As fuel prices increase, the cost of other goods are going up too, especially food. My family's own grocery budget has doubled over the past 5 years to keep pace with increasing costs, and that is after using coupons, buying canned goods at discount and dollar stores, and taking advantage of programs like Angel Food Ministries. Now, my family has joined others in our area by saving on food costs by growing some of our own produce. I prefer to think of it as "urban gardening" or my own "recession Victory garden".

During the days of World War II, Victory Gardens were common sights. They were small plots of land, tubs of soil or sections of lawns tilled to grow fruits and vegetables so private citizens could provide some of their own food supply, so the nation's farmed goods could support the war effort. It is estimated that these urban gardens produced 40 percent of the produce consumed in the United States during the war.

These days, people are accustomed to running down to the corner market for a head of lettuce. But why not use the Victory Garden method to grow some of your own food and rely less on the produce at the market, which seems to be increasing in cost as fast as the price of fuel at the pump?

My family lives in a suburb, so our available land for planting fruits and vegetables is very small, but we cleared a 3 x 3 foot patch of lawn in our back yard and planted some fresh herbs like rosemary and Italian parsley, along with some basil. My wife also planted some arugula for salads. We have picked the greens for a few weeks now. Not only is it tastier and healthier than iceburg lettuce, but this same stuff would cost about $6 a pound at the supermarket. We are actually growing some of our own organic food, and consuming it at a significant savings.

If you live in an apartment, consider growing some herbs or tomatoes in flowerpots or window boxes. Many people who are getting started with urban gardening make the mistake of going all out and plowing a half acre of their backyard and planting every kind of vegetable known to the Western World. I have to admit, my own family made this mistake a few years ago. A number of things can go wrong if you don't know what you are doing. You could be planting vegetables out of season, your soil might be too acidic to support vegetables or you may simply produce more than you could possibly consume and your produce goes to waste unless you freeze it or can it. In my case, I went on a business trip and my family did not water the garden. My plants were brown and crispy by the time I returned home. For tips on growing in a non-farm setting, check out the helpful folks at UrbanGardeningHelp.com.

You may not be able to replace all of your produce with a small plot in your backyard or on the roof of your apartment building, but just like during WWII, every little bit helps. Besides, it's actually fun growing some of your own food!

2 comments

  1. lightening // June 18, 2008 at 11:16 PM  

    I have been trying to learn to grow my own vegies over the past 12 months and now I've set myself a bit of a challenge to see if I can get our harvest up to $25 a week of produce. Hopefully I can but it'll be fun to at least try. :)

  2. Tucson Conservative // July 10, 2008 at 10:33 PM  

    Try a square
    foot garden
    . It's awesome. Started one with my daughter. I had a black thumb before this. Since reading this book, we have grown corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe and watermelon. It's an amazing book, and available at your library (doesn't get cheaper than that). It's also been a great learning experience for my 5 year old, and a fun bonding thing for us.

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