During WWI and WWII Americans (and residents of many other countries) banded together to help supplement the food supply chain amid food rationing and shortages among agricultural workers. During WWII, 1/3 of the vegetables produced in America came from the over 18 million Victory Gardens. Growing a Victory Garden not only helped to feed your family, but it provided a sense of community pride and patriotism. We are all in this together. On large farms, small suburban yards, school yards, city roof tops, and window boxes, Americans grew all varieties of vegetables, fruits, & herbs. In 1943, even the White House installed a Victory Garden! It’s time now to bring back Victory Gardens!
The entire world finds itself in the midst of another crisis – not a war this time, but a health crisis touching every corner of the world. The duration of the immediate crisis is unknown, and the ramifications could be even longer lasting. We are already seeing supply chains break down as citizens panic about an unknown future. Fresh fruits and vegetables are flying off the shelf at a time when it is really important for everyone to have access to a healthy diet for immune support. Many people are already finding themselves out of work or face uncertainty about the future of their job. There is no better time than the present for a return to Victory Gardens!
How to get started with a Victory Garden
ANYONE can do this! Start by determining what sort of space you have to devote to a garden. If you live in an apartment or on a tiny city lot, you can still grow plants in window boxes or pots on your patio. If you have a rooftop space, that could be a great location with plenty of sunshine! With a little bit of land you can have a little raised bed in your front or back yard & you will be surprised by how much you can grow!
Simple 4×8 Raised Bed
A great place to start is with a basic 4×8 raised bed. Its narrow enough that you can reach into the entire box without stepping on plants. It also minimizes cutting boards during assembly. With just three 8 foot boards and some screws you are on your way. Click here to read more about building your own raised bed. Planted & tended properly, just two of these 4×8 beds can provide a family of four with nearly all their fresh vegetables in season, with some even left over for canning for off season! I would highly recommend using the Square Foot Gardening method to get the most production out of your beds. Click here to learn more about Square Foot Gardening
Traditional “In Ground” Gardening
Want to avoid the cost of building & filling a raised bed? You certainly can start your Victory Garden with traditional gardening. Mark off a 4×8 area and remove all the grass & any rocks. I would recommend digging down about a foot in the ground to loosen the soil. This will allow plants with large root systems, like tomatoes, space to spread. It will also let you grow straighter carrots and other root vegetables like potatoes. Once the ground is loosened, get a soil test kit. This will let you know what sort of minerals your soil is lacking so you can supplement it. Properly preparing your soil is THE most important thing you can do for a successful garden. Click here to learn more about soil testing
What Should You Plant in Your Victory Garden?
What does your family eat the most? Some popular & easy to grow options are lettuce or salad mixes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, peas, green beans, peppers, garlic, potatoes, cucumbers, squash, and corn. Another thing to consider is your growing climate. If you live in the warm south, you might have a harder time growing cold weather crops like peas, broccoli, kale, or spinach. If you live in the north, warmer crops like sweet potatoes, watermelon, and eggplants might be challenging. It’s not that it’s impossible to grow these crops in these areas, you just need to plan in advance. Growing cold weather crops in the south in the summer won’t work, and growing warm weather crops in the north will require you to start them indoors or use row covers or a greenhouse to extend your growing season. You can look up your US growing zone here – seeds & plants will all list recommended growing zones on the labels to help you chose the right plants for your area.
Don’t forget herbs!
Most herbs are really easy to grow and require minimal space. You can tuck them among rows, put them in window boxes or containers on your patio. Herbs can be started indoors from seed right now in a sunny window, or you can purchase started plants later in spring at garden or home centers. Click here for a list of must have herbs!
Seeds or Started Plants?
There are benefits to both. I usually grow 90% of my plants from seed, but definitely mix in some pre-started plants.
Starting from seed gives you a HUGE range of varieties (did you know there are OVER 3,000 varieties of tomatoes!!?). Heirloom varieties of different plants are often only available with seeds. Seeds are obviously much more economical. You can get a packet of seeds for around $1-$2 which will grow dozens of plants. Buying plants already started at garden centers can be 5x that cost PER PLANT. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you took this tiny pin head sized seed and grew it into a towering plant that produces food for your family. Click here for more information on starting seeds indoors.
Buying pre-started plants are great for beginner gardeners that might feel unsure of their ability or don’t want to mess with growing seeds. There are lots of things that can go wrong if seedlings don’t get the right amount of light or heat, and that can be really discouraging. Many times I will buy plants over seeds when I want just one or two of a specific plant. It seems silly to buy a packet of 50 zucchini seeds when I only want one zucchini plant because I am the only one in my family that will eat it. Seeds don’t stay good forever, you can keep that packet and use the seeds again next year, but every year the germination rate is going to go down until finally nothing will grow from them. Buying plants is instant gratification. It’s such a great feeling to plant up your garden and be able to enjoy seeing them already vs waiting 1-2 weeks for them to even pop their heads out of the soil.
Victory Gardens for the Win!
Being in contact with the earth, digging in soil, has been proven to be good for our mental health. It helps relieve anxiety and depression. There are a lot of frazzled nerves going on right now, so let’s do something positive for ourselves, our families, our community, and our world! My favorite gardening quote is from Audrey Hepburn. She said “to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”, we all could use a little hope right now.
Have some gardening questions? I have all kinds of articles on gardening in small spaces – tips on growing tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, onions, garlic, & herbs, composting, square foot gardening, natural pest control, and so much more! Check out my gardening page (CLICK HERE) for a full list!