Victory Gardens Pt. 2: Stories From Pandemic Gardeners

By Emma Jackson

The truth is that anyone can garden. No matter where you are or the size of the space, a garden can be big, small, thriving, struggling, sprawling, or contained. These victory garden stories from around the United States and beyond demonstrate hope and possibility. Audrey Hepburn famously said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” and we see this represented in the stories we’ve heard from pandemic gardeners everywhere. It starts with one seed, one start, one step towards tomorrow.

 

Before photo of the Barn door that Sarah utilized for repurposed wood

Sarah’s Repurposed Wood Planter – Cleveland, Ohio

My mother heard some tidbit on the radio about Victory Gardens during the Second World War and was enthusiastic about having one of her own. I’ve been apprehensive about gardening in the backyard as it’s beautifully shaded by several mature oak and hickory trees, but nonetheless I was motivated to make it work! I turned to the web for an idea of the materials I’d need, and was delighted to find that a large door I had used in an old apartment had just the pieces of untreated wood that could help get the job done. A fun weekend project has since turned into several delicious harvests of lettuce and spinach (shade tolerance is true!), and this purposeful project definitely feels like a victory.

 

Jessica’s Urban Garden – Atlanta, Georgia

This was my first time doing any gardening, beyond caring for some indoor potted plants. At times it was very intimidating, but I learned a lot, enjoyed myself, and had something to bring me joy during this crazy stay-at-home time.

I planted from seedlings I got from a neighbor, and retrospectively think I over-committed for it being my first year. I had a few veggies, herbs, and flowers. We also moved in the middle of the summer, so my previously full-sun plants now had to adapt to a different sun schedule, which proved more difficult for some than others. 

I learned a lot about basic plant care, like watering, fertilizing, pruning, etc. Additionally, I learned some patience while I waited for the plants to grow. I discovered that I liked gardening because it has tangible results; Going out to check on the plants every day and being able to SEE the growth was very satisfying, and additionally helped me feel like the world was indeed moving forward, even while I am stuck inside in a monotonous day-to-day. 

I don’t think I’m going to try any fall plants this year, but am already excited for next season and a fresh start with some new flavors!

 

 

Andrew’s Family Garden – Dayton, Ohio

Like many others, our family searched for some new hobbies and home projects to fill the time during the peak of COVID, and we made a little mobile garden. My younger brother and sister, with help from my dad, constructed a gardening box on top of a wheeled cart.

We filled it with soil and planted lavender, kale, and basil. On its side, my sister painted the name “Dottie” after our maternal grandmother, who the garden was named after. Dottie flourished in the time of COVID and filled the fridge with kale and fresh basil for the likes of salads and homemade pesto.

     

It was a rewarding and enjoyable experience to harvest our own plants and make them into delicious dishes. It was a bright spot and a silver lining of the pandemic and one we may continue for summers to come.

These are some images taken on black and white film which I developed and scanned in my basement, which is also a COVID hobby.

    

 

Monika’s Palette Garden – Herndon, Virginia

Back in April, one of my neighbors told me that she has had this pallet that she’s always wanted to convert into a pallet garden for years now but has come to the conclusion that she would never do it, so she offered it to me. Since we were locked up inside anyways, I said sure! I took the pallet but really had no idea what to do with it because I’d never truly planted anything before. Sure, I’ve had plants but never grown anything from seeds. I googled “Pallet Garden” and the resources were endless! I learned all kinds of things like how far apart to plant the seeds, what are the most suitable vegetables to plant in small spaces, and how often to water plants for optimum performance. I learned that plants take FOREVER to come up and you must be patient and consistent in feeding and watering in order to reap the benefits of what you sow. I also learned that slugs are bad for your plants! By far, the most important lesson I learned (the hard way) was when flowers start to appear on your herbs, you must cut them back or they’ll die….my cilantro died! I really enjoyed the process of creating something. Especially creating something beautiful to brighten up my balcony during such a scary time. Planting herbs was also enjoyable because I could actually use the herbs when cooking, which made my cooking in the kitchen so much more meaningful because the herbs I was using were mine!

 

Emily’s Permaculture Garden – Golden, Colorado

My partner just bought a house, so we inherited a big back yard that already had some general landscaping done like a little rose garden area, some raised garden beds, and an area that lines our detached garage. I’ve been studying up on permaculture a little bit and was eager to put what I learned to use. Having the space was part of the motivation for starting this garden. The pandemic gave me time to do more reading, research, drive around to nurseries, dig holes, and haul dirt to get this pandemic garden underway.

There was a lot of bindweed growing in the yard and near the roses, so I took that to mean that there was hardpan and nutrient deficient soil. As we tried to dig some holes for some plants we bought, we found this was definitely the case. We added some soil and compost to a couple of the raised beds and emptier areas. I planted a “soil building mix” of seeds in a few places where I hope to plant more things next year. I also planted a raspberry bush alongside some chives and lavender in one of our raised beds. In a corner of the yard I planted a cherry tree, and just in front of that, a currant bush, some gooseberry bushes, and a chokecherry bush. We are ultimately going for a food forest here!

I noticed some “weeds” nearby that turned out to be a type of amaranth and mallow, which are both edible and have many other uses, so I’m letting those take over their little area. I’m also seeing a ton of super young mallow sprouts coming out near where we turned over ground for the cherry tree and other bushes, and I’m going to allow them to keep it up because they seem to make a perfectly fine ground cover!

In another box, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to plant things that’d be ready for a fall harvest or plant radishes to let them rot in the soil over winter, so I just did a little of both and literally threw a bunch of seeds in the box at random. They’re sprouting nicely, and soon I will thin them out. In our rose garden area, I’ve planted a few herbs in hopes that they’ll support the roses & simply be close enough to the door to go and pluck some whenever we need it. 

My hope in the spring is to plant some wild plum trees near our fence and add squaw berry or lemon berry bushes in front of them with more currants in the mix. We are looking into planting some types of vetch throughout the yard as well to continue the nitrogen fixing.

 

Angie’s Lawn to Garden Conversion – Dayton, Ohio

I decided to grow a garden this year for many reasons. I was a little in a panic because of the virus, thinking there would be a shortage of food. I was having a conversation with my brother-in-law and discovered he had a rototill. He offered to dig up a section in our yard where we lost a huge tree. Last year, I tried growing sunflowers back there, and they were gorgeous! I have always thought about having a garden but didn’t really have a good sunny spot. Once the tree fell, it opened up the perfect spot. 

Being home during the pandemic and having the time to actually garden has been a blessing. In the past my neighbors on both sides have had gardens and shared their harvest. Hopefully I can give back to them this year! More veggies equals better health, gardening is good exercise, and I feel really good about doing something good for my family. 

I am giving it a shot at growing vegetables and herbs to not only feed my soul but my body too! I don’t know much about it but I am so excited to learn! We have lived here for 20 years and have a pretty large yard. I am almost embarrassed this is the first year I have done this!

 

Beyond the United States

Wahid’s City Balcony Garden – Dhaka, Bangladesh

   

I was born and brought up in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Dhaka is the world’s most densely populated area. It is always difficult for me to find open space and enjoy nature. I am working in the ethical fashion industry and it is very important for my work to find peace. I find peace looking into green and that helps me to think creatively.

I have been practicing gardening since my childhood. As I am currently living in an apartment so it is not possible to have a larger garden but still I  have a garden consisting of rose plants, lemons, spice, aromatic jui, jasmine and so on. Each morning when I wake up I see the flowers blooming and bees and butterflies coming to enjoy them. That is the most satisfying thing I could ever ask for.

Victory Gardens is a series by Emma Jackson. Read the previous part of the series here: Part 1 – Ready for Fall Plantings.