Muhlestein Greenhouse offers keys to plant a successful Victory Garden
With stay-at-home orders issued amid a worldwide pandemic, now is the perfect time to grow a garden.
Gardens offer a reason to get outside, grow fresh produce full of flavor, save money, take fewer trips to the grocery store, and even improve mental health.
Gardening during uncertain times is a popular pastime. “Victory Gardens” were encouraged by the U.S. government during the first and second world wars, according to History.com.
In Europe, there were severe food shortages as agriculture workers became soldiers and farms became battlefields.
More food needed to be exported to the allies in Europe, so the U.S. encouraged its own citizens to plant gardens and reduce consumption of domestic food products.
Pamphlets were distributed to educate citizens on how to preserve the surplus. Very little food went to waste.
Education materials were also provided on how to eliminate pests, rotate crops, and make gardens more productive.
The plan worked. By 1944, roughly 40 percent of all the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States came from victory gardens. It was a massive effort undertaken by many citizens.
While the supply chain is expected to remain intact for the duration of our crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic – it’s still a great idea to grow our own produce.
Suzanne Duke, owner of Muhlestein Greenhouses in Monticello, offered a few keys to cultivating a successful garden.
Her first suggestion is to have soil tested. Soil tests are instrumental in helping gardeners grow a more productive garden.
Here’s why, according to Utah State University Analytical Laboratories: “Routine soil testing identifies what nutrients are needed or not needed in the soil. Soil pH, salinity levels, and soil texture are also analyzed.
“If plant nutrients are found to be deficient, the soil test will indicate amounts needed for optimum growth.”
By adding in the right nutrients, gardeners have a greater chance at seeing success in their gardens. They can also save money and protect the environment by applying the appropriate nutrients.
As part of the agricultural industry, the soil lab is considered essential and still performing soil tests during the pandemic.
Gardeners need to collect two cups of soil and send it in a sealed plastic bag to the lab.
The cost for tests ranges from $25 to $35 per sample. More instructions can be found at http://usual.usu.edu/home-soil/index.
A Google search for USU home soil test can also direct you to the right place.
Another secret to establishing a productive garden is to let the plants purchased from Muhlestein’s Greenhouse become acclimated to their new environment.
Many customers plant what they’ve purchased from the greenhouse as soon as they get home. However, it’s better to let them adjust.
Duke suggests taking plants out during the day and bringing them in at night, especially during the first week and while they are still young.
Gardeners should also pay attention to the frost dates for their area and plant accordingly.
Another key to success is to protect the plants while they’re young. They need sun, but not blazing sun. They need protection from the wind.
They also need to have the right soil. Soil that is too clay-like in consistency or has a high acidic composition can be problematic.
This goes back to Duke’s first suggestion to have the soil tested. Nutrients may need to be added to the soil, but unless the soil is tested, gardeners may not know the right ones to add.
Mistakes many gardeners make include overwatering, underwatering, and not checking the soil to add the appropriate nutrients. Following recommendations on plant tags is also key.
Duke’s last piece of advice is to plant what you can handle. Whether it’s a small container garden or a half-acre plot, make sure you can handle what you plant.
She said, “It’s like having a giant kid. If you want a successful garden, you have to be out there every day.”
Muhlestein Greenhouses is set to open April 20. The business has been owned and operated by the Duke family for the past ten years.