During 1977, interest in home vegetable gardening was at its highest level since the Victory Gardens era of World War II; and it probably will be even greater in 1978, with vegetables growing in many front yards and in tubs on patios, balconies and walk-ways, according to "Gardening for Food and Fun," the recently published USDA 1977 Yearbook of Agriculture.
With contirbutions from leading experts, the well-illustrated 392-page book can be ordered from Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 for $6.50.
The big reason for the upsurge of interest is the increasing cost of food, according to one of the contributors. Cecil Blackwell, executive director of the American Society of Horticultural Science, Mount Vernon, Va.
Another is freshness and quality. Produce harvested at peak maturity from the garden generally has better flavor and higher nutritional value than that harvested at earlier stages of maturity and shipped to supermarkets.
Another reason is therapy, or personal satisfaction. Working with living plants and seeing them respond has therapeutic value. Success from learning and using new skills stirs a sense of pride and achievement, Blackwell says. The exercise can be relaxing.
It has been estimated that an average family can save $200 to $300 annually on food costs by growing and processing fruits and vegetables at home.
Many more people would have vegetable gardens if they had a place for them, according to James W. Wilson, executive secretary of the National Garden Bureau in Los Altos, Calif. You can grow vegetables successfully in full sun and away from tree roots, but only a few garden sites are far removed from shade cast by walls, fences or trees or free from foraging roots.
There are no shade-loving vegetables or fruits. All respond to shade by growing slower and taller and maturing later, if at all. All vegetables grow best in full sun, except in extreme desert situations where shade from the afternoon sun can improve growth and prolong the harvest season. All fruit trees and berries prefer full sun and will grow slowly and bear poorly if subjected to shade of even medium density.
As a general rule, it is a waste of effort to try to garden within 6 to 8 feet of the north side of a one-story structure. The south side is an ideal place with its full sun.
A simple, often overlooked fact about sun light and shade is its effect not only on photosynthesis (food production) but also on relative warmth of the soil. Seeds sprout faster and plants grow more rapidly in warm soil.
High shade cast by tall trees free of lower branches can often be tolerated by vegetables because the shaded area moves with the sun and covers the garden for only a short time. Many trees cast spotty rather than dense shade.
With mature trees, expect widespread roots, often extending to 1 1/2 times the distance from the trunk to the outer branches.
If the tree is not an attractive or valuable species, trim it to let the sun it. Salvage value in the form of firewood and groundup twigs and branches can reduce the cost of tree removal.
Home gardeners should look beyond the traditional concept of a single plot as a vegetable and/or fruit garden. More often than not, two or more small plots have advantages over a single garden. Small plots also are easier to dress up with flowers to make them blend with the landscape.
If a survey of your property for a potential garden sites proves disappointing, you have options today that were not open a few years ago. Gardens on company property or in community plots have again become popular.
Container gardening permits vegetable growing where no suitable plots of soil exist. Front yard vegetable gardens are becoming commonplace. Some turfgrass areas may have to be sacrificed or the vegetables can be grown in large tubs.
Growing vegetables in containers can be fun as well as challenging, according to Kathryn L. Arthurs, garden writer and editor for Western Publishing Co. All you need to grow vegetables in containers is enough sun and adequate space for a good-sized container.