Victory! (Gardens, that is…)
“I would like to say, at this point, that we are not concerned only with encouragement of gardening in 1945. The Department of Agriculture and the State Extension Services have been advocating for more and better farm gardens for many years. I think we should continue our gardens – not only for the food, but for the deep satisfaction they yield. And for the war years the extra food produced by town and city gardeners might be looked upon as insurance – insurance that we will have enough of the health-giving fresh vegetables.” – Marvin Jones
This was an introduction in a USDA publication in 1945 to promote the Victory Garden Movement. Victory Gardens were first developed in 1917 during World War I to help alleviate the food shortages caused by many of the world’s agricultural workers being called to war. Victory Gardens were again called into action during World War II, not only to allow more industrial processed foods to be shipped to the soldiers, but also to help alleviate some of the burden of food rationing. People grew their own fruits, vegetables, herbs, and in some cases, meat, to allow the rationing stamps to be used for things they could not grow, such as sugar and coffee.
A Different Kind of War
The World Wars are now a section in our history books, but in many cases there is still a war going on – loss of job, health, cost of living. It is tough to pay your regular monthly bills, and even tougher to have enough left over to feed your family. Most incomes stay the same, even when the cost of living rises.
We may still have jobs, but our budget is tight. We search for ways to cut our expenses. I love Martin Jones’ viewpoint of gardens as insurance. Growing a garden is definitely insurance against not being able to feed your family. Considering the idea that so much of our farmland is being sold to developers and converted into housing and commercial areas, we all need to consider having just such an ‘insurance policy’. These are just some of the reasons we grow our own version of a Victory Garden.
V is for Victory!
If you think you would like to begin your own Victory Garden, here are some helpful tips to get you started:
Grow what you eat
Make a list of everything your family likes to eat. Around here, we eat the basics – tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, okra and beans. This year I added some trial rows of Great Northern Beans, a favorite of the Country Boy We don’t like eggplant or zucchini, so we rarely grow that. We have limited space, so we utilize what we have growing what we know we will eat.
Consider the ‘added’ flavors
We frequently use things like bell pepper, jalapenos, onion, and celery when we cook. Although I haven’t tried celery yet, it is definitely on the list. Bell peppers are grown, seeded and sliced in half to put in the freezer for year-round use. Jalapenos are turned into sliced and canned, Candied Jalapenos, and eaten fresh. Onions are something I have tried, without success, but will attempt again.
Don’t forget the herbs
Herbs are another added flavoring, and can easily be used as companion plants in order to save space. I plant basil between my tomato plants, and parsley between my peppers. Having them close together also helps during harvest.
You don’t have to have a forty acre truck farm to grow food for your family. Start with a small garden, and add to it as you go along. I originally had a 30’ x 33’ kitchen garden, and now have three more that are 20’ x 20’. I have organized them for rotation and seasonal, long-term planting such as wheat. Containers and raised beds are also excellent ways to have a small garden. Consider your needs and space, and then start your garden accordingly.
Care for your soil
Even the smallest households and gardens can produce compost. Although we have started a larger one, at one time I used a Mini-Compost System (this is an easy DIY – listed under Mini Compost Bins) that helped me add at least some healthy nutrition to my soil. Also learn about rotating your plants. When you plant the same thing in the same place year after year, you encourage diseases and pests. I learned this lesson the hard way when I lost too many of my tomato plants to hornworms.
Make it easy
Mulching is one of the best things you can do to control weeds. I use a combination of newspaper and straw. After I plant, I run soaker hose tape around my plants. I cover that with a layer of newspaper, then top it off with straw. For more great information on this, visit Tamara over at The Reid Homestead, who has a great in-depth article – The Secret to Easy Gardening – to get you started with this!
Buy Heirloom / Save the Seeds
Heirloom plants are true to type plants. If you plant a Granny Cantrell tomato and save the seeds, then next year you will get a Granny Cantrell. A hybrid is bred for certain qualities. It is impossible to know what other plants are involved to get the desired results. Planting a hybrid seed is equivalent to ‘paying your nickel and taking your chances’, but chances are you won’t get anything close to what you wanted or expected.
When you try to figure out the best insurance for your home, farm and family, shop in your own backyard first. Find a sunny location and invest your time and energy in one of the smartest ways to claim Victory for your family. Fresh, healthy, home-grown food!
If you still don’t think you have enough room for a garden, there is a good chance others in your area feel the same way. If so, check out Lisa’s post on New Homesteaders Almanac! – How To Start a Community Garden
Just so you know: This post contains affiliate links; if you click on a link and make a purchase I might make a small commission but it does not affect the price you pay!
And don’t forget – one of the best places to get your seeds is Mary’s Heirloom Seeds. Visit her site and check out all of the great choices!