Is it time to start your Victory over virus Garden?

By Tony Buck, Special to The Times

Food security must now be on the minds of Chester County residents during this Coronavirus outbreak.  And it’s about time! According to the Delaware Valley Region Planning Commission Food Study, we grow about 6% of our food in the Greater Philadelphia area. Most of our food comes from California in our spring and summer, and during fall and winter, from south of the equator.

We have a unique opportunity to relocalize the food system here in Chester County. And residents can encourage this by supporting local farmers and producers in the Guide To Local Farm Products at the County website: Also call Chester County Master Gardener hotline for advice: 610-696-3500

But before that ‘revolution’ happens, and I think it will, citizens can start their own growing revolution by starting a Victory over virus Garden. Readers old enough to remember will realize I’m punning on the Victory Gardens of WW2, when everyone was encouraged to grow food in their backyards. “Sow the seeds of victory, plant and raise your own vegetables,” reads one poster from that era. “Grow vitamins at your kitchen door,” reads another. And people responded. Estimates are that Americans grew about 40% of produce needs for that time.

Perhaps one silver lining is that the virus hit just as we, who already grow food, are preparing our gardens for spring. And to those who have never tried, I’d say, what a great time to start. There is so much good information on that within a few hours of checking out the best of the tutors, you’ll have an idea of what to do. Just consider starting with a 4 by 8-foot area. And plant things like tomatoes and cucumbers. You can start from seedlings (young plants), that give you a better start. You’ve got plenty of time to learn and prepare, because you can’t plant these tropicals, as we call them, until about May 10, after the last frost.

You can plant some things earlier if you’re ready, like potatoes and snap peas. I typically grow about 20 different edible plants a year in my garden, and I’ll tell you something, plants want to grow, they don’t have an attitude! So give it a try, and who knows, you might like it and want to scale up and become one of our new 10-acre family farmers, linking in to the 49 billion dollar local food system, making us all more healthy and secure.

Tony Buck is an edible gardening expert and Permaculture designer.

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