Much like the victory gardens of the 1940s, a recession garden is part necessity and part good sense. During the 1940s, many people took up vegetable gardening as a way to feed their families and support the war effort. By growing their own food, they were able to cut grocery bills and also divert manufactured food products to the troops fighting overseas, hence the name victory garden. A recession garden operates in much the same way, albeit for a different reason. Since the mid-2000's the economy has forced many families to find more affordable ways to feed their families while also reaping the benefits of healthier food options.
Supplies and Tools
First determine whether you want raised beds, containers, or a traditional row garden. For beginner gardeners, it is vital to start small since a few healthy plants will ultimately produce more than a large patch of dead ones. The supplies listed are intended for two raised beds that measure four by four feet. As you become more experienced, feel free to add additional beds to suit your needs.
- Four pieces of 2x6x8 foot untreated lumber
- Two and one-half inch long wood screws
- Three bags of two cubic foot mushroom compost
- Three bags of two cubic foot cow manure compost
- One bag of four cubic foot peat moss
- One bag of four cubic foot vermiculite or perlite
- Seeds or seedlings
Recession Garden Planting
Cut each piece of lumber in half so you end up with eight equal lengths measuring 2x6x4. Construct a frame using four pieces of the lumber. For the frame to be exactly four feet square, you will need to alternate each end so that no two sides are shorter than the others. Drill two screws into each end so they are firmly secured.
Place the frame in your intended garden spot. If the frames will be placed on existing soil, it may be better to attach a weed fabric to the bottom of the frame with a staple gun to prevent any grass seeds or other unwanted weeds from growing up through the bottom. If you don't intend to add weed fabric, simply rake away any rocks, debris or unwanted grass and weeds so the spot is relatively level.
Add compost, peat moss, and vermiculite to each square in equal ratios of approximately one-third. Combine the three materials together with a shovel so each is fully incorporated. The compost is used for nutrients, the peat moss for moisture retention, and the vermiculite for air circulation.
Plant your seeds or seedlings according to the hardiness zone for your area, making sure to account for how large each plant will be at full maturity. Though most anything will grow in a raised bed, the most popular options are tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, basil and zucchini because they are easy to grow and are prolific producers. Choose vegetables well liked by your family and maybe a couple of new varieties to encourage them to try something different.
Harvest and Storage
You may be surprised at how much produce you can harvest from a mere 32 feet of garden space. If there is too much to possibly eat before spoiling, either share with your neighbors or consider storing for use after the season is over. Some common methods include canning and freezing and will help stretch your grocery budget even farther.
Regardless of the economic reason for your recession garden, opt to enjoy the process by including all your family members in the gardening effort. Children may develop a lifelong love of gardening that extends far beyond budget concerns and the importance of spending time as a family cannot be underestimated.