During both World Wars, people across the country planted large vegetable and herb gardens and planted fruit trees. The idea was to help supplement rations and to boost morale. Gardeners felt empowered by their contribution and were rewarded with the fresh produce grown. Victory Gardens became part of daily life in that era.
Gardening has made a strong comeback over the last decade, even among millennials. One in three American households has a food garden with 21% of those being first-time gardeners.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen many people turn to gardening for the first time or reviving a garden bed that has fallen into disuse.
The median size of the American vegetable garden today is 96 square feet. It doesn’t seem like much space, but Square Foot Gardening methods allow a surprisingly large amount of food to be grown without any wasted space. Whether you have a sprawling back yard or a postage stamp-sized balcony, you can grow food.
Here are some tips from the Fountain Hills Community Garden manager, Rita Applegate.
PREPARE YOUR SOIL
Whether you have a raised bed or pots, healthy soil is vital. Add these amendments for the greatest food production: mycorrhizae fungus, Amend by Kellog, steer manure (deodorized is easier on the nose), Happy Frog amendment, and mushroom compost. Water thoroughly before adding seeds and don’t let your soil completely dry out during the gardening season.
WHAT TO PLANT IN MAY
Most gardeners get started with planting by the beginning of March, but there are still things that can get started in May. These include black-eyed peas, cucumber, melons, okra, pumpkins, and watermelon.
If you’re growing in pots, the five plants that grow best are zucchini or summer squash, green beans (with a trellis for support), cucumbers, Swiss chard, and lettuce varieties.
You can make free fertilizer for your garden by composting your food scraps. You can build one easily with a 5-gallon bucket with a lid. In addition to food scraps and shredded paper, add coffee grounds for nitrogen, chopped banana peels for potassium, and crushed eggshells for calcium. Add a little bit of water if necessary and stir daily.
Do not use animal-based food scraps, pet waste, weeds with seeds, glossy or colored paper, rice (cooked or uncooked, it will attract rodents), cooking oils, or coal ash.
GROW TOO MUCH?
It’s not unusual for gardeners to grow more produce than they can eat. Did you know you can donate fresh produce to the Extended Hands Food Bank in Fountain Hills? If you have enough space, consider growing extra just to donate.
Gardening in the Deserts of Arizona: Month-by-Month Guide by Mary Irish
All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
Rita Applegate, garden manager at the Fountain Hills Community Garden
Verde Valley Nursery in Fountain Hills
For more information about the Fountain Hills Community Garden, visit iLoveFountainHills.org.