The victory gardens movement was born more than 60 years ago during the World War II era when money and supplies were tight and tensions ran high. The United States government formally created a World War II Victory Garden initiative to focus on improving the health of the nation through homegrown produce as a role individual families could play to help the troops abroad. Planting a garden also served as a morale booster for Americans, where gardeners felt empowered by their contribution and involvement.
Fast-forward three decades, and we are now faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shaken our economy and left millions across the country homebound. Today’s modern victory garden provides an opportunity to get outdoors, boost spirits, engage in physical exercise and take a break from the pandemic news feed. Victory gardens — no matter the size — provide a place for the family to be together and work together. Here are some tips on how to get your garden started and what to grow:
Prepare the Soil - Soil is the key and the foundation of any good garden, so once you’ve chosen the types of fruits and veggies you’d like to grow, you’ll need to prepare the soil. If growing in raised beds, we recommend using a raised bed mix like Espoma Raised Bed Mix or for larger applications mix compost, topsoil, peat moss, vermiculite or perlite. Whether you have clay or sandy soil, our Green Team experts can help you to grow better with our complete line of soils and amendments available in both bags and bulk. To view our complete line of soil and amendments click here.
Growing in Containers - If growing in containers, we recommend McDonald Potting Soils, available in both All Purpose or Natural & Organic formulas that are specifically designed for growing in Hampton Roads. Our potting soils are always buy two, get one free, and come in 1 cu ft. bags. When growing in any container, it’s important to use a potting soil (not a planting mix), as other soils will clog the drain holes and prevent water from draining. One great container for growing amazing fruit and veggies is the Earthbox, a growing kit designed by farmers to take the guesswork out of growing edible plants. The Earthbox kit includes everything you need to be successful- simply add soil, plants, water, and sunlight. You can also grow great veggies and herbs in any type of pot, including clay, ceramic or plastic. The best advice here is to make sure to use a professional potting soil like McDonald Potting Soils and use a fertilizer like McDonald Organic Greenleaf or Espoma Garden Tone every 3-4 weeks, since nutrients flush through containers faster than in-ground plantings.
Watering Do's and Don'ts - After the initial planting, it’s important to keep the soil moist. Water two to three days a week for about 15 minutes a day, depending on your plants, your location, and the weather. Remember, overwatering can be just as harmful as leaving plants too dry! To learn more about proper watering practices click here.
Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor - There’s nothing like the taste and crunch of fresh veggies, the flavors of homegrown herbs, or the sweetness of freshly picked berries. So, grab the family and your tools and get digging in the dirt!
Not sure what to grow? You can grow a variety of edibles in Hampton Roads, many of which you can start from seed. We also carry a large variety of edible plants year-round, from herbs and veggies, to all types of berries and fruit trees. Here are some of our favorite edible plants:
Fig Trees – One of the easiest fruit trees to grow, fig trees are virtually pest and disease free and produce reliably year-after-year. Small and easy to pick from, getting approximately 10-15’ high and wide, they produce buckets full of ripe, sweet fruit in late summer through fall. Proven varieties are “Brown Turkey” or “Celeste”.
Persimmon Trees – Very durable and easy to grow fruit tree, persimmons grow well in Hampton Roads with little to no disease or insect issues. The Fuyu and Jiro non-astringent varieties are the best and can be eaten fresh off the tree. If left on the tree, they’ll ripen from a crisp texture to a softer texture. Store them in the fridge for two weeks or freezer for three months. Persimmons are a great source of vitamins A and C and good source of fiber as well, making them an amazingly healthy and tasty snack.
Strawberries – These sweet berries are easy to grow and produce year-after-year. In the ground, they make a great groundcover but can be aggressive and cover a lot of space. Strawberries are also easy to grow in containers.
Lettuce and Spinach –Iin our cooler seasons, two of the best edible plants to grow are lettuce and spinach. Both are easy to grow and can be harvested all season long. There are many different varieties to choose from but some of our favorites are Bibb and Red Sails lettuce.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes are one of the most popular edibles to grow every spring. Start them by seed or by plant. We recommend that you wait until after April 10 to plant, since the soil needs time to warm-up so the root system can grow. You can get started a little earlier if you are growing in raised beds or containers above ground.
Herbs – Nothing is better than to cook with fresh herbs from the garden. Classics like parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, dill, cilantro, and rosemary are some of our favorites. These plants love to be cut and used, so be sure to harvest often.
Blueberries – One of the healthiest and most rewarding fruits to grow, blueberries are not only a highly productive plant for fruit, but they also make a very attractive shrub. Newer varieties like Sunshine Blue hold their leaves virtually all year and change from an amazing bluish color in spring and summer to a mix of reds and maroons in the fall and winter. The best part is they are self-pollinating, so you can grow them by themselves or in containers around your home or apartment. Larger varieties get about 8-ft x 8-ft, and produce buckets full of berries. These varieties do need a cross pollinator, so be sure to get two different varieties and give them some space to grow.