land access continues to be a huge problem here for those that would like to grow. Luckily our org has plots outside of the park so our own growing efforts have continued unabated. We are still researching best practices for how to run our farmers market safely once that gets underway – lots of problems to solve…

    Those of you that have or need resources there is a national grass roots movement currently underway to revive the “victory garden” concept to promote local growing efforts and sharing of land, seeds, and plants called the Cooperative Gardens Commission: https://coopgardens.org/

    Happy growing to all of you!

    Reply
    1. jaaaaayceeeee

      Our local OG Farmers Mkt group has done a great job of making and distributing signs for the market, explaining that you should buy whatever you touch, let the elderly have the first hour if possible, etc., and generally making the farmers’ market safer than any grocery store.

      Reply
  20. Wukchumni

    There’s going to be quite the day of reckoning for fussy eaters…

    The ‘I’m on a Paleo diet’ or ‘gluten free’ or ‘Keto’ etc.

    …this was a elective way to feed ourselves that seems quaint now

    Reply
  21. Userfract

    So many people are getting into gardening this year around here that many of the heirloom seed vendors we usually buy from have most of their products out of stock. I’m glad to see it since we all need to better relate to the natural world if we are going to try and counteract climate change. Sadly the local authorities have banned community gardens, but the grassroots are working on changing their minds. I hope they will allow people to use the community gardens soon because if they leave the decision too late then people will be too late planting in our short growing season. I’m going to be building four new raised beds in my backyard this afternoon and it is keeping me sane in these uncertain times.

    Reply
  22. rkka

    I started my garden in the spring of 2010, after watching Obama bungle recovery measures from the global financial collapse. I knew from Keynes & Galbraith that Bad Times were ahead. Since I’m tall, I put in a 5’x20′ raised bed, dense clay soil lightened with compost. I use the grass clippings & leaves from my quarter acre house lot to maintain fertility, and it works great.

    Every couple years so I expand it, so now I have a total of 6 productive beds, and I’m planning another for the spring. I’ve found John Jeavon’s “How to Grow More Vegetables” to be an excellent guide to bis biointensive method!

    http://www.growbiointensive.org/

    Reply
  23. jonboinAR

    I finally have started a victory garden, as well. I live with several family members on about 5 overgrown acres. A lot is hilly, a bit, flat. So, I’ve been trying to clear, after my desultory fashion, an area to garden for a couple of season. I’ve pulled up a bunch of privet hedge bush/trees, some oak saplings. I was planning to do that cultivating-less style. I wanted to try it. That idea of disturbing the natural soil as little as possible appealed to me. I had spread a bunch of cardboard and covered it. Thing is, I was clearing an area about 125 ft x 60 ft, but I had only got about 25 x 15 covered, and mulched with straw. I had gotten to no other mulching or manuring.

    When the plague hit, I said, man, I’ve got to get a garden in. I enlisted my son-in-law with whom I live. Well, he and his family are true red-necks. They’re interested in tried-and-true ways and ways they’ve always done things, and that’s it. I knew it would be a struggle with him if I insisted on this hippy -family blog- I was attempting. He wasn’t paying the least mind to the way I was doing it, but I knew he had his opinion. In order to keep the peace, etc., I didn’t even bring the cultivating-less thing up. I just said, “Can you help me put in a garden?” He went and fixed his OTHER father-in-laws (complicated) tractor, and we disked the whole 60×125 ft. Disked in a sack of 13x13x13 chemical fertilizer.

    Well, I’ve (we’ve) got corn, yellow squash, zuchini, bell peppers, watermelon, 3 varieties of tomatoes, and cucumbers. This coming weekend we plan to plant black-eyed peas (maybe purple-hulled peas, not sure), and green beans. He said last weekend that the soil was still to cool for those, but it should be alright by this weekend. He said my corn might be affected, too, and to hang on to the seed I had left over just in case -I was going to give it away-. Kind of expensive stuff, that.

    I’m a little heart-sick over giving up the cultivating-less experiment. Feel like I caved in. I should have kept a corner up for it. But it looks like we have a pretty mighty traditional style garden started, at least.

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the hippie

      Perfect vs The Good, man…don’t kick yourself over it.
      a good introduction to sustainable/notill/organic/whatever we’re gonna call all that…is 3 sisters. Plant beans and squash with your corn.
      beans provide nitrogen and squash leaves shade the crowns of the corn and beans.
      it’s easy to explain to your typical redneck(don’t combine garden talk with politics,lol), and this actually IS the “Traditional” Method.
      Our addiction to Ag Chemicals is around an hundred years old.
      there’s lots of other small and/or peripheral things you can do towards the end of being sust/organic, etc.:
      trap crops on the periphery(brassicas attract caterpillars and their parents, including the moth that makes earworms)…so you can spray them there, instead of on your crop.

      put a compost pile next to the garden, and make certain to add all the crop residue when the seasons over.

      plant some perennial herbs in and around the plot—attracts Good Bugs, smell good, are good for cooking and look cool, too.

      each of these is a conversation starter with conventional farmer types.
      Ignorance is curable…and “they know not what they do”, since the county extension agent and the people at the feed store are likely acting as agents for monsanto-ism/monsatanism, even if unaware.

      Reply
      1. jonboinAR

        Thanks for the good advice! I will definitely plant some squash and beans with the corn. And the brassicas. Thanks!

        Reply
  24. Keith

    I try to garden every year, prior it was in apartments, but since I am in my house (2nd year), I can be a little more ambitious. Sadly, my labors do not produce much, except for zucchini. However, I am pretty good with animals, pets at least, so I wll be raising ducks and geese, in about a week (waiting for delivery). This was an ambition when I bought the house, as was beekeeping (hopefully next year- large upfront costs to start), so this virus did not prompt my decision, although I did order a earlier than planned due to news reports that chickens are being bought like crazy due to th Wuhan Virus.

    Reply
  25. Oguk

    I got a larger plot at the community garden, and I had already ordered peanuts to grow from seed. I had a friend years ago who successfully grew peanuts in the northeast, so I’m going to try. (Peanut butter is a survival food for me.) Some have already sprouted under some grow lights. I had a good harvest of carrots and beets last year, will venture a bit further into other vegetables and beans (lentils in particular – also under grow lights atm).
    Already put in 3 new apple trees I had ordered, 2 cranberry bushes, and a couple of herbs. I already have raspberries, despite some problems with disease. I’m sharing extra plants for free at the curb, already had some takers (flowers so far but I have plenty of raspberry plants). The bees (I have 5 hives this year – !) are doing well so far.
    We are lucky to have a small local farm that has a small grocery that is selling on-line for pickup. It’s a little more expensive but the produce is better, and mostly raised from the farm depending on what you buy.
    I keep want to build a chicken coop but haven’t done it yet.

    Reply
    1. Samuel Conner

      Radishes are super easy to grow, can be harvested in 3-4 weeks; greens are edible. Easy to grow in containers. If you leave them in longer, the root keeps growing. Grow an open-pollinated/heirloom variety and let several go to seed for next year’s crop.

      Reply
    2. jaaaaayceeeee

      I also recommend the same, tomatoes, chives, snacking peppers and radishes, and recommend that you blow some $$ for grow bags or pots and good compost, so that you are sure to have some success your first year gardening. The success gets you thinking about just how much time you are willing to spend on fixing your soil to plant directly, or setting up raised beds. I also always recommend you plant some nasturtiums and other flowers, for beauty and to start saving seed yourself.

      Reply
  26. ambrit

    Blueberry bushes will grow just about anywhere in North America. We have had some in our two previous places. After a year or two, they put out like crazy. They send out runners and re-root for a new stalk. Cut the sucker lose and let it harden off and later dig up to transplant. As mentioned above, plant several different varieties to insure pollination. Blueberries prefer acidic soil, so, pine needle compost is great.
    Now I have to go out back and clear our mini back property line along the alley.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      A non-native: Himalayan Blackberries

      Are all over the place here, and typically never get harvested, except by me that is.

      If you eat them as you go, your fingers take on a look of having voted in a Iraqi election, all purplish.

      Reply
  27. Sub-Boreal

    Coming from a pretty hardcore gardening family, this was the most important reason to get a place of my own. But investing in raised beds and long-term soil improvement tends to discourage mobility, which is probably a feature, not a bug! And if the summer turns dry, I have to find a reliable student who needs a little side-gig to tend to the watering when I need to go away for work. But all of these things are manageable.

    In central British Columbia where I’ve lived for 29 years, the growing season is short and cool, with a ~ 90-day frost-free period. We’re not quite far enough north to enjoy really long days, and not quite continental enough to get a lot of mid-summer heat. So gardening here requires modest expectations and tolerance of heartbreak.

    Very reliable performers here: anything in the cabbage family, leeks, onions, garlic, potatoes, beans, peas, root vegetables. Tomatoes bigger than cherry-size need a greenhouse to ripen, as do peppers, although smaller-fruited types like jalapeno can be moved out of the greenhouse in July if it’s a warmer summer. I’m still experimenting with varieties of winter squash and pumpkins that can mature here. Sweet corn is possible but with some fussing – I start the shortest-season varieties in peat pellets in early May, and transplant at 4 weeks. Sowing corn seed in the ground in June is a poor bet due to cool soil in many years.

    Non-commercial production of apples, plums, and sour cherries is possible here, but shrubby small fruits are more reliable (raspberries, currants, gooseberries, saskatoons). Wild blueberries and huckleberries are usually plentiful enough that there’s no point in growing cultivars.

    Sandy soils are strongly preferable to more clay-rich types as long as you have a reliable water supply. You need rapid drainage so that the ground thaws and warms as quickly as possible in springtime.

    My backyard is largely given over to edibles, organized in 4′ wide cedar plank raised beds, with 11 of them about 20′ long, along with a few smaller ones on one edge. This spring, I’m looking critically at some emerging ornamental perennials, and expect to remove some of them from the front yard, to be selectively replaced by some edibles.

    All of this produces most of the vegetables that I need from June through September, and fills the freezer, plus gives me all ingredients for canned salsa and frozen tomato sauce, and 2 or 3 kinds of pickles. So I’m not really doing much more in the current atmosphere of food security twitchiness, mostly because I’ve max’d out what I can do on my own lot. But I certainly see more interest in edibles from friends and neighbours, and expect to have lots of takers for surplus seedlings this spring.

    Good luck to all NC gardeners!

    Reply
    1. jaaaaayceeeee

      Yeah, it must be tough to get enough tomatoes for sauce and salsa without a green house in BC. I am in northern CA, and found that ‘dime’ or ‘grape’ tomatoes can stand both more heat and more cold, even through some winters. A many branched plant, the tomatoes are so small that you’d never get enough for salsa or sauce, or at least not want to spend the time picking them. But they are great for snacking, need no seed prep to dry and grow more next year, and are good for snacking.

      Reply
  28. Phillip Allen

    Unfortunately I no longer live in a place where I can garden. I’ve been engaged in helping bring into the world a new food co-op to serve my small town and the surrounding area, Mad River Market. We lost our last local grocery store a few years ago and are now at the tender mercies of corporate chains like Stop & Shop and worse, Dollar General. Our area in northwestern CT is deemed ‘rural’ by USDA, and agriculture remains an important part of our local economy. Food security is a large motivating factor in this co-op start up work, as is fostering a (more) sustainable food system. Since we don’t have a store yet, we’ve been working to promote local farms and food producers (CSAs and farm stands) though our outreach platforms, encouraging home gardens, and looking for opportunities to serve the community especially around food security and food access.

    Reply
    1. jaaaaayceeeee

      You just may end up inspiring more veggie growing than doing your own garden could, it’s really great that you are getting this going in that part of the state!

      Reply
  29. freedomny

    I’ve always had a small terrace and would garden on that. Now that I’ve moved I’ll have my first proper garden so I’m pretty excited. My yard doesn’t get a ton of sun so it will be interesting to see what successes I will have. I’ve also done a lot of research on hydroponics and was able to grow lettuce over the winter inside my house. It’s pretty cheap & there are many videos on you tube. Started learning about foraging several years ago and have been able to find wild greens in my local forest….mustard garlic (makes a great pesto), fiddleheads, dandelions. Next on my list is learning about canning….

    I think many people are starting to see that our supply chain may not be as robust as they originally thought. One of my friends back in NYC just bought herself an Aerogarden to grow stuff inside her apartment.

    Reply
    1. HotFlash

      Add fermenting to your to-do list! Just about anything can be fermented, it’s cheap, easy, needs no heat or special equipment, just Some Thing, salt water and a jar. Vitamins retained better than canning and good, healthy probiotics. I often buy the clear-out wilted vegs to ferment. Foraged greens can be fermented, too. Lots of info on the I’net, Sandor Katz is the Guru.

      Reply
      1. freedomny

        Thank you! Yes – fermenting is also on my list. Was looking for a good book to buy on it since the library is closed so I appreciate the Sandor Katz info. I do a fair amount of pickling but have always wanted to try fermenting….esp for the probiotics.

        Reply
    2. jaaaaayceeeee

      Your curiosity, enthusiasm, and willingness to try everything just reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to try. The doomsday preppers got the price of a home freeze dryer down from $15,000 to under $5,000 in the past decade or so. I have eaten home freeze dried fruits, my favorite being the orange slices, which require some fast, fancy, sharp knife work (to get off as much of the white, not just the skin, and ping off seeds too). The freeze dried slices are pure sunshine melling in your mouth!

      Reply
  30. K teh

    Under MMT, problems have to be solved before they arrive. As you’ll notice, the politicians are offering solutions that were previously developed, which have nothing to do with the virus and everything to do with bailing themselves out.

    The time to solve the food security problem was 2007-2009, by moving to where the food is grown on soil developed over generations, with accompanying seeds, absent the crazy real estate prices created by zoning boards of big city transplants. Industrial farming is another MMT distribution system, built to feed herds with GMO seeds and fertilizer that destroys the soil.

    The balance sheet on the left side of line1 is now a global tyrant, having replaced the local and regional tyrants as we have become the latest empire vehicle. In big cities, the operational leverage side of work and savings has been replaced by debt and technology. And under MMT, an arbitrary control signal, the only possible outcome is a competition for artificially scarce outcomes.

    The real economy runs on physical cash in general circulation, with a value set by matching supply and demand. MMT runs on fear and is controlled by greed. That’s why inflation in the university medical complex is out of control, the paradox of contol in a closed system. The university medical complex is already far larger than the DoD.

    Just so you know, all the military cares about is maintaining capacity. Should a real war become necessary, all those boondoggles in every politicians back yard will be replaced by new military designs.

    If you want food security, learn to farm or move to where the farmers are, and stay out of the path of MMT.

    Reply
  31. Mark Ó Dochartaigh

    Six years ago I took advantage of the tail end of the bursting of the last property bubble and bought five acres in Southwest Florida. I had always wanted to grow tropical fruits so after my retirement from nursing I started planting. The mangoes, sapodillas, guavas, lychees, various annonas, pineapples, etc. are wonderful but now I worry. Even the last few years when the economy was better fruit would disappear from my trees and I even caught absolutely unapologetic neighbors with arms literally full of fruit. I wonder now if it will stop with the fruit. It’s very enjoyable to share with appreciative neighbors, less so to be stolen from by people who may well have animosity toward the only person on the street without a tRump sticker on my vehicle. I’m not one who enjoys schadenfreude but my neighbors may soon hear my maniacal laughter from under my mango trees as I contemplate the last chapter in American history being written as Swiftian satire.

    Reply
    1. jaaaaayceeeee

      Yes, it can become a real problem, mitigation is the best you can shoot for, and sometimes lots of willfully sunny neighbor interaction (as well as the opposite). I remember the women in my family telling depression stories in 1950’s. I knew there was a certain amount of virtue signalling going on, and even wondered how much was moralmailing verging on blackmail, but appreciated that people really were starving all over the place, so if your home was paid off or your job still paying the mortgage, you were in a real sea of starving people.

      Reply
  32. Appleseed

    Thanks for prompting this, Jerri-Lynn. I consider gardening a life skill and am fortunate to have had great teachers over the years. As a young man, I embraced the French Intensive method (aka bastard trenching – as in “look at that bastard trench!”) It involves double digging the beds: dig two spade depths, put the 2 layers aside, use a fork to loosen the soil in the 3rd layer, and load the bottom with manure. Move to the next row and take the top spade depth and turn it over onto the manure. Take the second layer and turn it over on top thereby burying the manure under 2 layers of soil. Then, never walk on the beds (I cheat & put down boards to distribute my weight.) When you come to the last trench, backfill with the contents from the first trench. Each season for 34 years I have mulched with straw & leaves and let them rot over the winter, then turn the soil over with a fork in spring and start planting. The soil is friable (crumbles in your hand) holds water well and very fertile. As an old man, I learned about permaculture and lasagna gardening which helps save my aching back and sore knees. I still enjoy working the soil with hand tools, it’s good exercise, burns calories, stretches muscles, and after staring at a computer screen for most of the day, it provides a welcome respite and a healthy sweat.

    Through the years I snagged cinder blocks from various sites and have surrounded my beds with them to create stable raised beds. Flowers and herbs feed the soul and belong in every garden as faithful companions to eat, watch, and/or smell. They grow well in the cinder blocks. I plant a variety of flowers for the pollinators – nasturtium (super easy to grow. I recommend them to all first timers) marigold, zinnia, sunflower. Herbs like feverfew, yarrow, the mints and artemesia are strewn throughout the garden. One herb has to be managed fairly well: comfrey. It’s a great plant, just tends to spread. The flowers attract bees. The big leaves can be cut and used as mulch. Or, soak them in a bucket of rainwater for a few days to make Comfrey Tea and use in a watering can as plant food (homemade Miracle Gro!)

    We’ve had a mild winter in the Heartland so the cold frames I use were full. Overwintered arugula, carrots, salad greens, and leeks (gotta love leeks, easy to grow, not fussy and taste delicious – just be sure to pile up straw or leaves to blanch the stems) and assorted herbs – my chives were good to go in early March. Still have some parsley under glass. We were able to eat year ’round from the garden – between what we pull from the cold frames and the freezer (green beans, pesto made from cilantro, basil, dill and/or arugula.)

    Several community gardens around here have seed exchanges or plant swaps. Check out your neighborhood. Nice way to bring some bio-diversity into your yard and meet neighbors – even at a distance.

    Reply
    1. Mel

      Raised beds are nice. One weapon I have against our groundhogs/woodchucks is a squeeze-ketchup-bottle full of cayenne powder. I spritz the top edge of the box a time or two a season. Seems to work.

      Reply
    2. jaaaaayceeeee

      I’m about the only one who contributes to the seed exchange at my library (it’s ‘seeded’ with a few packaged the librarian bought for the old card catalogue it’s housed in). But I’ll keep it up, in hopes it eventually takes off. When libraries open up, it’s worth checking to see if they have a seed exchange you can participate in.

      Your garden sounds like heaven. I love edible chrysanthemum greens and plan to do some seed saving once I get growing them down. They have a distinctive flavor as strong as spinach or chard that’s all its own (and although they are common in Asian cooking, I like them in any French cooking, too). I don’t even use my cold frames after moving to northern CA, but boy they are great where you need them.

      I find gardening the easiest way to pass time lazily or furiously. Having been a coach, teacher, and consultant, I have held 3 or 4 times more kids’ (and grown ups’) hands, through mastering big changes, than your average public school teacher, so gardening is just my speed in old age, although I try to keep social with doing homework help and ESL.

      I have had years long wars, making hot pepper spray to get to eat some of the apple persimmons (mice love to gnaw the surface and drop it before it ever ripens), or using bamboo shish kebab sticks to protect seedlings in my own friable soil, from feral cats and squirrels desperately searching for a place to dig with the latest nut from the little old lady. Winning (or perhaps I should say choosing) my garden battles has become very satisfying, and saving seed good for the soul.

      Reply
  33. Kfish

    My family has always had chickens and my grandparents made a point of planting a dozen fruit trees in any place they lived – farmers’ habits die hard. Here in my suburban quarter-acre, I have chickens again, a few fruit trees and a raised bed in the front garden that thrives on neglect.

    Here in Brisbane, Australia a lot of the Asian food plants grow well and my most recent experiment is ‘Surinam spinach’ or ‘waterleaf’ – a Philippine staple that grows like a weed and cooks nicely into stir fries or instead of spinach in spanikopita. Pak choi and tatsoi can be eaten young as salad greens or left to grow into stir fry veg, and almost grow themselves if you keep up the water to them.

    Since the lockdown began I’ve been watching a lot of Youtube gardening videos and learned how to raise seedlings en masse. Seeds are cheaper than seedlings and keep longer. When your plants go to seed, wait for them to set seed, pull them up and harvest seed for next year. I have harvested a lot of seeds this way which are now adapted to my local climate.

    Also, share the joy with your friends! Now that the spotlight is back on food availability, there’s a lot more interest in home production. Brisbane’s currently experiencing a run on laying hens. Share your spare seedlings, your spare eggs and plants with your neighbours and grow your community while you grow your garden.

    Reply
  34. Helen B

    Hi Jeri-Lynn
    My top tips are plan out your successional sowing plan and stick to it to try and avoid gluts. Grow open pollinated plants and learn how to save seed. You are saving money by only buying once, you are acclimating the plants to your specific micro climate over the generations and preserving genetic diversity for food crops.
    I recommend Backyard Seed Saving by Sue Kendall. I get my seeds for The Real Seed Company but you will be more successful looking for a similar operation near where you live. Real Seeds is in Wales so the varieties are optimised for a shorter wetter growing season. They have a lot of Russian and Ukrainian varieties which do well in the north west where I live.
    My main long term strategy is to plant a food forest which is a permaculture method that mimics the layered ecosystem of a forest environment. This layering pattern can be scaled down to garden size and has the benefit of enhancing soil health and eventually producing a self sustaining ecosystem with low labour inputs (lazy gardeners rejoice), and no need for soil fertility inputs like compost, manure, lime etc. I am using Patrick Whitefield, How to Make A Forest Garden as my reference book.
    Hope that helps a little.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *