Victory Gardens are making a comeback with an emphasis on sustainable food. Starting a garden is always a great idea so we have a few tips below.
During World War I, Victory Gardens began in backyards, empty lots and whatever space people could find as Americans were called to grow food. Food production had fallen dramatically as agricultural labor joined the military service.
During World War II, the victory garden movement resurfaced. Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden on the White House lawn and Americans were encouraged to “Sow the Seeds of Victory.”
At its peak, it is estimated that nearly 20,000,000 gardens were grown and about 40 percent of all vegetables produced in the U.S. came from Victory Gardens.
Growing from seeds allows you to choose unique varieties and grow them according to your area. Choosing heirloom seeds will give the opportunity to save seeds from your harvest to grow more food in the future. Growing from seed and then saving seeds is like printing your own money (only better because you can't eat money)
If this is your first time growing a garden, you might consider easier varieties to grow from seed. EASY CROPS to grow that do not require much space or heavy nutrients include
We will update this list as we add to our youtube channel and articles posted here on our website. If you have specific garden or seed related questions, please contact us via email at MARY@MARYSHEIRLOOMSEEDS.COM
Cold hardiness and nutrient-rich qualities are why cabbage makes this list. It can stay in the garden late into fall and store in a root cellar or cold greenhouse. Sauerkraut, a fermented food rich in vitamins and probiotics, is a traditional means of preserving cabbage, and your kraut can keep in a crock for months.
Pictured is Pak Choy Cabbage (also called bok choy and pok choy). This is a fantastic, fast-growing variety of Chinese cabbage.
Kale is a superfood that keeps on giving! When growing Kale, you harvest the outer leaves instead of pulling up the whole plant. This allows for multiple harvests of nutrient-dense food.
Lacinato Kale is a good heat-tolerant variety if you live in warmer climates
Winter squash, rich in fiber and vitamins A and C. Grow ‘Waltham Butternut’ for a pest-resistant, HUGE performer in the garden. Pumpkin and Acorn squash are also homestead favorites and they store very well.
HUBBARB BLUE reaches 16 to 20 pounds. It is also a "trap crop" for companion planting so Hubbard Blue is a must-have in our garden
If stored properly, winter squash and pumpkin can last a few months after harvest making this an excellent homestead crop.
Beans are most definitely a homestead favorite. From our article Feeding a Family from the garden, it is recommended to plant 10-20 plants per person to feed for a year. If you're just looking to add to your food preps, 5 plants or more per person would work
Dry beans, or legumes, are a homestead favorite as they store very well without needed to can them.
Green Beans are easy to grow and can or freeze. If you have a smaller garden space, planting pole beans are an excellent option as they grow UP.
Flint corn is suited to cooler, wetter climates and is the most difficult to grind.
Flour corn, grown by American Indians in the Southwest, is the easiest to grind.
Dent corn is characterized by the dent in the top of each kernel.
Common field corn is dent corn.
Popcorn is exactly as the name implies. It is used dried for popping.
Sweet corn does not store as well so it should be consumed or preserved after harvest.
ROOT CROPS: Garlic & Potatoes
I know I mention a few different root crops for homesteading but Garlic and Potatoes are in a category together as they store very well if properly cured. "Seed potatoes" and "seed garlic" is available from most seed companies only seasonally. You can use store bought but you might be exposing your garden to soil born diseases.
Tomatoes can be dried, frozen or canned. They can be made into soups, sauces, pastes and more. They then become the base ingredient in hundreds of kitchen recipes. Tomatoes are one of the easiest veggies to can because they are a high acid veggie and as such, they can be water bath canned instead of needing a pressure canner.
Fast growing, fast maturing and a double duty crop because you eat the root and greens. Easy to pickle and delicious raw. Radish can also be roasted just like mini potatoes. French Breakfast Radish is a more mild variety. German Giant Radish can be eaten small or large. Japanese Daikon is a nice, spicy variety but it takes a couple weeks longer to mature.
Fast growing, fast maturing and a double duty crop because you eat the root and greens of beets. Depending on your growing region, some gardeners can grow beets year-round.
Detroit Dark Red is definitely a favorite because it's so pest resistant. Red Mammoth Mangel deserves a mention because it can grow 20 POUNDS, making it great to feed livestock
Wheat for those of you not gluten sensitive. Wheat is used to make so many food items such as bread, pasta and pastries.
We carry Einkorn Wheat berries, which is an ancient grain. Some people with gluten sensitivity have had success using Einkorn instead.
BUT...I would say SUNFLOWERS instead on our homestead. We avoid wheat. Sunflowers produce seeds to feed us and our chickens. They also produce A LOT of seeds to grow more. Sunflowers also attract pollinators to our garden to help us grow the BEST garden ever!
Pretty much grow your own pharmacy if you know what to grow and how to dry it. We offer a few seed combo packs like the "In the Kitchen" Herb Garden Kit to help you grow a small herb garden. For your own home apothecary, we have quite a few options. CLICK HERE to see our herb seed combo packs
I like to use Coconut Coir for seed starting. It's easy to use and less acidic than peat moss. Seeds do not need any fertilizer in the beginning stages so it is best not to use compost or treated soil for seed germination.
Coconut Coir Pellets or 6 Cell Germination trays work well for seed starting. Use garden markers to label the seeds you've planted. I hear from SO many gardeners that they forgot to label or lost their labels and they don't know what they planted! We recently posted 2 video to help you get started
Sowing depth varies, depending on the germination needs of the plant, but generally most seeds are sown at a depth about twice their width. Some seeds require light to germinate and so require sowing on the soil surface. Once depth is determined, sow one to two seeds per pot and mist the soil surface with water so it's evenly moist. Most seeds germinate best at temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Watering when the soil surface feels dry is sufficient, but empty any collected water from the drip tray within 30 minutes of irrigation to prevent soggy soil.
Some seedlings may have to be transplanted into larger pots to give them room to grow and develop their root systems. Handle the baby plants gently by their leaves, not stems or roots, and try to keep the tiny rootballs intact as you move plants to their new pots. When watering seeds, I use either a spray bottle to moisten the soil or pour water into the reservoir so the soil wicks up the water. Heavy-handed pouring can displace tiny seeds so it is best to use caution. Kathryn at Little Bits of Heaven homestead mentioned her secret to avoid "dampening off" in her video Starting the Summer Garden & Cheap Seed Organization and it's cinnamon! We use Cinnamon as well and it definitely helps. Check on your plants once a day Harden off your seedlings prior to transplanting outdoors. Not sure how, we have an article Hardening Off Seedlings If you'd like to check out our very first video on seed starting, it's also on our youtube channel
If you have additional questions please give us a call or email
From seed, Perpetual Spinach is usually producing by 50 days. I've had quite a few swiss chard varieties continue to produce for over 9 months so they're well worth the moderate amount of space they use in the garden. Perpetual Spinach is a great container variety as well.
Tip: Soak seeds overnight in water before planting to ensure strong germination.
Plant seeds 1/4 - 1/2 inch deep and 3-6 inches apart. Set out seedlings 8-12 inches apart. Indoors or out, thin newly germinated seedlings with cuticle scissors instead of pulling them out. Chard seed capsules often contain two or more seeds. If more than one germinates snip off all but the strongest sprout at the soil line. Gradually thin direct-sown seedlings to 8-12 inches apart.
Harvest individual leaves from the outer area but be sure to leave the crown intact.
Frequent picking helps to stimulate the production of new leaves. Rinse leaves with cool water immediately, shake off the excess moisture, and store in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Swiss Chard is not only heat tolerant, depending on your area, it is also a cool weather crop. I have had several varieties withstand several days of frost and survive.
Bean, cabbage family, tomato, onion and roses. Don't overlook chard's value as an ornamental plant in flower beds or wherever you have room for it. Don't grow chard near cucurbits, melons, corn or herbs.
Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep in moist soil. It is best to sow lettuce or spinach seeds thinly in rows spaced about 1 ft. apart or simply scatter the seeds in blocks. Cover lightly with soil, firm in place and water well. Keep the soil moist until germination. Once the plants have a grown their true leaves, you can begin to thin the plants to about 6" apart.
Start lettuce or spinach indoors or direct seeded in the garden as soon as the soil is workable. Great for container gardens.
Depending on the type of lettuce, harvest outer leaves only or cut down the whole head. Succession planting can dramatically increase yields, especially in smaller areas. Succession planting is when you stagger plantings in the same area throughout the season. Each time a crop is finished you pull it and plant a new one.
Lettuce and spinach are great options for cold frames if you're growing in a cooler climate. Fertilize 3 weeks after transplanting. Lettuce prefers soil that is high in humus, with plenty of compost and a steady supply of nitrogen to keep if growing fast. Alfalfa Meal or Alfalfa Meal Tea works well for Growing Greens.
Spinach can be harvested in the cut and come again method of harvesting lettuce. Cut individual leaves, starting with the older, outer leaves, and letting the young inner leaves remain and continue growing for a later harvest. You can also cut down the whole plant, for a larger harvest.
Lettuce: Does well with beets, broccoli, bush beans, pole beans, carrots, cucumbers, onion, radish and strawberries. It grows happily in the shade under young sunflowers. Dill and lettuce are a perfect pair. Keep lettuce away from cabbage. Cabbage is a deterrent to the growth and flavor of lettuce.
Spinach: Plant with peas and beans as they provide natural shade for the spinach. Gets along with cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, onion, peas, strawberries and fava bean. Plant spinach with squash. It's a good use of space because by the time squash plants start to get big the spinach is ready to bolt.
If you have warmer days and cold nights, consider planting greens in small containers to bring inside at night. Or, plant an indoor windowsill garden to harvest fresh greens such as European Mesclun Mix and Arugula.
RADISH is an excellent Fall crop. It is easy to grow and a quick harvest!
Tomatillo is an often overlooked heirloom variety. Native to Mexico and domesticated by the Aztecs around 800 B.C., the tomatillo is one of our most ancient food bearing plants.
Growing Tomatillo is similar to growing tomatoes but isn't as heavy a feeder as tomatoes.
Select a growing area with full sun exposure and well-drained, moderately rich soil.
The rule of thumb for sowing seeds is to plant the seed twice as deep as it is wide (or twice as deep as the diameter of the seed). Tomatillo seeds are really small, so don’t plant them very deep – they only need to be planted 1/8″ – 1/4″ deep. Grow at least 2 plants at a time, more if you plan to make a bit of salsa.
My personal rule of thumb is to always plant more than you think you'll will need. This will come in handy if you have pest issues such as bugs, birds, squirrels and even cats. If you produce more than you need or use, you can always store for later or share with friends and family.
Similar to growing tomatoes, Tomatillo sprouts roots along the stems, so it does well when planted deep in the soil. Tomatillo plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall and about the same in width, so space the plants 3 feet apart in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Plan to give them support in the form of gardening trellises or tomato cages.
Tomatillo will continue to produce until frost takes over. Although moderately drought-tolerant, tomatillos do best with an inch or so of water per week (more if you live in a very hot climate).
You know a tomatillo is ready to be cut from the plant when the fruit has filled out the husk. Left to ripen further, the fruit will frequently split the husk and turn yellow or purple depending on its genetics.
We hope you have enjoyed yet another informative growing article here at Mary's Heirloom Seeds. If you have additional questions please ask!