Victory gardens in a time of pandemics

Society has always proven its resilience in times of crisis, very much as is the case now that we are all faced with the COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting every nation on earth. The fear of gathering in large groups, panic buying and the uncertainty of ‘normality’ returning has made many of us evaluate our security, and nowhere has this been more evident than on the supermarket shelves. Once rich with a diverse selection of green and colourful rainbow selections, with plenty of stock in the back, we now have to buy in turn, often getting to the store too late and the berry selections and kale you desired are no longer available. Guess you’re going to have to wait for the next shop run. But amidst all this uncertainty, something that has happened before is happening again. Victory gardens, or war gardens, are making a comeback.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture
Originating in 1917 when the USA joined the first world war, The United States of America called on its citizens to grow food in their gardens and open patches of land to make up for the food deficit of feeding the troops. Over 2 million food gardens produced more than 40% of the USA’s fresh food during that crisis. Schools, churches, rooftops, sidewalks and front gardens all turned to little agricultural nodes and banned together to ensure everyone had a good supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Source: Wikimedia

Now, in 2020, the UK and USA citizens are opting to grow their own fresh produce. Tomatoes, blueberries, lemons, strawberries, lettuces and other leafy vegetables. With certain nurseries noting an increase in vegetable sales over flowers and other garden staples.

So, what can we do to ensure that our families have uninterrupted access to a choice range of fresh herbs and vegetables during this worrisome time, and potentially into the future?

Vegetables are fantastic backyard growers. You can grow a substantial amount of vegetables in a small space. Window boxes can easily be home to leaf vegetables as they do not need too much root space. Trailing or vine fruit and vegetables like peas, beans, passionfruit and some squashes can easily be left to crawl up pergolas, fences or even balustrades. So space really isn’t the issue.

Talk to your neighbours. Divide the load. Sometimes it’s easier for one person to only grow tomatoes, another to grow spinach and the other to grow herbs really well, and then splitting the harvest evenly. You will not only be producing for your family but also for your immediate community – and get the opportunity to finally learn your neighbours’ first and last names.

While you may fantasize about cultivating vegetable types that normally reach the higher end of the price range on store shelves – think artichokes or asparagus – those are not short term investments and they take up a lot of space. Rather stick to the staples. You can still acquire speciality vegetables at your local supermarket. A good rule is to look at what fresh produce you normally buy weekly; those should be part of your veggie patch.  
So let’s use what space we have available, to grow what we need and feed ourselves and our communities.
Mark Mac Hattie is a Landscape Designer and blogger for Contours Design Studio.
N.D. Landscape Design

B.Tech Landscape Design

Master’s of Landscape Architecture

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