Off the Well-Trod Path: Alternate Routes to Victory Garden Triumph

Guest contributor Pamela Price is the founder of Red, White & Grew, a blog devoted to “Promoting the Victory Garden Revival and other simple, earth-friendly endeavors as bipartisan, patriotic acts in an age of uncertainty.”

As mentioned here last month, folks short on fertile land but eager to grow their own vegetables can opt for container-based Victory Gardens with astonishing results.

Below are four more clever garden alternatives worth exploration. Some are old, some are new…but each illustrates that, when it comes to cultivating food, we humans are remarkably imaginative beings.

Just as our parents, grandparents, and grandparents adapted best practices in growing their own food during WWI & WWII, our concept of the modern Victory Garden movement can (and should) include a variety of strategies to ensure success!

  • No Dig Gardens – Living in an arid climate with poor clay soil, I’ll soon be working with this method again as we expand our Central Texas Victory Garden. Developed by Japanese microbiologist-turned-farmer Masanobu Fukuoka and refined by Esther Dean in Australia, the No Dig technique involves layering hay, soil, nutrients (blood and bone meal) and other compostable material to create a new bed. Over time, and with the addition of new material, the soil becomes enriched. Strange but true: some city dwellers have created No Dig gardens on concrete. Meanwhile, suburbanites and rural residents embrace the concept and appreciate that it involves less physical labor than digging and tilling.  (Note that, in the States, No Dig Gardens and variations of the same technique are often referred to as Lasagna Gardening or Composting-in-Place.)
  • Bag Gardens – The most common method  is to place two X-shaped slits in the top of a new bag of soil, pop in seeds or seedlings, and cover the bag with mulch. Of late I’m more intrigued with the newer concept promoted by Send a Cow, a British charity similar to Heifer International. The non-profit teaches people in Africa and the United Kingdom to create bag gardens from burlap sacks, soil and salvage items. They also sell Bag Garden kits…an idea that would be great to see pop up on this side of the pond, especially since burlap is biodegradable whereas plastic is not.
  • Keyhole Gardens In addition to Bag Gardens, Send a Cow promotes Keyhole Gardens online, too. This approach uses stacked stones/logs/canes to create a tall raised bed that is filled with soil, worms, manure and old cans. For easy access to the center for tending and harvest, the garden has a keyhole-shaped piece, hence the name. Send a Cow makes available free tipsheets for creating two styles of Keyhole Gardens: Lesotho and East African. If this concept intrigues you and you want to learn more, be sure to check out the group’s lively, informative video online. (And use caution when creating stacked stone or brick frameworks!)
  • Hydroponic Gardens –  Many modern gardeners swear by hydroponics. As the name suggests, plants are grown in water enriched with nutrients. In addition to books and sites, there are several how-to videos online, including this one at YouTube.com. And while hydroponics may seem like a new-fangled idea, the concept is reportedly quite old.
  • Hanging Planters – Most people think first of patio pots when considering container options. But suspended baskets, salvaged buckets and Topsy Turvy planters can greatly expand one’s growing space and jazz up the view, too. The photo above is a cluster of three basil varieties on our back patio. Since it’s near my kitchen door, it is pleasing both to the eye and palate!

Do you have innovative solutions to growing produce at home? We’d love to hear them!

Photo from author’s collection.

Written by p.price

7 Comments

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  1. Great article Pam. Too many people feel shut out of the world of gardening because of their location or space available to them. These points you bring up are all great and do provide a variety of options that should fit just about any location of space need.

    As far as what we do… We use our small space to plant both in the ground as well as in pots… lots of pots of all types! We have four and five gallon planters on the patio, hanging baskets and a raised bed over three feet high with potatoes planted in it. Our garden climb up every wall with string and bamboo trellises and hangs from every post in our fence as well as our second floor balcony.

    Check out our blog for more of our ideas.

    Survey your space, plant in any crevice, hang from every surface and enjoy veggies that didn’t come from some mega-corporate, chemical-laden processing plant. GO VICTORY GARDENS!!

  2. Great article Pam! Too many people believe they are shut out of the world of gardening because of their location or space. You point out some perfect solutions to those common misconceptions about what it takes to have a Victory Garden. Using just a few of these techniques could really change the world for many people and allow them to have chemical-free food independent of the corporate farming world and without the use of fossil fuels for transport and growing.

    Thanks for the insight and ideas!

    To answer what we are doing, visit our website and see the Jungle in our little urban space.

  3. Gayla Train, the author of the book, “You Grow Girl,” and founder of the website, http://www.yougrowgirl.com, is full of ideas for growing vegetables in containers and other non-traditional spaces.

    The people who work at True Nature Foods (www.truenaturefoods.com), an organic grocery store here in Chicago, grow vegetables on their rooftop garden, and sell them in the store. Roof-grown kale, any one?

  4. I’m in Texas as well and have just set up a “no dig” or “lasagne” garden. Our solution also included some recycling as we had tons of Amazon boxes from a recent slew of wedding presents. We flattened the boxes and put those in the bottom of our beds then covered with compost and topsoil. We have 4×4 square planter boxes, 18 inches tall that we built. We just planted them last weekend so I don’t know how they will do. We also have two large container garden planted in horse troughs – the 100 gallon plastic rubbermaid kind.

  5. Chris –

    I really wish that more Texans knew about no dig gardening. I think it’s a great solution to the soil challenges that so many of us have.

    What’s in your horse troughs? Do you have any problem with the heat “cooking” the plants?

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