UNION — Tommy Sinclair and Buddy Blackmon aren’t likely to visit the produce section of the grocery store. Ever.
Among raised beds and carefully plotted rows, the longtime friends cultivate an abundant supply of fresh produce that provides year round for their families, and allows them to share with friends and the community. “I can’t remember ever buying vegetables,” Sinclair said. “We always had a backyard garden and it provided everything we need.”
Blackmon agreed. “We buy paper products, soap, milk and meat.That’s about it.”
The modern era Victory Garden is the concept behind a three-part workshop series at Piedmont Physic Garden (PPG) led by Sinclair and Blackmon. The May 13 workshop, the second in the series, will focus on seed saving, summer planting, canning and dehydration, curing and freezing. The workshop will be held from 10 a.m.-noon and costs $20 per person. Reservations are required.
Victory Gardens were born more than 50 years ago during the World War II era, connecting homegrown produce with homeland security. Back then, 60 percent of Americans actively gardened, harvesting more than eight-million tons of food per year. A Victory Garden was a home garden that the average family planted to reduce pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war efforts.
With rising fuel and food prices, Victory Gardens are making a comeback to assist families economically as well as providing fresh food year round.
It’s a lifelong concept for both men. “My grandfather had a garden and was what they called a peddler. He sold produce out of the back of his car on Main Street,” Blackmon said. “So for me, it’s a hobby in a sense. I started small at least 40 years ago with tomatoes and squash and my garden got bigger when we moved and I had more space.”
Sinclair grew up with a garden. Retired military, Sinclair found a plot on each Army post to plant a garden. “They like the produce,” he said.
Longtime friends, the two men met when Blackmon was a teacher at Union High School and Sinclair assistant principal. Now they plant companion crops and share their gardens. “If your garden doesn’t survive, you partner with someone and help each other,” Sinclair said. Their relationship includes “garden sitting” when one goes on vacation, trouble shooting issues together and sharing the abundance of their efforts.
Among the current crops raised by Sinclair and Blackmon are: squash, tomatoes, asparagus, corn, several varieties of lettuce, strawberries, onions, broccoli, kale, cabbage, potatoes, green beans, grapes and an array of herbs.
With his garden encompassing less than one acre, Blackmon’s garden feeds he and his wife, their children’s families, sisters, church members and neighbors. “The one requirement is, bring your jars back. We do a lot of canning and we need those jars.”
For many, modern day Victory Gardens are more than just a neat idea. They ensure there’s a supply of fresh food should distribution channels be interrupted. Below are several tips on from Sinclair and Blackmon on getting started and maintaining your own Victory Garden.
• Use raised beds. They’re easier to tend and have fewer weeds.
• Give your garden regular attention, at least once or twice weekly.
• Mulch with straw to keep the weeds down. It decomposes and later becomes great for the soil.
• Plant produce that’s easy to grow (onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, asparagus) so you’re successful.
• Start small to ensure success.
• Don’t plant vegetables that you don’t like to eat. Plant what you like.
Registration now for both remaining workshop sessions by calling 843-427-2556 or visit www.piedmontphysicgarden.org. Space is limited.
Founded in 2014, the Piedmont Physic Garden is a nonprofit botanical garden in Union, South Carolina. PPG was Inspired by London’s Chelsea Physic Garden with the mission of exhibiting the medicinal, cultural, economic and environmental importance of plants to the people of Union County and the surrounding Piedmont region of South Carolina. Please visit www.piedmontphysicgarden.org for more information.