Last month’s empty supermarket shelves and worries about food contamination from the COVID-19 crisis led to calls for a resurgence of “Victory Gardens.”
Popularized during World War II, it is estimated that “Victory Gardens” (filled with edibles planted in backyards and other small spaces) produced 40 percent of the nation’s fresh fruits and vegetables.
While today’s home gardeners aren’t typically aiming for something quite so ambitious, they are buying more edibles for their patio planters, window boxes and to incorporate into their landscapes.
Both functional and beautiful, growing your own food is giving people a much-needed victory right now.
FEEDING THE SOUL
Container plantings give you the comfort and security of having food growing right outside your door.
“People come to the greenhouse and they want to feed their soul. They’re saying, ‘Wow! You can eat the leaves and the flowers and it’s beautiful!’ That feeds many parts of the soul,” said Suzanne Balet Haight, owner of Balet Flowers & Design.
Because of the current conditions, she saw people coming into the Ballston Spa greenhouse earlier in the season this year.
They needed color. Knowing they could put something colorful and edible, like pansies, on their windowsill put a smile on their face.
GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START
Preventing gardeners from getting discouraged starts with choosing the right planting materials.
Fill pots with a combination of a 1/3 compost and 2/3 potting mix, recommends Balet Haight.
“I’m really sold on Booth’s Blend compost. It’s a cow manure compost that we have for sale here at the store and I just love it,” she said.
Adding compost right from the start will make plants grow greener and produce more fruit. Containers filled with potting mix alone can dry out more quickly and will need to be supplemented with a fertilizer.
Planning to create a garden plot? Test the pH of your soil first.
“We do sell pH tests here. They’re relatively inexpensive and very simple to do. A pH of 6.5 is ideal,” she said.
ADDING EDIBLES INTO THE LANDSCAPE
Tucking edible plants into your existing landscape adds texture, color and an additional food source.
Balet’s “Pizza Garden” pots are filled with tomatoes, sweet banana peppers, chives, oregano, curly and Italian parsley.
“They’re great for pizzas, pastas and salads. Just put a pot like that in between your shrubs and it’ll grow fantastic,” she said.
Growing so many different plants together is possible!
Balet-Haight wants her customers to be successful, so will help them choose plant varieties that grow well together and produce a ton of fruit.
“By incorporating the right things in the right space, we are maximizing every single inch of the garden or landscape,” she said.
For example, early germinators like radishes can be planted in the same row as carrots, which will come up later in the season.
Cascading plants like Indian mint are unique ways to utilize space, look great in planters and have a pungent flavor fantastic for teas, said Balet-Haight.
SMALL SPACE – BIG SUCCESS
When a customer comes to Balet’s, Suzanne is happy to answer questions and draw planting diagrams, but her team will also come out to your house and plant your garden for you. (This year, wearing masks and abiding by all the social distancing guidelines).
In just one 4ft.x 8 ft. raised bed, they’ve planted cherry tomatoes, sweet banana and bell peppers, long purple eggplant, nasturtiums, swiss chard, kale, zucchini, yellow squash, parsley, cucumber and marigolds!
“It was a garden where they constantly had new things coming up all the time. It was a very small space but they were able to get a ton of produce and had a good variety,” said Balet Haight.
Unusual times make way for unique victories.
Herb wreaths, as well as other unique edible and beautiful ideas have been added this year to create an awareness that individuals can feed themselves.
This summer, why not reward yourself with a patriotic and productive garden adventure?
A combination of red Russian Kale, white Tri-Color sage, and blue Munstead Lavender, will give you the classic beauty of an edible, colorful, red, white and blue container.
A variety of vegetable and herb plants will be available both at Balet Flowers greenhouse and at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Wilton Mall.
Balet Flowers & Design, 5041 Nelson Ave. Ext., Ballston Spa is open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. To order online for curbside pick-up, or for more information, go to www.baletflowers.com