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Victory Gardens Make a Comeback

Updated on September 22, 2011

Are Victory Gardens making a comeback? The answer is yes, and anyone can reap the benefits from planting a Victory Garden. Whether you have 40 acres or a small window box, a Victory Garden can be yours with a small investment of your time.

 

Source
Cover of the 1919 War Gardening and Home Storage of Vegetables published by the National War Garden Commission in Washington, D.C.
Cover of the 1919 War Gardening and Home Storage of Vegetables published by the National War Garden Commission in Washington, D.C. | Source

History of Victory Gardens

Victory Gardens were planted during World War I to help with the war effort. People everywhere in the United States began planting these gardens because it would help to put food on their tables, and that of their less fortunate neighbors. Victory Gardens were extremely successful for several reasons. First, these gardens didn’t require large acres of land, nor did they take people or machinery away from other agricultural ventures needed for the war effort.  Second, seed companies championed the cause and provided free seeds and gardening instructions to anyone who wanted to plant a garden. Whether you wanted to plant squash in an abandoned city lot or had enough area to plant 50 varieties of seasonal vegetables, the seeds and know-how were available to you, free for the asking.

Examples of Victory Gardens that can still be seen today include the Fenway Victory Gardens in Boston, Massachusetts, the Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Victory Garden at the Smithsonian Institution (based on the 1943 government pamphlet).

Cost

Today, seed companies haven’t, as of yet, jumped on the bandwagon to supply people with seeds. There isn’t a perceived need to plant Victory Gardens again.  However, with the increasing price of fuel, consumers are already beginning to feel the pinch at the grocery story. Fresh produce that would have cost you $20 in 2010 may well be costing you $35 to $40 today. For many families, fresh produce makes up 1/3 of their weekly grocery bill. In a down economy, consumers may sacrifice fresh produce because of the rising costs; unfortunately, this also has a health cost for families as well, especially for children.  Children and adults need 5 fruits or vegetables per day. Planting a Victory Garden can help families slash their grocery bills and promote new relationships between neighbors and communities.

Getting Started

Do you want to start a Victory Garden but don’t know where to begin? If you’re community minded, it can be as simple as starting a Victory Garden Club. The first meeting can be an organizational one, with the second meeting having a seed swap to get everyone off to a good start with a variety of seeds for their own gardens. In need of a meeting place? Ask your town hall or public library if you can use a meeting room for your Victory Garden Club, or offer your own home to kick start your program.

If you’re not someone who likes to dive in and start a club you can always plant your own Victory Garden. To start, just decide which crops you would like to eat yourself. They could be herbs, lettuce, melons or anything else that can be grown in your hardiness zone (of course you can grow things outside of your hardiness zone if you have a greenhouse!).

Victory Garden Goals

The goal of a Victory Garden during World War I was to provide food for a family and their neighbors. Any leftover food was then preserved to last through the winter months when fresh produce wasn’t as plentiful. Whether an individual planted just corn or a variety of vegetables, communities gathered their produce and distributed it amongst the community to ensure that as many people as possible had fresh food, or preserved food, on their tables.

Today with so many people unemployed and unable to afford fresh produce, Victory Gardens could again help to put fresh produce on many people’s tables. Local food pantries frequently run out of fresh produce, as do local ministries that also try and provide food for the nation’s hungry. If you have the space and have left over produce, call your local church or food pantry to see if they have a need that you could fill. In addition, your neighbors may want to swap produce if you have something they would like, but have trouble growing it. For example, you may want to swap an over-abundant zucchini crop for some tomatoes, or unload a large crop of horseradish and garlic in exchange for some blueberries.

Personally I’ve seen some gardeners offering their excess produce for free in front of their homes. They simply place a table on their lawn with a sign that states “Free.” People who are in need but don’t want to ask for help can then help themselves to your bountiful crops.

Note: While the First Family made an attempt at the White House to plant a garden so they could eat fresh fruits and vegetables, they made a mistake- they planted in an area that had high levels of lead in the soil (see Lead Found in Michelle Obama's White House vegetable garden). Elevated lead levels are dangerous for young children as it can lead to kidney and brain damage as well as stunting growth. If you're planting a community garden, be sure to have the soil tested first.

Comments

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  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    7 years ago from upstate New York

    Thanks mckbirdbks!

  • Gerber Ink profile imageAUTHOR

    Charlotte Gerber 

    7 years ago from upstate New York

    Hi Nan, great idea with the eggshells in water- it provides nutrients to your plants. My grandfather used to crush eggshells and till them into the soil at the beginning of the growing season.

  • mckbirdbks profile image

    mckbirdbks 

    7 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

    Two green thumbs up.

  • profile image

    Nan 

    7 years ago

    Good idea and we all need to plant as much of our food as possible. The food you grow does not have any chemicals in them, they are organic. I water my plants with egg shells in water. By putting the egg shells in a large jar, as big as possible, and use as plant water.

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