As yet another sign our vegetable love is growing vaster than empires and more fast, the White House breaks ground for its Victory Garden today. Good luck, Mrs. Obama, with your first dig!
I love the way we’ve taken back the concept of Victory Garden in 2009. Victory Gardens were marketed in WWII as a means to support the war effort by growing your own food so the government could devote more national resources to war. Now, of course, we’re devoting our taxpayer dollars to bonuses for executives and, um, war. But at least we’re not telling people to grow vegetables to support jingoistic nonsense. Progress? Hm, not so sure.
Out here in Eugene, we’re all about amending soil right now. Food for Lane County’s Grass Roots Garden, which gleans food and paper scraps from local businesses to produce tens of thousands of pounds of food for Lane County hunger relief, recently taught composting to the Master Gardener trainees. Lasagna, anyone?
Lasagna or sheet composting is a method of cold composting, where layers of nitrogen and carbon material slowly break down over a 4-6 month time frame. I snapped this shot during a demo at Grass Roots, and have never felt so inspired by garbage. Now, I’ve got my own lasagna beds in the works. Puttin’ ’em in before my husband gets home from his business trip and sees what I’ve done to his lawn.
Last year, I had soil shipped in for my raised beds, and I’ve been integrating compost and organic matter all year, so I’m hoping it will be all right. Peas, potatoes, rhubarb, fennel, garlic, artichokes, lovage, and leeks are all doing well so far, as are the berries. I’ll be expanding my beds this year by a foot or two in length, and am considering putting in two more rows. I’ve always been a hobby gardener, having fun in the dirt and not really caring if all my crops turn out, but I’m becoming more serious about produce yield and feeding our family from our garden, so I’m going to be more careful this year.
To that end, I’m finishing up my Master Gardener training program this week with the certification test. I’m really excited to start helping other gardeners when I return from my trip to Buffalo in April. I startled myself (secretly) at my volunteer shift at the home show last weekend when I realized I actually know something about gardening now. It was a great pleasure to talk to dozens of people about vegetable gardening in Lane County.
If you’re new to vegetable gardening, you can buy choices someone else picked out for you, something like Territorial’s clever pot of seed packets for a complete garden, or a pack of starts that allow you to transplant a group of vegetables. If you are new, please take my advice: you don’t want seeds. Try the starts this year, and invest that extra cash in good soil, organic fertilizer and compost. Log House Plants in Dexter, OR, has developed “Grab and Go” start packs geared toward our finicky summer conditions in the PNW. They don’t have them listed yet on their website, so I’ll quote from their newsletter:
Grab & Grow, a new series of regional vegetable gardening kits. After talking to nursery owners and expert gardeners from all over the Northwest, we’ve designed several collections for each region, with varieties chosen for flavor, productivity, and ease of care for a novice gardener. Each convenient half flat contains a carefully chosen mix of vegetable varieties, along with detailed planting and growing information.
I love this idea.
It’s also worth slowing down and growing only a few things in your Victory Garden. Like lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, and hot peppers. You can make a killer pesto at summer’s end with a few basil plants, for example, that would be lovely on your tomatoes. Zucchini is easy to grow if you have space, too. Then you can be one of those people begging friends to take your squash, please, at the end of the summer. Good times.
If you’re interested in learning how to compost and you live near Eugene, check out Extension’s Compost and Worm Bin Composting Classes. They’re cheap as dirt (heh), free for the compost classes and nearly free for the worm bin classes since you get equipment and worms with your fee. If you haven’t taken any classes with Lane County Extension, you’re missing out!