Victory gardens were planted during WWI and WWII to reduce demand during war time. Today, we are fighting against physical inactivity, environmental harm, and tasteless fruits and vegetables. Growing a victory garden in your yard can create a win-win-win situation.
What are we fighting for?
Historically, victory gardens were encouraged to make up for the fact that many farm and agricultural workers were off fighting war. Today’s battles are more insidious but no less important. And they are found on several fronts:
With victory gardens, we can transform our ornamental landscapes into delicious, productive foodscapes that improve air and water quality, the foods we eat, and even the way we feel.
Get moving with gardening
Working the soil and being outside are two of the best ways to improve your health and mood. There are even soil microorganisms (Mycobacterium vaccae) that act as antidepressants, without all the chemical dependency and side effects of drugs (or driving to doctor’s appointments).
Gardening is a gentle activity that won’t damage joints, pull muscles, or wear you out. It will get you moving the way your body was meant to move. Reaching, pulling, lifting, and carrying plants and soil in your victory garden will help you be healthier without straining anything.
Environmental protection begins at home
Clouds of chemicals, extensive paved roads, islands of trash, and toxins in our waterways are not good for anyone’s health. The more we learn, the more we realized that we can use evolution to our advantage in the garden, protecting both ourselves and the environment. Beneficial insects, appropriate plant selection, and no-dig gardening all work to reduce our carbon footprint while providing us with fresher, better tasting fruits and vegetables. Growing food at home also reduces the amount of plastic and other garbage that has to end up somewhere.
The home front
When you grow even a small portion of your food, you are reducing the negative impacts of massive monoculture, global shipping, and long-term food storage. I appreciate those services for foods I cannot grow at home and for the billions of people who need to be fed. But, the truth is, I can grow food at home and so can you. Even if it is just a few plants, it makes a difference for you and the planet.
Victory garden plant list
Victory gardens are planted with foods you eat regularly and will grow in your yard. There’s no point in planting something that won’t grow where you are, Case in point: I love blueberries. I live in California. Blueberries hate alkaline soil and hot summers. I have both. To grow blueberries, I have to work very hard and it is a constant battle. For me, blueberries are not a good choice for a victory garden. [But I do it anyway.]
To design your victory garden, start by identifying your Hardiness Zone and getting your soil tested. An inexpensive soil test will tell you what is in your soil and what needs to be added (and avoided). Then look at your grocery list. From there, make a list of edibles that will grow in your yard. You can find lots of information online and through your local Master Gardeners and County Extension Office. You may not be able to grow all your groceries where you live, but I’ll bet you can grow a surprising amount of food in your yard, wherever you are!
Popular victory garden plants include:
Interspersing your vegetable crops with flowers, such as marigold, will make it look even nicer and improve pollination. And don't forget fruit and nuts trees. They can produce an astounding amount of food.
I just registered my garden as a Climate Victory Garden. Check them out!
Other players on the winning team
Plants are not the only things that can help you be more active, improve your food supply, and work to protect the environment. Geese will keep your lawn mowed perfectly and guard your house, though they are messy. Chickens can produce both eggs and compost. Raising bees can provide you with honey while improving pollination. And raising worms makes composting even more effective and efficient.
Just as wartime victory gardens made civilians part of the war effort, your modern victory garden can make you part of the solution for environmental protection, better tasting food, and your own good health. And the plants do most of the work! And if you don't have space, see if there is a community garden nearby.
What are you going to plant in your victory garden?
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!