Today in “You can do it!”: Gardening. You can indeed start a victory garden in order to grow herbs and produce in as much space as a small deck or balcony. Even a sunny windowsill can foster pots with enough fertile soil for a small crop. Need inspiration? Consider the history of the term “victory garden”: Americans grew their own food in 1917, as we rolled into WWI, in order to allow the U.S. to send food to European allies where hunger was rampant. Americans stepped up; people grew their own produce; they lessened reliance on the food supply chain.
Nowadays, things aren’t quite so fraught, but going to the grocery store can be. And there’s so much satisfaction to be had in growing and eating your own snap peas or herbs. There’s an awesome range of produce that does well even in tricky conditions. Here are a few smart tips to get you going, plus resources to get the rest of the way once you dig in—get it?—and get growing.
1. Consider the Light
Ideally, you’re getting six straight hours of sunshine in the summer wherever you decide to start up your garden. Look for a south-facing window or patio, if you’ve got one. And don’t despair if you live in a shadier place; some things, like this Snow White-esque shiitake mushroom log, do just fine without bright light.
2. Get What You Need
You need soil and something in which to grow your seeds or baby plants! Think about your space and how best to access the sun. This slim, raised bed planter keeps greens and vegetables within easy reach, but you may have more space if you opt for a container that nestles cleanly against a wall. Large pots on a terrace or patio and small ones on a window sill will get the job done too. If you can, try to keep their placement flexible so you can give them a quarter turn every few days to encourage even growth.
3. Think About What You’ll Eat
Peas and green beans, even carrots and some varieties of tomatoes, can grow well in good-sized pots, though asparagus will need a garden bed. Fresh herbs are your best bet if space (and sun) is limited. If you are unaccustomed to tilling the soil (even when it’s in a pot!), consult the expert at your local nursery or look for species guidelines on the plant containers when you purchase them. Focus on the greens and vegetables you like to eat! The care that will bring them to fruition will be that much sweeter.
4. Will It Be Warm or Cool Enough?
If you’re growing vegetables indoors, you’ll need to consider the temperature at which you keep your home, with similar consideration for the weather outdoors if your garden is your patio. Will that vegetable or herb succeed at that temperature and humidity? If you keep your home at 60 degrees, you can grow different things than the person whose home is at a toasty 77. Do the research on the things you choose. (Veteran gardeners love the USDA hardiness zone map for figuring this sort of thing out!)
5. Make It Easy and Pretty
You’re more likely to tend to your plants if everything about the process is delightful. Think about how you’ll get water to them; do you need to invest in a beautiful watering can? You could!
6. Pick Your Produce
OK, here’s where it gets fun. Are you going to grow sturdy perennial herbs like rosemary and mint so you can stir a spring into your favorite cocktail or add flavor to a signature dish? Or, are you going to join the hordes of people re-growing their scallions by simply snipping the tops and re-potting their bulbs, so you can master those trendy Chinese scallion pancakes everyone is making! Lettuce and spinach do fabulously indoors and don’t require much sun, just a wide container. You can re-grow garlic from a single clove, so long as you have a well-draining container. Radishes grow super-fast, as do sprouts. Even tomatoes are within your reach; most folks suggest dwarf varieties like cherry tomatoes when space is limited.