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Beginners Guide: Victory Gardens

During World War 2, Americans were asked to plant gardens in every available patch of soil.  This resulted in 20 million victory gardens producing 40% of the nation’s fresh vegetables.  Today’s pandemic, complete with empty shelves at many grocery stores, created a new level of interest in home gardening we have not seen in years.

Victory gardens are also known by the terms, war gardens or food gardens for defense were planted in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Germany during both World War 1 and 2.  They were designed for both relieving food pressure and help improve morale. The Victory Garden, a PBS program about gardening and other outdoor activities, first aired in 1975. Today you can view past shows and learn about landscaping, agriculture, nutrition and ask questions of experts here compliments of PBS.

Today many are using the shelter in place as an opportunity to improve their homes and outdoor living areas. This includes working in gardens. Reports from garden centers, garden tool makers, and nurseries suggest business is booming.  People are hungry to create something beautiful and useful in their homes. Gardening during stressful times is excellent therapy and rewarding. It is hard to beat the flavors from homegrown vegetables.

In places like Southern California, where temperatures are perfect for growing fruits and vegetables year-round, there is no excuse not to try.  During World War 1, communities like Santa Monica reported over 300 lots were planted. People were so enthusiastic to plant; they even asked the city for permission to plant in the green spaces between the sidewalks and the street.  By 1918 there were over 5 million war gardens planted in the Los Angeles area.

Many gardeners are going to discover growing vegetables is harder than it looks, and while there will be failures, I am betting on the American spirit to keep trying to win out. As more urban families grow their own food, the garden will become a point of pride for many in the neighborhood.

Here are some excellent tips for your Victory Garden:

  1. Get a soil a test for your garden. Here is an excellent article on how to complete a soil test.
  2. Order seeds online. You may have to make a few phone calls too. I know to try to find tomatoes this spring was a challenge.
  3. Most nurseries are considered essential businesses and are open. Be careful about social distance and try early or late when crowds are down.
  4. Grow what you want to eat.
  5. Stagger your planting times, so you don’t get all one vegetable at the same time. Space the plantings out by 5-7 days, and so you get a steady supply.

Victory Gardens provided a substantial boost to food production in the past and can certainly contribute to food production today. In addition to safer, more plentiful food, many get mental health benefits as well. If this sticks, this may increase interest in growing more food in urban areas, which are often a better choice than some of the water-loving plants we see that are not edible.

Featured Image By Artist: Morley Size: 27″x19″ Publication: [Washington, D.C.] Agriculture Department. War Food Administration.Printer: U.S. Government Printing Office –, Public Domain,

Second Image Source: Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here.





  • Richard+Restuccia ,

    I found today’s article especially enjoyable. I’m old enough to remember that my parents and all the neighbors still had victory gardens when I was a little boy. My friends and I knew which neighbors would be angry if we munched on the veggies from their gardens and which ones did not care that some children were eating a couple of tomatoes and some string beans raw. Some of the older men and women would join us and teach us what would be good and what wasn’t quite ready for picking. The one heavily emphasized rule was don’t eat the rhubarb leaves.
    Within a year or two after the Korean war ended most of the vegetable gardens were turned into flower gardens or lawn. There was one neighbor that shrunk his garden and only grew tomatoes; he went from being nice and allowing us graze in his vegetable patch to blasting us with his garden hose if we approached his yard. Having him chase us and being sprayed with water from a hose on a hot summer day was even more fun than eating his tomatoes.
    RichardG –

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