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With these uncertain times, is the Victory Garden going to make a comeback? As history tends to repeat itself, we need to understand what Victory Gardens meant to the country, and to the world.
Victory Gardens were promoted during both World Wars, as there was a severe food crisis in Europe. The U.S. government had to step up and do their part in helping prevent starvation from millions of people. Each and every American was asked to grow their own food, to help lighten the food production load of the government. Thus, the humble Victory Garden was born.
Efforts were made via the National War Garden Commission to encourage personal food production throughout the U.S. Pamphlets were distributed to help beginner gardeners know when to sow, what to sow, how to succession plant, and how to store the excess.
The Victory Garden campaign helped to boost morale and bring a heightened sense of patriotism to the American people. Gardens were grown in nearly every empty space. By the end of World War II, it is estimated that nearly 20 million Victory Gardens were being used. These gardens produced 8 million tons of food per year. This was nearly 40% of the fruit and vegetables consumed by the U.S. at the time.
The Modern Victory Garden
A modern Victory Garden movement can help provide food security during crisis. We all should know by know that having our food shipped in from all parts of the world isn’t sustainable. Local is better, and what could be more local than right in your own yard?
More than likely, the government isn’t going to promote another Victory Garden movement. But the individual citizens may feel drawn to grow their own. We now have all of the information that the National War Garden Commission distributed, right at our fingertips.
Learning to garden has never been easier. We can learn about gardening and food preservation on the internet, and on sites like YouTube. That is as close to hands-on education as we can hope to get right now. Seeds, potting soil, and other gardening supplies are easily bought at nearly any supermarket. Most stores even have seedlings for sale.
Seed packets now have very detailed instructions on the back of them. And we have so many “high-tech” gardening tools available to us. Even small farms often have tractors. Pots and grow bags are plentiful for container gardening in even the smallest spaces. We have so many resources available to us. What better time to help contribute to the greater good?
Steps to grow a Victory Garden
Anyone can start a Victory Garden, even if it’s in containers in a sunny window! The point is to just grow as much of your own food as possible. Here is how you can start your very own Victory Garden.
1. Plan it out
Decide where you will plant your garden. The garden area should be in 80-100% sun. If there is some shade, consider planting slightly northeast of the source of the shade. This way, your plants can have some shade in the hottest part of the day.
Do you want to grow in the ground, or in a raised bed? If you’re planting in a raised bed, be aware of the costs involved. I personally haven’t done much of any raised bed gardening, due to the cost of materials and soil. You will need to bring in a lot of quality soil for an average raised bed. To save some space in a raised bed, you can put some fillers in, like straw, leaves, and bark. Do this in layers so the material doesn’t clump together so much.
If you are planting directly in the ground, you should test and amend your soil. Plants do best if the pH is fairly neutral, and the soil has lots of organic matter. Start composting if you haven’t already, to add garden gold to the soil without breaking your pocketbook.
2. Purchase your seeds
Do some research into what will grow well in your area, and compare it with what you like to eat. In your Victory Garden, you should plant things that your family enjoys eating. You should also think about vegetables that you can preserve and store for later use. This can help you get through the leaner times, like winter.
But what kinds of seeds should you get? I recommend heirloom seeds for Victory Gardens, since you can save the seeds from each year’s crop. This will help you keep your Victory Garden sustainable.
If you have a smaller area, you should definitely get “determinate” types of seeds. These are bush beans, most cherry tomatoes, and anything labeled “Great for containers”. Determinate plants only grow to a certain size, and the entire harvest is ready at just about the same time. This also makes harvesting and preserving easy.
If you are blessed with a larger garden area, you can do “indeterminate” varieties. Indeterminate plants can get very big, and have staggered harvests. These are nice if you want to harvest your veggies throughout the growing season, but not so nice if you’re wanting to can your extras.
3. Practice succession planting
If you are planting fast growing vegetables, you should try succession planting. The idea here is to plant a smaller amount of seeds each week, or every two weeks, so that you can have a weekly or bi-weekly harvest.
This is especially beneficial if the veggies you are planting don’t store very well. Think radishes, lettuce, and spinach. Since these are usually eaten fresh, but don’t have a very long shelf life, you will want to have multiple harvests.
Try planting a cool weather crop, followed by a warm season crop, then a cool weather crop again. This helps make the most of your garden space. Just don’t pick a long-growing vegetable for the warm season crop!
4. Preserve the harvest
With all of the bounty you’re bound to grow in your Victory Garden, it just makes sense to learn to preserve it. You can water bath can lots of higher-acid foods like tomatoes and jams, whereas lower-acid foods should be pressure canned.
Dehydrators are pretty inexpensive, and so versatile. You can dehydrate all kinds of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and even meats. Pickling and fermenting are a fun way to add probiotics to your diet, and isn’t that hard to learn.
Root cellars are an excellent way to keep vegetables fresh for a long time. And it’s not even that difficult, or expensive, to make your own root cellar. Root vegetables like carrots, turnips, beets, potatoes, and rutabagas store very well in a root cellar.
If you can’t make a root cellar, carrots can be stored in a tub filled with sand, in a cool location like a garage, for quite some time. Potatoes can be stored under straw in a cool, dry location.
What to plant in your Victory Garden?
It is important to grow productive fruits and vegetables in a Victory Garden. While these gardens can be grown nearly anywhere, they are usually in a small space. Thus, planting productive varieties is the best way to maximize your food production.
Another way to maximize your harvest is to grow vegetables that have more than one edible part. Radishes, beets, and turnips have both the edible root, and greens that can be harvested while the root is developing. Sweet potato greens are edible as well, and can be eaten like spinach.
Some of the main crops that were traditionally grown in a Victory Garden were:
Will you plant a Victory Garden?
If you are wanting to become more self reliant, planting a Victory Garden is one of the best things you can do. Food security is a big question on many people’s minds right now. A Victory Garden can mean the difference in feeling secure about feeding your family, and having constant anxiety about it.
Which will you choose? Will you plant a Victory Garden?
I highly recommend Mary’s Heirloom Seeds. They have over 700 varieties of Heirloom, open-pollinated, non-GMO, and non-hybrid seeds. With good prices and excellent customer service, you’re sure to find some amazing seeds!
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