TOWNSEND -- Roger Swain made no bones about it.

"I better hurry up and find a replacement for myself," the retired host of "The Victory Garden" on PBS told the crowd of more than 140 people.

Having gardened for 60 years, written about horticulture for 30 years and hosted more than 500 episodes of one of the most popular gardening shows, the grow-your-own advocate knows his shoes will be difficult to fill.

So, he enlists everyone he can to get out there and plant something, whether in a container or in the yard.

Preferably the front yard, "so everyone will know you're doing it," he said.

"This is Michelle," Swain said while pointing to a slide of the first lady surrounded by plants and children,"When she is not modeling the latest fashions, she tore up the front lawn."

Farmers markets and community sustainable agriculture are becoming ever more popular but, "I believe in doing it yourself," he said.

Once, 20 million amateur gardeners, working in their victory gardens, supplied 44 percent of the produce grown in the United States. That was in 1944. The numbers are much lower now.

There is no excuse not to garden; it doesn't take much. All you need is space, water and soil, the gardener-in-chief said.

Your yard isn't sunny enough. No excuse.

"I tell them, go down the street, find a yard that's sunny. Knock on the door," he said.

Maybe you don't have a yard. No problem.

His 91-year-old mother grows beans in a half barrel on her front porch.


Swain peppered his lecture with suggestions on what to grow.

Squash borers, fatal to many squash and pumpkin plants, do not recognize butternut as a squash. Grow that.

Something refuses to flourish? Get rid of it.

Need more bang for your buck? "Borrow a tip from the Irish," he said. Potatoes provide the highest poundage per square foot. They might not be the most exciting diet though.

Referring to Vincent van Gogh's painting "The Potato Eaters" he said living on 10 pounds of spuds a day was "kind of a grim scene."

Root vegetables have plenty of calories.

Don't boil those beets though. They are much better baked, he said.

And be aware of the lasting effects of the red dye they contain, or you could be in for a misunderstanding of the results.

"You eat beets. The next day you decide you have to go to the doctors pretty quick," he said, unless you remember the color of that produce.

And there were more almost-off-color jokes and word plays.

One of his tasks at the "Horticulture Magazine" was writing captions for the cover images.

He still sounded disappointed that he was not able to use his suggestion for a picture of a woman gathering leeks.

"Woman takes a leek" did not make the cover of the august periodical.

He even had energy-saving suggestions for storing homegrown produce.

Canning, brining and freezing can be a lot of work. Swain recommended storing most vegetables in their favorite conditions -- cool and wet or cool and dry.

They want to make it to the next year in order to get planted again.

Besides, if you store your squash under the bed all winter and it rots, you can skip several steps. Just chuck them out the window into the compost pile. No need to go through blanching or processing them first, he said.

He opened the program with a slide of himself as a young boy gardening with his father. A child who learns the love of gardening carries it into a lifetime of growing plants, he said near the end of the afternoon.

Gardening is "an incredible tool for outer and inner peace," he said while displaying a slide of bumper sticker reading, "INRPEASE."

The Townsend Gardener Group's Jan. 13 program was sponsored by the Amanda Dwight Entertainment Fund, the Friends of the Townsend Public Library and the Townsend Public Library Endowment Fund.