by Cindy Brown
In 1939, the New York Times published an article addressing the chaos facing the world: “We will need the mental and physical tonic work with nature and close touch with the soil never fail to bring.” Gardening promotes sanity in an insane world. Create your own garden and became victorious over your adversaries, both mental and physical.
During WWII, commercial produce growers were instructed to produce only high-protein foods: corn, potatoes, beans, and wheat. This encouraged home gardeners to grow the “luxuries” like lettuce, celery, cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower, eggplant, and watermelon. When growing your own Victory Garden consider growing vegetables that are at the best when harvested fresh, are hard to find in the market, family heirlooms, or would encourage non-gardening family members to pick up the trowel. When space is non-existent, or at a premium, grow vegetables in containers. Anything, yes anything, can be grown in a container — as long as it is big enough, watered frequently, and fertilized regularly.
To maximize your production, harvest often and be ready to replant when vegetables are harvested. Vegetable gardens aren’t planted once a year and forgotten; efficient gardeners plant five times a year — early spring, late spring, early summer, late summer, and fall. This ambitious schedule is for type “A” personalities, your garden should be a reflection of your personality, lifestyle, and available time. Every home garden should include tomatoes, herbs of choice, and a fruit that draws teenagers off the computer.
Top choices for DC-area gardens: fava beans, snap peas, kale, lettuce, radishes, spring onions, cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, pole beans, okra, cucumbers, summer squash, basil, oregano, sage, mint, lavender, parsley, spinach, garlic, blueberries, scuppernong grapes, and strawberries. All are relatively easy to grow, best when fresh, and 99.44% and guaranteed to make the pickiest eater smile.
[Excerpted from the July/August 2006 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine. Cindy Brown was our EdibleHarvest columnist at that time, while she was the Assistant Director at Green Spring Gardens. She is now with Smithsonian Gardens.]