How to Start a Victory Garden will put you on the path to starting a garden that will provide food for your entire family. Recent events have taught us that there can be food shortages, even in the modern age.
“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.” – Joel Salatin
I recently wrote a post called Depression Era Habits to Start Today that prompted quite a few people to email me and ask how to start a Victory Garden. The answers to that question were way too long to write back to everyone and explain, so I decided to write a post about the topic.
Grandma knew the best ways to be thrifty and how to take care of her family. A Victory garden was a common practice for our grandparents until the food was replaced by lawns.
Isn’t it funny how society changes and we lose sight of the essential things in life? Not only did our grandma’s garden nourish our bodies, but it came with lifelong memories. I can still feel the warm sun on my face while I devoured fresh peas from my grandmother’s garden.
Before we went on a visit to my grandparent’s house, we always got a phone call in advance asking what type of pie we would like. My favorite was blueberry until my grandmother went to make one for me and realized she didn’t have enough blueberries because the birds got them. She decided to make an apple/blueberry pie for me instead. After that trip, that was the only pie I asked for in the future.
Many kids today are raised without knowing where their food comes from, and how to provide for themselves. The good news is it’s not too late. Figuring out how to start a garden can be overwhelming at first, but like anything else – if you follow a few simple rules, your green thumb will begin to show.
I’ve been on several garden tours that showcase home in urban areas growing their own food. There was one house that has stood out as a masterpiece in my mind.
The tiny aqua cottage was located in Seattle. The woman that owned the house used every inch of land (which wasn’t very much!) The driveway was lined with blueberry bushes and bee boxes hummed with life tucked in the corners of her yard.
She had fenced in her backyard and her garden took advantage of extra footage with vertical gardening. Her small patio was dotted with pots of herbs and she had planted four dwarf fruit trees on the property.
There were hundreds of people that went to see the gardens, and she gave everyone that toured organic plant starts. Her willingness to share her expertise and plants so freely will forever stay in my thoughts.
In a month I will be moving to a new state, but I’m already a member of a Facebook gardening club in the area. When one of the members has an abundance of crop, they put a call out on the group asking if anyone wants free produce.
It seems to me that gardeners are good people.
Not only does growing your own food make economical sense, but it has such health benefits as well. Fresh air and exercise is a bonus to starting a garden.
I’ve always wondered how much nutrition we’ve been missing by not picking fruits and vegetables right before we eat them? Who knows how long produce has sat before it reaches farm to table and how that impacts our health?
My old house had three old apple trees that gave me an abundance of fruit every year. Applesauce, apple pie, apple juice, and pork with apples were just some of the ways I transformed that amazing fruit into nourishing meals.
There’s something so satisfying about going outside your back door to pick what you’ll have for dinner instead of having to go to the store for a forgotten item.
What is a Victory Garden?
The Victory Garden started during World War I. To prevent food scarcity, and the government urged Americans to start growing their own food in whatever capacity they could do.
In addition the United States – Canada, Australia, Germany, and United Kingdom also started growing Victory Gardens.
It didn’t matter how small of a space you had, everyone was instructed to grow food anywhere they could like rooftops, parks, empty lots, schoolyards, window boxes, and even fire escapes.
Even Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden at the White House.
The program was a success. Americans ended up growing 40 percent of the nation’s fresh vegetables.
Why is it Called a Victory Garden?
Contributing food to the world during both World War I and World War II, would help ensure victory in the war. Victory gardens were also called “war gardens” and “food gardens for defense.”
In addition to helping with food supply, Victory Gardens also helped with morale. Growing a garden and contributing to society, helped citizens feel empowered during a trying time.
What Was Planted in Victory Garden?
According to history.com, kale, beets, cabbage, peas, tomatoes, Swiss Chard, turnips, squash, beans, carrots, and lettuce were some of the most popular vegetables grown in Victory Gardens.
Victory Garden of Tomorrow:
While organic gardening has virtually remained the same as it was during World War I, we have learned a few new tricks to increase production and optimize a small space.
Aquaponic gardening has become popular because this system gives your family fresh fish, and provides the nutrients for your plants from fish waste.
Since gardening has become popular again, new systems and equipment will be available, and the costs will come down because of demand.
Heirloom fruits and vegetables are also making a comeback. Gardeners want to grow a wide variety of plants for both nourishment and fun. Heirloom produce also makes great gifts to your friends and family.
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Here’s How to Start a Victory Garden:
1) Analyze Your Growing Space.
Figuring out how much space you have to grow your food will be the first step in starting your own Victory Garden.
If you’re limited on space, is there a way you can go vertical in your gardening. Vertical gardening saves a ton of space and allows you to maximize what square footage you have.
A medium-size garden allows more possibilities. Is it possible to plant a few fruit trees and bushes?
My new house has quite a bit of land, but most of it lacks sunlight because it is in a forest. The woman that owned the house before me was kind enough to put in a small fenced garden. To maximize the space, I will also have to add vertical gardening to get the amount of produce I want.
Most herbs and vegetables require at least six hours of sunlight. Before deciding what area to plant, make sure the space gets adequate hours.
2) Know Your Plant Hardiness Zone.
To find out your Plant Hardiness Zone you just put your zip code in this handy Hardiness Zone Finder on the garden.org website.
3) Test Your Soil.
In addition to sunlight, the quality of the soil you grow your plants in is an essential part of creating a Victory Garden. The good news is, this part is easy.
You can purchase a soil test on Amazon that will determine the nutrients in your existing soil.
Once you know the quality of your soil, you’ll be able to amend your garden with the right combinations for optimal growth.
I have found if you have poor quality soil like clay, the best bet is to create raised garden beds and bring in good quality topsoil instead of trying to amend the existing soil. You could also do more container gardening to start your garden.
You can amend your soil with aged manure for nitrogen, compost, and planting cover crops if you’re starting with decent soil.
To create a no-dig garden, start in the fall and add 12 inches of organic matter over the garden area. You can use shredded leaves, hay, pine needles, manure, peat moss, and compose as the blanket that covers your area. By the next spring, your garden will be ready to plant.
4) Decide What You Want to Grow in Your Victory Garden.
Now we come to the fun part of creating the Victory Garden, deciding the herbs, fruits, and vegetables you will grow to feed your family.
The easiest way to start is to determine which fruits, vegetables, and herbs your family relies on the most for your meals. Then I look at the cost of purchasing those items and decide whether I want to dedicate valuable space to the plants, bushes, or trees.
For example, I eat a lot of herbs. I use them in tea, my salads have lots of fresh herbs in them, and I juice them. Herbs can be pricey for a small bunch, so making room for all my herb plants is a priority.
Organic garlic, ginger, and turmeric are also expensive ingredients for me to buy, so of course, those are something I grow.
Red peppers, tomatoes, and greens can end up costing a lot, so I make room for those in my garden. Because a bag of organic onions and carrots are so inexpensive, I usually leave those out if I’m short on gardening space.
I love berries, so growing a variety of berries is something I love to do. Blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are present in my garden. Next year, I will be adding some more unusual varieties of berries for fun and variety.
You’ll want to look at the things that grow well in your area before spending money on seeds or plants.
Joining a garden group or talking to a local nursery will help you determine the most natural things to grow without too many problems.
My gardens are all organic, so I make sure I plant things that repel harmful insects. I wrote an entire post on the topic, and you can learn How to Grow An Insect Repellent Garden here.
Know the number of plants you need to grow the amount of produce you would like to yield. If you plant too many zucchini plants, your neighbors will hide from you because you’ll have way too much produce to give away.
5) Determine Which Plants are Easy to Grow From Seed.
If you’re starting gardening, you’ll want to find out which of the plants you picked to add to your garden are easy to grow from seed. Some seedlings are more fragile than others, so determining hardiness will help save you some frustration.
Most of my plants are grown from seeds, but few that I would rather buy every year. Your first year, you might want just to purchase your seedlings from a local nursery.
Some plants are self-seeding. I don’t have to plant new parsley every year because I let it go to seed and new plants pop up the following year. It might be best to keep a garden diary on your phone or start a journal with reminders because, with a lot of variety of plants, it can get overwhelming.
6) Learn Which Plants are Perennials Versus Annuals.
Perennials are plants that come back year after year. Annuals will have to be planted every year to get a fresh crop unless the plant reseeds itself.
For instance, thyme, mint, artichokes, and strawberries are perennials. The reason you need to know this information in advance is to plan the best place to put the plants that are perennials.
One of my neighbors has a wooden fence bordering the front of his house. He built strawberry planter boxes to put on a shelf he built around the entire wall. How clever was that? His strawberries were in the perfect location to get enough sunlight, and they didn’t take up any space at all.
You don’t want to place the perennials along the edges of the garden unless they are small. It’s best if they are in the middle of the garden so that you can plant their annuals. If you don’t, then you will continuously step over the perennials to plant the annuals.
Another thing that is helpful to know is whether your plant is something you can divide every couple of years. Chives are an herb that can be separated and placed in different parts of your garden without the added expense. Don’t you love plants that are the gift that keeps on giving?
7) Determine How Large the Victory Garden Plants Will Get.
Artichokes over time become a pretty big plant. You want to make sure you pick the perfect spot for the artichokes to have enough space.
Some vegetables have runners that can spread out quite a bit. Adding trellises and fencing to your garden will help the runners climb up instead of spreading out all over your garden space.
Berry bushes can end up taking up a lot of room. If you’re limited on space, make sure before buying bushes and plants you look at the dimensions. There are dwarf varieties available for most bushes.
8) Do You Have Enough Room to Add Fruit Trees to Your Victory Garden?
If you have the room to add some fruit trees to your garden, you’re lucky. Not only do they add beauty to your yard, but they are a generous source of food if you take care of the trees.
Some of the things you want to look at before planting fruit trees are:
- How much sun do they need?
- How big do they get?
- Which varieties of fruit trees do the best in your area?
I wrote a post on getting started planning your backyard mini-orchard. You can find that article here.
9) Keeping Up With the Needs of Your Garden.
Once you plant your garden, there’s still work to be done. You will have to monitor your PH levels of the soil, fertilize the garden, provide the right amount of water for your garden, and add mulch to your ground.
It can sound overwhelming at first, but it’s like anything else that’s new – take one step at a time. The key is to start small. You don’t have to go from being a grocery store shopper to providing most of the food for your family in one year.
Get the entire family involved in changing your landscape into your Victory Garden. Find ways to cut costs on growing your garden. I place buckets in my shower and use the water for my container pots. Save your seeds from the prior year so you can save money on that. Look for free things given away on Facebook Marketplace and see if you can turn old treasures into planters.
The easiest way to begin gardening is to join a local gardening club and soak in all their hard-earned wisdom. Realize you will make mistakes, and that’s okay. Gardening is a journey, not a destination.
Being able to walk out your front door and harvest your meals is something you’ll be addicted to in no time. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.
We’ve reached the end of How to Grow a Victory Garden. I hope you enjoyed it.
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