By Sommer Cartier.
Amidst the recent pandemic, the motivators behind the patriotic “victory gardens” of WWI and WWII are resurging. Short supply of staple food coupled with long lines at grocery stores have forced us to re-evaluate our lifestyle and consumption choices. It’s become acutely apparent how dependent we are on others for basic food and safety needs. For those looking to jumpstart fallow gardens, or start one for the first time, below are quick, easy, money saving crops that are great to grow in uncertain times. If you have other veggies in mind, check out San Diego Master Gardener Joyce Gemmell’s vegetable planting guide to learn more about plant needs and time until harvest.
Most salad greens are quick growing and ready to eat within 4 to 6 weeks. They can be planted in small and large gardens, container or raised beds, making them convenient to grow. If using the cut-and-come-again method, you can enjoy an earlier, extended harvest, filling those salad plates with sweet tender greens for several weeks. When selecting lettuce, bear in mind San Diego is transitioning to our warm growing season. Heat tolerant varieties such as Astro arugula, Sierra Nevada and Oakleaf loose lettuce are recommended. These varieties can withstand heat and are slow to bolt.
Cut and Come again: https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-grow-a-cut-and-come-again-garden-1403175
Swiss chard is a powerhouse of nutrients and easy to grow, regardless of soil, daylength or temperature. Its tolerance to warm, dry conditions makes it a great leafy green to grow year-round in San Diego. Swiss chard does best in full sun, however, if growing year-round, find a partially shaded location to plant. Swiss chard can easily be grown from seed but are usually slow to start. Once they hit their growing spurt they are vigorous producers. You can shorten the wait by planting seedlings purchased at your local nursery.
Zucchini is an incredibly prolific crop, one or two plants can easily feed a dozen people. Even the blossoms are edible. The roots of zucchini plants are highly sensitive and must be handled with care. For best results, start zucchini seeds in a sunny spot where they will stay and grow. Begin harvesting fruit around 45-55 days and at 3-4 inches long. Be sure to harvest frequently to ensure plants produce more fruit rather than place energy towards seeds.
Snap beans are heavy producers and grow quickly from seed. Once they get going, they seem to provide a never-ending supply of tender sweet pods that can be challenging to keep up on. There are two types of snap beans, each come with their own sets of pros and cons. Bush beans have a shorter turnaround time (55-60 days) but also a shorter production period. Succession planting will be necessary to keep a steady flow of beans. Pole beans take longer to mature (65-80 days) but produce an abundance of beans throughout the entire season. Due to their climbing nature, they’ll require less space in the garden but will require a trellis or structure to support them.
Succession planting: https://www.veggiegardener.com/succession-planting/
Hopefully this article provides some inspiration and a gentle push to get you out there cultivating your own “victory gardens”. While these are unprecedented times and the future in unclear, please remember my friends– stay calm and garden on!
Sommer Cartier is a certified Master Gardener with a Master of Arts in International Development and Social Change. Her specialty is working with local food systems and using gardens as a tool for community engagement.