Victory gardens sprouted up everywhere in the U.K. and the U.S. during and after World War II. These were not only a form of individual resourcefulness, but a necessity. If a family didn't grow fresh food, they weren't likely to get much.
We may not be so far from those dire straights nowadays. Anyone who lived through Hurricane Fran or a severe ice storm around here knows that it doesn't take much to halt delivery of goods to grocery stores, and prices shoot up accordingly. And that's not even considering the health, political and environmental factors of current events.
First Lady Michelle Obama has started a vegetable garden on the White House South Lawn, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt's. She has set an example for the nation: Use your energies to dig, weed and water instead of driving to the store.
Now that the last frost date is behind us, farmers' markets are offering seedlings for the home garden: many varieties of tomatoes, peppers, herbs, cucumbers, flowers and patio tomatoes already planted in gallon flower pots. A few potted tomatoes can be astonishingly prolific. Basic hot weather herbs (basil, thyme, oregano) planted in terra cotta containers plus a window box of green beans can do wonders for the dinner table and our connection to the Earth. Add wine-red geraniums in a hanging basket, and you've got a starter garden any hard-working career person can care for. As an added bonus, when you go to the beach for a week, if you don't have a housesitter, you can cart them off to the house of a friend and let them enjoy (and water) your portable garden.
Several locavores I know believe no matter what space is available, we are called to plant something, because to participate in the growing cycle cultivates a sense of nature's full circle and encourages caring for the planet. Starting small is key: Container gardens are natural for beginners and those with long work hours. In these times of recession, many are plunging into big home gardens with the hope of offsetting grocery budgets. (Buyer beware: This can be an expensive misdirection—without careful planning and economizing, one can end up investing in a new hobby and spending more money on food for the season than if we just bought from our farmers and markets.)
Below is a starter-garden plan. These proportions multiply easily if you want more containers. Keep the leftover soil and humus/ manure, and add them to the pots over the summer as roots develop.