Information based on the Victory Garden Manual, first published in 1943.
During the Second World War, people were encouraged to plant a “victory garden”: a home vegetable garden where they could produce some of their own vegetables, herbs and fruits. It was a time of scarcity and fresh foods were rationed, so governments suggested people plant victory gardens not only to supplement their own rations but also to boost morale. In fact, it was felt that victory gardens were important morale boosters: gardeners felt empowered by their contribution of labor to the war effort and rewarded by the produce they grew.
Well, we’re in a very different battle in 2020. To keep the coronavirus in check, many of us are being encouraged to stay home, to keep trips even to grocery stores to a minimum and not even to visit our family members. It’s like house arrest, except we don’t have monitoring devices attached to our ankle … yet! As a result of these weeks of confinement, we all need a morale boost, whence the idea of bringing back the victory garden: the National Garden Bureau has called this Victory Garden 2.0.
And why not? Anyone can have a victory garden! At its simplest, a victory garden can just be a pot or two of edibles on a balcony or windowsill. On a larger scale, you can cover that balcony in pots or plant a vegetable garden in the front or back yard, both of which can supply most of the needs for fresh greenery for a family from late spring through midfall.
We will beat this disease and come through stronger: let your victory garden be living proof of that determination!
Seven Steps for Planning Your Victory Garden 2.0
Here is a resumé of an article about victory gardens 2.0 produced by the National Garden Bureau.
1. Make a list of the items your family enjoys eating.
—Determine how much produce your family can reasonably consume during key harvest times. How much zucchini will your family really need? Should you plant 2 plants or 4 plants?
—Decide if you have the resources to freeze or can excess produce (if so, then you can grow more!).
—From this list, start to research specific varieties.
2. Choose varieties that are easy to grow.
—Most vegetables (beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, peas, squash, radishes, tomatoes, etc.) and many herbs (basil, chives, coriander, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, etc.) are easy to grow from seeds or transplants and produce prolifically the first year.
—Small fruits (except strawberries) and tree fruits are a bit more complex. It may be wiser to gain some experience before tackling them.
3. Decide which of these plants you will grow from seed and which you will buy as transplants.
—Add “days to harvest” to next to the name of your choices your list from step 1. These can be found on-line, in books and on seed packets. The longer the days to harvest, the longer the growing season you will need. Some vegetables needed to be started indoors or purchased as a transplant so you have enough time for harvesting before your first frost in the fall.
—Of your list of favorites, determine which crops can be grown early, then replaced with summer crops, then replaced again with fall crops (succession planting). For example, planting peas in the spring, then tomatoes in the summer and back to peas for the fall.
4. Decide where you’ll put your Victory Garden 2.0: in-ground, raised beds, containers.
—Front yard, back yard, side yard, balcony, patio, windowsill, etc.
—Make certain the location is in an area that gets plenty of sun for the crops you choose.
—There should be a nearby source of water.
—Avoid growing in the ground or in raised beds in spots where there are invasive tree roots. Container gardening is preferable under such circumstances.
5. Plan your garden space accordingly.
—Each variety needs a certain amount of space for healthy growth. That can be as little as 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) for carrots or radishes or up to 18 inches for winter cabbages (the really big ones!). You can find spacing information on seed packs, labels, on-line or in gardening books.
—Gardener’s Supply Company has an excellent on-line planning tool. Just enter the dimensions of your garden in feet to create a plan for the row or bed, then choose your favorites and drag them onto a square. The tool will explain how many of each to plant or sow for one square foot (30 cm × 30 cm) and even offers basic care advice for each variety.
6. Follow recommended sowing and planting dates.
—You’ll find this information on most seed packets, on-line or in gardening books, usually stated in the form of “weeks before the frost-free date.”
—You’ll need to know the spring frost-free date in your area to determine when it’s safe to plant your seeds and starter plants outside. This is usually about 2 to 3 weeks after the average last frost date. To find sowing and planting dates easily, use this tool from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.
7. Plan to improve your soil or buy good quality gardening mixes
—Expect to need to improve the soil where you’ll be gardening. For example, you’ll probably need to work 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of top-quality compost and a slow-release, all-purpose organic fertilizer (the label will recommend the appropriate quantity) into existing soils.
—For container gardens, you’ll need a top-quality garden soil.
8. Don’t forget to plan for pollinator-friendly flowers
—This will ensure your fruiting vegetables (squash, cucumbers, peppers, etc.) are properly pollinated!
So, what are you waiting for? Gather the family together and start planning your Victory Garden 2.0!
Most information and all photos supplied by the National Garden Bureau