The late Jerry Brunetti discussed Victory Gardens during World War I and II in his last book, The Farm as Ecosystem. The gardens were advertised as a way for patriots to make a difference on the home-front. At that time, the majority of the produce grown in the US was grown right in people’s backyards, and I firmly believe we need to revert to growing our own food .
We don’t have to rely on large-scale commercial agriculture and industrial agriculture. And you don’t need an entire farm to grow some of your own food. All you need to do is convert some of your decorative landscaping to edibles if you have a front — or backyard. Or you can grow food in containers if you live in an apartment. Community gardens are another option.
“I love the idea of victory gardens,” Ray says . “I think one of the most powerful ways to reconnect people back to the land. We’re connected very well with our cellphones but we’re incredibly disconnected from the natural resource, and I think the victory garden would be a great way to do that and spread that kind of understanding. And it’s simple.
I think that’s where we have to go because one of my biggest concerns, too, is our farms are too big. A lot of producers don’t want to hear that. I’m telling them they’re farming too many acres and it’s hard to do it right. I tell a lot of young farmers, ‘You’re better off doing it with the acreage you have. Learn how to do it right. Learn the management skills. Learn the logistics. You’re better off than buying and farming another hundred acres.'”
Tips for the Garden Enthusiast
YouTube is a fantastic resource where you can learn a lot, including how to optimize your garden and grow your own food. To start off, search YouTube using the keywords “no-till garden.” Tilling your soil is a major mistake, as it destroys valuable soil life and promotes weed growth. When you till, you break up the aggregates, waking up R-strategist bacteria that consume the glomalin, the organo-mineral complexes or organic matter that acts like a glue in the soil and help retain water. So tilling is profoundly counterproductive.
Instead, do what Ray suggests:
“Get some cardboard, lay it on top [of the soil], get your leaves, get a bunch of compost, smother the grass there, and start layering that like a lasagna. When you’re ready to plant your tomatoes, you just create a hole right through, pierce the cardboard into the soil beneath, and let it go. That’s all you have to. And then every season after you get your vegetables up, plant a cover crop. It’s that simple.”
Keep in mind you do not want to plant in the composting materials on the top of your cardboard, or directly into the pile of wood chips. You need to drop your plants through all of that material into the soil underneath. The mulch just helps protect your plants and nourish the soil. Another important point: do not mix the wood chips into your soil, as that ties up nitrogen. Simply place the wood chips on top of the soil and leave them; do not bury them.
There are also a number of excellent books available these days. Ray recommends Carrots Love Tomatoes: Companion Planting for a Healthy Garden, which teaches you how to do intercropping of vegetables. Certain vegetables grow better when joined by other plants. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) website also has a number of books, including one of cover crops that, along with many others, can be read online for free if you don’t want to purchase a paper copy.