Now is a good time to revisit the concept of Victory Gardens, the vegetable plots planted in Canada during the Second World War to provide fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as demonstrate patriotism and solidarity. We could do with some solidarity.
Honestly, the one tiny bright spot in the news feeds, social media posts and messages I’ve read during the past week is that online seed and plant ordering is strong. (But like so many of us who are coping and pivoting as best as we can, some seed houses have needed to halt online and phone orders because of high demand.) People who may have never gardened before are searching for vegetable gardening guidance through YouTube videos and Twitter chats. Maybe you have started fielding questions from neighbours, children or grandchildren with a newfound curiosity about growing food. Here’s your opportunity to offer help and encouragement.
On a related note about Victory Gardens: For a personal account of how gardening helped one woman cope with the death of her husband, I can recommend a book published last fall, A Victory Garden For Trying Times, by Debi Goodwin, a friend of mine.
Depending on where you garden, it will soon be time to start seed for warm-season crops, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, either indoors under lights or in a sunny window. Other vegetables, such as carrots, beets, radishes, lettuces and beans, are fine for direct-sowing into prepared garden beds or large containers once the soil is warm and the threat of frost has passed.
For resources on growing from seed:
• Starting seeds indoors provides step-by-step instructions and tips for annual vegetable and flower growing. There’s also a pdf at the end of the article you can download for future reference or for sharing with others.
• Starting seeds outdoors is the companion piece with tips on sowing annual flower and vegetable seed directly into garden beds.
• Seeds of Diversity, a Canadian organization dedicated to conserving agricultural and horticultural biodiversity, has compiled a list of seed companies to order from. If you’re looking for a particular type of vegetable seed, there is a way to search for places that sold that seed in the past, which means it may be offered again this year.
DIY seed tapes
Using a seed tape allows the even spacing of tiny seeds, thereby eliminating the need for thinning. This method of sowing is also helpful for gardeners with arthritis or other mobility issues. Most large seed companies offer readymade tapes for certain vegetables, but there are ways to make your own. Could this be an afternoon project for parents with children who are now looking for something—anything!— to do? Here are two sites to check out (here and here), but you can find several more when you search “make your own seed tapes.”
Contest for new book on natural gardens
There are just a few days left to enter our draw for a copy of the new edition of Planting the Natural Garden, by Piet Oudolf and Henk Gerritsen, about using native and naturalistic plants in the garden. Deadline: March 31.
Lose yourself in leaf shapes
An article in Smithsonian Magazine describes in fascinating detail the genetics that go into creating the unique cup-shaped leaves on carnivorous plants. Put the scientific part of your brain in gear for this one.