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pursuits ✴ old concepts die hard


What You Eat,


What You Grow By Bob Izzo Photos by Cobblestone Photography

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The concept of the Victory Garden began during World War I and continued throughout World War II. The wars placed demands on the food supply with agricultural labor being recruited into military service. Charles Lathrop Pack organized the National War Garden Commission which launched the War Garden Campaign – a concept where people could help the supply of food greatly by cultivating private and public lands, resulting in over five million gardens. During the course of World War II, over 20 million Americans planted “Victory Gardens” and produced up to 40% of all the vegetable produce. Today, many are undertaking the challenge whether it be a modest container of tomatoes or a full-fledged sufficient garden. My love for gardening, I believe, was genetically inspired but lay dormant for much of my youth. My grandfather, who lived in a brownstone in Brooklyn, had a very small backyard surrounded by tall buildings. Every year he would judiciously tie up the branches on his one fig tree, wrap it in burlap and put it to bed for the winter. His space for gardening was a very small area; they grew fresh basil and other herbs, and maybe a few tomato plants, but that was all. My wife’s grandparents lived on Long Island and they had a much larger garden that produced fresh vegetables all season. Over the driveway, they had a large wooden trellis where they grew grapes and made their own wine and vinegar. My wife, to this day, is always comparing my tomatoes to the “ugly tomatoes” that her grandfather grew! Ugly tomatoes are those Heirloom tomatoes that were grown before the hybrid varieties available now. They are often misshapen, can be very large, not perfectly red with blotchy color. Heirloom tomatoes taste much better than the modern varieties available today. It is hard to grow the Heirloom varieties here in Coastal Georgia because of the disease issues prevalent with our climate. The varieties I grow are not quite as good as the old-time Heirlooms, but are still much better than anything you can buy. As a young boy, I did not care much for gardening. My job was to cut the grass, weed the beds, rake leaves and other general maintenance items in our yard. Needless to say, I would rather have been on the water or playing with my friends. When my wife and I moved to Atlanta in 1975, we bought a new house with a good-size yard. I wanted a vine-ripened tomato that actually tasted good. After clearing an area, we planted our first garden and had fresh vegetables the entire time we lived in Atlanta. The taste difference between the fresh

vegetables that I grow and what you can buy locally keeps me in the garden. My Atlanta garden was quite extensive, and along with the vegetables, it was filled with perennial plants and unusual flowers. It took a great deal of time to keep it looking good. When we retired and moved to Richmond Hill, I was going to have a small garden with a low maintenance yard. That concept did not work out as planned, and I am right back to the big garden, and as you can tell from all the planting in my yard, I am headed to having lots of maintenance again. Oh, well! Using the boards from an old deck we replaced, I built four raised bed boxes in our new yard, loaded them up with soil and planted our first vegetables. Little did I realize that we would have herds of deer feasting on all the newly planted seedlings. I could just imagine the deer telling all their white-tailed friends about the raised bed buffet at the Izzo’s house. I tried numerous deer repellents, which included human hair from the barber shop, scented repellents and even Dial soap hanging on a string. My neighbor got great delight watching my feeble attempts to keep nature out of the garden. After the squirrels ate the bar of soap, I put up a six-foot fence. The original wooden raised bed planter boxes along with 20 large nursery containers now share space within the enclosure. r ic h m o n d h i l l r e f l e c t io n sm ag . c om 7 3

pursuits ✴ old concepts die hard I’ve Learned Many Tricks for a Victorious Garden

▶ By using a combination of containers and rows, you give yourself flexibility to move things around to rotate your crops. It is always recommended to rotate crops to avoid disease issues. For instance, you should not plant tomatoes in the same place two years in a row. ▶ Grow tomatoes in containers to avoid many of the disease issues that we have if we plant tomatoes in the ground. In Coastal Georgia, we have many different types of bacterial and viral wilts in the native soil that can cause problems. By growing in commercially purchased potting soil, the problems can be avoided because the soil is sterile out of the bag. ▶ Limited space for a garden should not deter your efforts. Anyone can grow fresh produce in a limited space. Every spring, I give some of my greenhouse-grown vegetable transplants to one of the local artists here in Richmond Hill. He has very limited space and grows wonderful eggplants, peppers and tomatoes in planters behind his shop. One 4 x 8 raised bed planting box can be built for less than $50 and will provide your family with fresh vegetables all year.

Getting Started

▶ First of all, start small.

▶ Plastic storage tubs, old nursery containers, half whisky barrels or decorative flower pots all make suitable planters. Numerous container growing systems are available online and many are available as a kit. Make sure there are holes poked through the bottom for drainage. In the larger containers, I like to put old packing peanuts or recycled Styrofoam in the bottom third of the container. This makes the planted container much lighter, provides good drainage and allows me to move the pots easily.

What to Grow

If you are going to try growing tomatoes, the small, fruited varieties (Cherry Tomato) are easiest and do best in a container. Container vegetables that do well in our area in the summer are cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, beans, peppers and eggplant. In the fall, you can plant broccoli, cauliflower, collards, lettuce, arugula and other cool season crops. Most of the local nurseries and big garden centers have great seed selections or sell transplants.

More Information

For more information on vegetable gardening, I frequently use the ▶ Fill the container with potting soil and plant your vegetable UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences website selections. Go to the site, click on the publications tab and you will find hundreds of short articles and tips on growing vegetables. ▶ Mulch the plants using pine straw or wheat straw for good results. For more information on how to start a small “Victory Garden” in Example: Potatoes that are exposed to light will turn green and containers or on how to build a small 4 x 8 raised bed planting box, become inedible; covering them with straw blocks out the light. visit and click blogs for a step-bystep guide with pictures. q ▶ Find a sunny location, water and watch your plants grow. r ic h m o n d h i l l r e f l e c t io n sm ag . c om 7 5