While Christmas is my favorite holiday, I like to consider summertime the most wonderful time of the year. Longer and brighter days call for basking in the sun and running through the sprinklers. Looking around, I realize that we’re not the only ones that get to enjoy the warmth and water. The once dry, gray landscape gives way to lush, green land full of potential. It’s time for a victory garden! As a family, we’ve harvested good food and valuable life lessons from our vegetable garden.
In spring, we leaf through vegetable seed catalogs, draw some garden blueprints, and start spring cleaning.
The excitement is mixed with anticipation as northern winters can keep us guessing. My southern roots want to call spring as early as the first of March! Growing up, springtime gardening meant it was time to do a bit of landscaping and set out a couple of potted plants. I wasn’t exposed to vegetable gardening much until I became an adult. Living in Arizona for four years, I dabbled in vegetarianism and developed an appreciation for new foods. In a place where we had to use a pickaxe to do our landscaping, it really surprised me that this desert city had thriving, vibrant gardens. It was there that I learned about raised beds, irrigation systems, and sustainability. When it came time for us to make our move to Minnesota, we were excited about the possibilities in the fertile Midwest.
Our first Minnesota harvest was a hit (mostly thanks to my farm-savvy husband)! Not only did we produce a lot of food, but also some great memories. That’s when we decided that hobby farming was for us. While I’m not the green thumb in my family, working together, getting dirty, and having fun made our garden a success. What better way to encourage teamwork and family time.
Many of us have ties to farming; either ourselves, our parents, or grandparents.
Not only does this tradition bond us to each other but also to our roots and heritage. I’m pretty good at growing tomatoes and peppers. Maybe I have a soft-spot for these since they were family staples growing up and featured often in my cooking. I’ve also learned to love food from my husband’s culture that I have never had before like rhubarb, turnips, and parsnips. Those were popular foods produced during the era of “victory gardens.” During World War II, the American government asked people to plant vegetable gardens to help supplement the nation’s military efforts. With so many people off at war, families took food production into their own hands. There is a currently a resurgence of victory gardens due to the economy and concerns of climate change.
A victory garden usually involves the efforts of a family or a whole community.
Many neighborhoods now have their own inclusive vegetable gardens. Neighbors, family, and even YouTube are excellent gardening resources. I didn’t know much about gardening, so I started with container plants. When I felt brave enough, I dug right in. One year, my husband said that I planted my zucchini and watermelon too close together. We decided to leave it alone and see what happens. Sure enough, I ended up with unappetizing zucchini-melon. It’s not always perfect, but gardening saves us money, provides us with organic food, and brings us closer to each other and to nature.
I’m also happy to say that my kids love vegetables. So much so that they’ll eat frozen peas right out of the bag. I’ve never grown peas, so I guess that’s this year’s project. No matter how big or small the garden project, it inspires memories for years to come. When my oldest was four and saw the fireflies dance around the garden at dusk, with a look of wonderment he said, “Wow, this place is magical!” It’s these little things that are true victories.