The Daily Gazette
The Locally Owned Voice Of The Capital Region
Margaret Hartley's Greenpoint
by Margaret Hartley


A Daily Gazette community blog
Ideas on greener living


When times get tough, people tend to hunker down. This past spring, the outlook for harsh economic times along with growing concerns over food safety and the environment translated into a boom in home gardening, a new Victory Garden movement.

Information from seed companies and garden supply stores, and a peek into backyards and garden beds confirmed the trend: Home vegetables gardens were sprouting up everywhere. Plots in side yards, raised beds by the sidewalk, window boxes, even filled-in swimming pools. Everywhere you looked, it seemed, people were planting. They were looking for fresh food they could count on, and a way to stretch their food dollars.

During World War II, nearly 20 million Americans planted Victory Gardens to augment the nation’s food supply and to free resources for the war effort. By 1943, these gardens produced more than 40 percent of the fresh produce consumed in the United States. That same year, Americans bough more than 300,000 pressure cookers to preserve their produce for the winter.

The gardening and canning fad plummeted during the prosperous post-war years. Convenience became key, and suburban lawns won out over rows of peas and pumpkins. Store-bought canned goods were cheap, and advertised as more sanitary.

Some, though, never gave up on the home garden. And many more caught the bug in recent years.

So here we are, two to three months into the gardening season, entering the peak of harvest. How’s your garden doing?

This year hasn’t been an easy one, for novices or experienced gardeners. We’ve had more rain — about 7 inches above average so far this year — than we need, and gardens that don’t drain well have suffered. Without abundant sunshine, tomatoes are slow to ripen, and some — especially grape and cherry tomatoes — are splitting as the rain swells them faster than the skin can grow.

I’m lucky to have good drainage, rich soil and a husband who is diligent with the hoe. Our corn is loving the rain — towering eight-feet high on thick stalks, with sunflowers peeking through and volunteer squash and pumpkins snaking along the ground. We’re eating potatoes, beans, corn, squash, cucumbers, beets, garlic and onions. We’ve got enough pesto in the freezer for the winter, along with beans and squash. Our pumpkins, melons and peppers are coming along, and if the tomatoes ever ripen, there’ll be lots of sauce, paste and salsa to put up. On the other hand, my eggplants are barely more than flowers and I’ll be lucky to get anything before frost. I didn’t trim back my oregano, and it’s taken over the sage andn lemon balm. And our pet rabbit loves the new flower garden.

Gardening is always an adventure. How is yours going? Did you plant vegetables for the first time? Or have you planted more this year than in the past? Share your garden story: Is it better or worse than you thought it would be? Are the weeds and mud getting to you? What’s your best crop so far? Feeling Victorious?

Post comments below or email your garden tales to

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August 13, 2008
3:16 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Hey Maggie, I actually planted my first garden this summer! Ok, well, it's not really a garden. It's 2 pepper plants and a tomato plant. And um... I guess it's not really mine either, because I planted them in my mothers back yard. Does that still count? I feel a little victorious.

Eventually I'd like to have a large garden of my own. I do not currently have the space for a garden at my apartment. I suppose I could place each plant in individual pots and grow them in the back driveway. But I live in a high crime area. I think people might try to steal/disturb them.

Do you have any suggestions for people who want to garden, but don't really have the space? Also, if I did plant in individual pots in the back driveway, would the local animal population cause problems? There are always wild squirrels and cats outside my apartment. I also see skunks from time to time at night. Would they pose a problem?

Dr. Chim

August 13, 2008
3:37 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Dr. Chim -

I'm not a gardener either, but there are a lot of resources for urban gardeners. This isn't exactly a resource, but it's a decent blog by my friend Taylor about his experiences gardening in downtown Charlotte, N.C. He's learned a lot about how to deal with squirrels.

August 13, 2008
3:54 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Dr. Chim,

My first upstate garden was robbed by neighbors, and it wasn't even in a high-crime urban area. Just a plot behind a gravel parking lot behind a small apartment building in a quaint little town. We also had a voracious groundhog. Not much in the way of produce.

Your best bet is taking over more of your mom's yard, sharing a garden with a friend with a yard, or checking out one of the community gardens for a plot of your own or to share.

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