Thursday, November 10, 2016

Plant a Victory Garden

This election is too big to ignore. I really want to DO something to help this country. Yes, I’ve emailed the Travis County Democratic Party, I’m meeting with a few neighbors to organize voters in our precinct for future elections, I’ll do what I can politically. I know it won’t be enough. And unfortunately, I know it’s too little too late now.

I also need to do something to make myself feel better, and for me that always comes back to plants. I’ve loved plants since before I can remember. My first “big word” was photosynthesis, and by the time I was 6 years old I could identify every species of tree on our 140 acre property in Illinois. But what on Earth can plants do to help us now?

During WWI and WWII people all over the world planted “Victory Gardens” to reduce pressure on the public food supply and as a civic morale booster, in that gardeners felt empowered by their effort and rewarded by the produce grown. I hope everyone will set aside a little (or a lot) space in their yard or on their balcony for a Victory Garden. I hope these gardens will give all of us a tiny glimmer of hope for the future.

They weren't called Victory Gardens because we had won, we hadn't yet, they were called Victory Gardens for the Hope of and Belief in winning. The same is true today.

Victory Gardens in the traditional sense are vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at private home or in public areas like schools and libraries. I’d like to include native plants and flowers in a new definition of a Victory Garden, because habitat for native plants and the animals that need them is dwindling quickly and with the new political regime, that will almost certainly become an even bigger problem.

Home gardens obviously produce food. I hope we’re never in a situation where food is in short supply, unsafe to eat, or prohibitively expensive. But it’s certainly a possibility, and having a home garden can help us make sure we all have enough to eat. That sounds silly based on how abundant food is today (and I hope that always sounds silly), but there are other ways Victory Gardens have an impact. By producing even just a little of our own food, we’re cutting down on waste like food packaging and food transportation. We can also choose how our food is grown and what goes into it. We can choose to garden organically and cut down on herbicides and pesticides washing into our local streams and rivers. Our own small gardens may soon be our only hope to keep some species like monarch butterflies from going extinct. So maybe plants really can make a difference! If enough of us plant a Victory Garden, we can actually have a very big impact!
Queen butterfly on Texas native Gregg's mistflower
Monarch butterfly on basil
But it’s November, it’s not exactly gardening season! We’re lucky enough to live in Austin, so there are actually a few vegetables we can plant right now. This is the perfect time to plant lettuces, spinach, garlic and radishes. Kale, chard, beets and carrots will also likely do well if planted now, especially since we’ve had a warm fall so far. Many herbs prefer the cooler weather, so now is a great time to plant cilantro, dill, fennel and parsley. 
Winter harvested lettuce
Winter harvested beet and carrots
 I plan to go over to Shoal Creek Nursery on Saturday and buy seeds (they have a nice selection of non-GMO and organic seeds at Shoal Creek Nursery, the same cannot be said for most of the big box stores). If you’re in South Austin, the Natural Gardener also has a good selection of organic and non-GMO seeds. Seed Savers Exchange is my favorite seed company.

Fall is also the time to plant bluebonnet and many other native flower seeds. November is a bit on the late side, but we’ve had pretty warm weather so far and most of these seeds will do well if you get them in the ground soon, even better if you’re able to protect them from frosts this winter.
This is also the best time to clear ground for planting in the early spring. Start digging out the weeds or fertilizer & water hogging grass, get some compost worked into the soil, so when March comes, you’re ready to plant.
Lyre-leaf sage is a great Texas native wildflower to plant from seed now
If you’re ready to plant a Victory Garden, let me know! I have many native wildflower seeds that I’m willing to share and I have a few varieties of vegetable seeds as well. I’m also happy to answer questions and give advice to help you have a successful Victory Garden. I really hope this will do more than just make me feel better. If enough of us plant a Victory Garden, we can actually have a very big impact on our food supply and on our environment.
 If nothing else, shoveling some dirt can help us take out our frustrations in a peaceful manner.

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