Victory Gardens originated during World War I, an answer to a severe food shortage at the time. People were encouraged to find any usable space, plop in some seeds and contribute homegrown fruits, vegetables and herbs to the effort. The idea was wildly successful, growing an army of amateur gardeners and serving to boost morale and patriotism.
While we’re not in wartime, we can all commiserate the past few months have been tough, mood-boosters are welcomed. So the Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio State University are reviving the effort and once again inspiring people to get their hands dirty, realize the fruits of their labor and share with others if inspired. We believe a good day in the garden is good for the soul.
I will be speaking on Growing Over Winter in partnership with one of my favorite central Ohio places, the Grange Audubon Center. This virtual event takes place at 6:30pm on Thursday September 30th.
Ohio is a four-season growing environment. Did you know with a little planning, wise variety choices, and a little season extension fabric you can harvest your own fresh vegetables from January to March. No outdoor space available? We will also talk about indoor hydroponics and how you can grow indoors in the winter as well.
There is registration required. Register at THIS LINK.
In July 2019, Franklin County Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) sowed Victory Garden Seeds donated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and OSU Extension in 12 raised beds. Many who joined were novice vegetable gardeners who were excited to be able to grow for our community especially in a difficult year in which many of us were in enforced isolation due to Covid-19.
In 2021, Franklin County MGVs continue with an expanded plot in which the produce will be grown exclusively for food pantries. We work with community gardeners, including board members of Sprouting Spoons, a 501c3 non-profit organization promoting food security in Columbus, Ohio. We also hope to work with veterans who have expressed interest in our 18 raised beds and 7 in-ground rows.
Many of the seeds we sowed came from ODA donations earlier this spring. These included cool-season crops such as cucumbers, beets, radishes, and lettuces.
Gardening-related issues such as when to plant, when to fertilize, how to control pests, and what do the plants need to thrive are researched and information is shared with all participants.
As of the end of July, we have donated 277 pounds of produce to the Church of All People Free Store as well as Volunteers of America, which serves 63 male veterans. Church volunteers exclaimed “This is great! And we’ll be sure to get it to everyone right away! Thank you!” The veterans were “thrilled” and plan on coming to help work the plot. We look forward to making connections with so many more people through our simple act of growing to share.
June- bearing strawberry plants are productive for several years if they are given the proper care. Plantings in a matted row system require renovation. Renovation is the process of removing the leaves of the plants and cultivating the aisle to reduce the width of the row of plants to 8” – 12”. There is no need to renovate June bearing plants that are in their establishment year (the year you plant them).
When do you renovate your plants?
In late June or early July after harvest had finished with your berries.
How to renovate
Mow or clip the leaves of your plants. Do this by setting a push mower or your garden tractor at the highest setting. The higher the setting the better. You do not want to injure or cut the crown of the plants.
In small planting situations you can use pruners to trim the leaves off the plant. Be sure to properly sanitize your pruners between each plant.
This picture is in the renovation process. The right side is what the beds looked like before mowing. The left side is mowed.
This is a picture of a mowed plant. Notice how the mower didn’t get all the runners? I go back through the rows with pruners and clip of the long stems.
After you have mowed or clipped your plants remove the clipped leaves from the bed by raking them up. Burn the leaves, do not compost these leaves. If the leaves have any disease and they are composted, you could put the disease back into the soil another time.
Rototill or cultivate the aisles to maintain the proper plant spacings. It is very easy for a runner to get away from you and become a plant in your aisle. Tilling the rows helps to eliminate an unwanted messy bed. However, if you do not mind the messy bed look then leave those run a ways!!
Side- dress the plants with phosphorus (bone meal is goof source of phosphorus) to promote new growth and aid in winter hardiness. Be sure to water the fertilizer in after applying.
Cover the plants with straw before the fall frost and remove in spring when the weather starts to get warmer.
Sabrina K. Schirtzinger Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources OSU Extension, Knox County
Cool weather crops, like spinach and lettuce, tend to prefer cooler temps which is why they are planted in the spring and fall. However, sometimes our weather likes to throw some hot dates our way and these crops do not like it. While some crop varieties are tolerant of warmer temps, not all are.
For those cooler crops, make sure they don’t dry up and even utilize that frost blanket or a shade tunnel to help shade your cool weather crops from the sun and the heat.
If you have never planted squash before in your garden, I highly encourage you to consider it for this season. Personally, I have never met a squash I didn’t like, but even if traditional zucchini isn’t your thing, there are a vast variety of squash that are worth planting in your garden. Planting squash is said to make you a great neighbor because most have a bountiful crop all season long that must be disbursed.
If you have never grown squash before, I recommend trying a green zucchini or yellow squash, both are easy to cook with and have a quite mild flavor. I recently fell in love with and will be planting Delicata Squash, a winter squash, which has a sweet orange meat (like sweet potato) that can be cooked with the rind on. I will also be trying my hand at growing Patty Pan Squash, a summer favorite usually found at the farmers market.
Now that I have your mouth watering, hopefully your green thumb is throbbing as well. Remember before planting your garden to have a location prepared that has good access to water and is in an area that will receive full sun. Raised beds or planting directly into the ground are both acceptable options, but you will need to consider that healthy squash plants take up a lot of space. Read your seed packets for accurate spacing, but you should plan on spacing your plants 12 inches apart in rows three to five feet apart, and at a seed depth of two to three inches deep.
While you can start your seeds indoors, squash can be highly susceptible to transplant shock, you will likely have more success by direct seeding in the garden after Mother’s Day here in Ohio, or after your areas last frost date. Squash plants and tomatoes need lots of calcium, so an easy trick at planting is to plant an antacid tablet an inch or so deeper than your seed which will help meet your plants calcium requirements.
Throughout the growing season, always water your squash plants at the ground level, directly at the base of your plants. Cucurbits are highly susceptible to Downy and Powdery Mildew and focused watering with lower leaf defoliation aka pruning (once your plants have reached maturity) will help prevent these diseases. Fertilizing your squash should be done with good bed preparation but can be side-dressed once plants have reached three to four inches tall.
To ensure fruiting, make sure you are planting pollinator-attracting flowers throughout your garden, as squash plants have imperfect flowers (some male and some female) and need help with pollination. You can also hand pollinate your plants using the male flower, a paintbrush or a cotton swab, this video is a nice example:
If you have done your job right, and depending on the variety, you should be harvesting in 60 days after planting and four to eight days after pollination. When harvesting, its best to harvest first thing in the morning with gloves. You can expect healthy plants to typically produce at least one squash every other day. If you don’t harvest regularly, the fruit will harden and the plant will set fewer fruits, but overgrown fruit can still be used for zucchini bread! So find a couple of recipes and enjoy summer, fall or winter of delicious and nutritious squash, and if you find yourself with a surplus, one of my favorite obscure holidays is “Sneak a Zucchini Day” on August 8th.
Hallie Williams Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources OSU Extension, Seneca County