Garden & Landscape Tips

Vistory gardening
Notice the small sign in the picture at right which reads: “Garden for Victory.” The government used many different forms of propaganda to encourage victory gardening.
L: PeopleImages / E+ / Getty Images Plus, R: George Marks / iStock / Getty Images Plus

As the country stands in the midst of a global crisis, with businesses, schools, and normal life as a whole halted in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, many have turned their attention to other times of crisis in U.S. history. Whether it be the Great Depression, the more recent Great Recession from 2008-2009, or the long six years that the U.S. spent involved in WWII, looking back at times of uncertainty in American history surfaces trends and behaviors that don’t look much different from what we are experiencing today.

Though times are vastly different, the tendencies that Americans adopt during tragedy haven’t really changed. One of the trends that has made its return during the Coronavirus pandemic is known as “Victory Gardening,” which continues to exemplify the benefits of gardening from both then and now.

A Look Back

War gardening, as it was first named, was introduced to Americans by the U.S. government during the WWI efforts as a way for people to help support the war efforts from home. Though they made their introduction during the first World War, it was during the second World War that these gardens earned the name victory gardens.

The name victory gardens was coined to promote the idea that by producing food on the homefront, civilians could help ensure victory for those fighting in the war.

When the government ordered for the rationing of staple foods as a part of the WWII efforts in the beginning of 1942, they also turned to American citizens to take action to provide food during this time of crisis. This action came in the form of victory gardens. With a shortage in transportation and labor in culmination with food rationing, victory gardens were a way for families and communities to supply fruits and vegetables when the country could not produce enough.

Tomato plant in pot
If the victory gardens of WWII were any indication, a big space is not needed for a garden to grow. Instead a garden can start with a simple potted plant on a porch, deck or patio.
Patrik Glad / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Interestingly enough, the gardens were a major success, supplying an estimated 9 to 10 million tons of fruits and vegetables. Driven by patriotism and the desire to do their part to support the war efforts, Americans planted more than 20 million victory gardens. These morale boosting, patriotic gardens took form in backyards, schoolyards, parks, and any vacant space that could be found, including rooftops in the crowded cities.

Gardening Resurgence Today

While we may not be fighting a World War, the efforts to slow the spread of the Coronavirus have brought a renewed interest in gardening. Whatever the exact cause - concerns about food scarcity, a dip in the economy, the increased amount of time people are spending at home - people are getting back into the habit of growing their own food. And, though these gardens will not replenish the vacant toilet paper shelves of grocery stores across the country, they could bring great benefits to you this summer, just as they did during the WWII efforts in the late 1940’s.

The “Victories” of Victory Gardening

 Perhaps the most obvious reward of these gardens is, simply, more food! And not just any food, but fresh fruits and veggies that provide a myriad of health benefits. But, why else would victory gardens be appealing to people today?

Gardening with kids
Gardening not only encourages healthy choices, but it also teaches kids about their responsibilities as stewards of the earth.
Martine Doucet / E+ / Getty Images Plus
  • Family time. Gardening is a great activity to bring your family together as you work towards growing a successful crop. No matter what stage your family is in, all members can participate, even if their participation only comes in the form of enjoying the harvest!
  • Save money. Vegetables are not always the cheapest items to purchase at the store. Add the uncertainty around the many aspects of the food supply chain provided by the Coronavirus, and getting fresh food to your family can seem like a long shot. While there is still a cost to get your garden started, it’s nominal compared to the price of fresh produce.
  • Escape to the outdoors. Spending time outside in your garden can have considerable payoffs for your physical and mental health. Not to mention the fact that gardening is an excuse to finally get out of the house! From the sun’s vitamin D that is essential to so many processes of life, to the exercise involved in gardening, your body will be thankful for time spent in the garden. In addition, time spent away from a screen while caring for your plants, whether it is alone or with family, and the cultivation of your own produce are great strides toward the betterment of your mental health. 
  • Create a sense of community. When victory gardens made their return during WWII, they weren’t just a way to provide food during the war efforts. The government also used the gardens as a way to create community at home while over 16 million people left to serve in the war. Although growing gardens together with neighbors may not be possible right now, the ability to connect over gardening is still very relevant as you can learn and share about gardening online and on social media.

If you’re thinking about starting a modern day victory garden, ensure that your vegetables have a weed free place to grow with Preen Natural Vegetable Garden Weed Preventer. Avoid the hassle of weeding in your vegetable garden by spreading this 100% natural weed preventer anytime during the growing season. Just sprinkle around established vegetables, herbs, and fruits once a month to prevent listed weed from returning for up to six weeks.

By Darby Seymour, Marketing Intern, Garden Writer

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