City Farmer's "Y2K Victory Garden"
By Michael Levenston
February 30, 1999
Early last year, a journalist called to ask for my thoughts on the Y2K crisis and what part Urban Agriculture might play for a book that was later published titled Awakening: The Upside of Y2K. I said that "it takes time to grow food. You can't grow food in a panic. It takes planning. If people don't really believe that Y2K can disrupt food supplies, if they wait until January 1, 2000 to see what happens, it will be too late."
I also pointed out that during WW II, "Victory Gardeners" made a huge contribution to the urban food supply by growing extra vegetables at home and that they could do it once again if mobilized.
At City Farmer we are growing a "Y2K Victory Garden" this year, which will demonstrate to people what they need to do to help themselves.
Harvest and Store
Our first strategy is to grow plants during the summer and fall, which can be harvested and stored in a garage or basement for use in the new year. Head gardener, Wes Barrett, recommends hard-rind varieties of squash. "Orange coloured squashes are full of nutrients" he says. "Our favourite is 'Buttercup'. Plant it when the air and soil are warm in May and harvest in September or mid-October. Wash them in a 10% bleach solution to prevent mould and store them in a cool, dark location." Pumpkins are another good choice.
And then there are all the root crops - carrots, potatoes, beets, parsnips and turnips for example - which can be stored inside in dry sand. "This is what they did in the old days" remarks Wes.
The Larder Outside
Our second strategy is to grow plants that can be left in the ground in Vancouver gardens and then harvested in the winter. "Jerusalem Artichokes" are even more nutritious than potatoes" says Wes. "They stay in the soil right through January so you don't have to worry about storing them."
Kale, which is easy to grow, is one of the most nutritious of all vegetables. We grow varieties that can be planted in mid-summer and remain in the garden all winter, their dark green leaves ready for harvest when needed. 'Russian Red', and 'Siberian' are good over-wintering varieties.
There are also excellent over-wintering broccolis and cabbages which will survive most Vancouver winters.
Our next strategy utilizes cold frames, tunnels, and cloches as season extenders. They act like mini-greenhouses to protect plants from the worst weather. Many varieties of salad greens will do well in these structures. "If you want these plants to be ready for harvest in January and February" says Wes, "you usually plant them before late August. When the ground and air have cooled down in October/November, the plants will have attained 1/2 to 3/4 of their full growth."
Canning, Drying and Sprouting
These are three more strategies for having food ready at hand in the new year. Canning can preserve surplus tomatoes, beets and cucumbers for example. Beans, peas, corn and peppers can be dried and stored. Fresh sprouts such as alfafa, mung beans and lentils can be harvested all winter right from the kitchen.
Wes recommends West Coast Seeds as a great place to find both information and seeds. He also reminds new food gardeners that a fertile soil is essential if they wish to harvest a bumper crop.
Remember, no one in Canada will be planting a food garden on New Year's Day, 2000. There will be snow and ice on the ground (cold rain in Vancouver) and the days will be short.
City Farmer's Y2K Garden was featured on CBC's The Canadian Gardener a national tv show.
Victory Garden Information on the Internet
- A History of Victory Gardens in W.W.II-era
- Grandpa's Victory Garden
- The Garden Warriors of 1942
- The Smithsonian Institution invites you to visit its new Victory Garden
- Victory Garden Posters
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