Family HandymanGenius Gardening Hacks You’ll Be Glad to KnowThis collection of gardening and landscaping handy hints will give you effective new techniques to get the beautiful garden and backyard you’ve always wanted.
When families and communities pulled together and maximized resources during World Wars I and II, nearly 20 million victory gardens provided 40 percent of the fresh produce consumed in the United States, while boosting the collective morale.
In the 21st century, a fresh twist on victory gardens is catching on as a way to provide food while being good stewards of the planet.
“Gardening provides Americans with a way to be more self-sufficient, and when the principles of regenerative agriculture are applied, it can be part of the climate solution,” says Jes Walton, food campaigns manager at Green America, which founded Climate Victory Gardens.
The non-profit group counted 1,100 climate victory gardens in March 2019 — collectively comprising the equivalent of 140 football fields. The number grew to 2,500 gardens by March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. Growing your own food during times of crisis and uncertainty can be empowering, Walton says.
Take inspiration from victory gardens past with these eight earth-first techniques to try. (If you have or start one, don’t forget to add it to Green America’s national victory garden map.)
Emphasize Edible Plants
Grow vegetables and fruit that you can preserve by freezing, canning and dehydrating. Share with others to reduce the need for shipping produce from other states or countries. Use the USDA Plant Hardiness Map to see what grows best in your area and integrate perennials like herbs, rhubarb and asparagus.
Biodiversity happens below and above ground. Use compost and plant a variety of plants that add nutrients to the soil, such as peas and beans. Plant species that attract a variety of pollinators using native plants such as lupine, blanket flower and coreopsis, or flowering perennial herbs such as lavender, bee balm and chives.
Grab Your Garden Gloves
Green America encourages the use of hand tools — rakes, tillers, hoes and more — over motorized machinery. That makes gardening a better workout and extends the amount of time spent outdoors, which many gardeners consider meditative and good for mental health.
Recycle fruit and vegetable peelings by creating compost. Work the organic matter into your garden after heat and moisture transform it into a light, crumbly soil additive. It’s especially useful for improving heavy soil, thick with clay or rock. Here are some additional soil tips.
Integrate Plants and Critters
Your garden goes beyond feeding your family. It’s also a mini-biosphere with flowers that nourish bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. Wild birds and backyard chickens will snack on bugs, caterpillars and late-season seeds. Manure can fertilize the soil, which sustains micro-organisms in the dirt.
Skip the Chemicals
Look for organic, safe alternatives for pest and weed killers that won’t harm pollinators and micro-organisms. Try adding pest-repellent plants to your garden or try physical or chemical deterrents. Encourage natural predators by building a bat house.
Keep Soil Protected
Protect soil nutrients and carbon, prevent erosion and conserve water by keeping soil covered with plants and mulch. Cover your garden with leaves or other mulch in the off-season to protect perennial plants from winter temperatures.
Soil and plants stay healthier and free of disease when vegetable locations are rotated year to year. Beans and peas in particular can add valuable nitrogen to the soil. Build a portable trellis or install lattice to save space with climbing varieties. If you have limited space or only a balcony, this bamboo planter and trellis makes it easy to pair tomatoes with climbing beans or cucumbers.