10 Secrets We Learned from Grandma About Victory Gardens
Grandma's secrets about WWII-era victory gardens may help you grow a garden of your own.
You can start small
The words “victory garden” might conjure up images of vast plots with dozens of crops, but your victory garden can be much simpler. To work with the space you have and your gardening ability, choose a few easy vegetables or fruits that you really enjoy and start there.
You don’t need a yard
If your yard is too small, too shady—or you have no yard at all, you can plant a victory garden using containers. Place pots of tomatoes, carrots or beans along a sunny side of your house or on your porch. Window boxes are great spots for growing lettuces, sprouts and herbs.
It’s easy to grow healthy vegetables
It turns out greens like arugula, bok choy and Swiss chard are surprisingly easy to grow and were popular in 1940s victory gardens for that reason. We have a list of other easy-to-grow vegetables, including zucchini, cucumbers and green beans.
Nothing should go to waste
Grandma knew that none of the produce her family worked so hard to grow could go to waste. Fruits and vegetables not eaten fresh can be preserved and stored in a number of ways: many vegetables can be frozen or preserved by canning. Fruits and berries are cooked into sauces, jams and jellies. Herbs can be laid out or hung to dry. Extra produce from your garden can also be donated to neighbors.
You can get the children involved
Get your kids outside and in the dirt to help with the garden. There are so many things they can do, like planting, watering, pulling up weeds and harvesting. Even better, give your kids their own corner of the garden or a container to grow a special vegetable of their very own.
You don’t need seeds to get started
Instead of buying seed packets, check your garden center and grocery store for starter seedlings ready to go in the ground. Online community boards often have people giving away their extra seedlings. Even better, start plants from vegetable scraps that you would normally toss—like potatoes with eyes growing out and the root ends of scallions, fennel and celery.
You have to work with your neighbors
We’re all in this together, and the same is true with a victory garden. If you don’t have a garden of your own, ask about creating one on a neighbor’s land, or join a community garden. Offer to help weed, water and harvest a neighbor’s garden in exchange for produce. Share seedlings, tools and know-how with others on your street to help their gardens thrive, too.
It’s good for body and mind
Just as valuable as what you grow in your garden are the physical and mental health benefits you get from working in one. Gardening is a time to get away from worries and stress, get some fresh air, sunshine and feel a little happier while you dig in the dirt. Not to mention the pride in growing your own food.
You can ask for help
New to gardening? Wondering what “direct sow” means? Or dealing with a garden pest you’ve never seen before? Remember that you are not alone—there are plenty of folks who are happy to help you through your garden challenges. Ask the staff at garden centers, call the local university’s extension service, watch an online workshop or just ask that neighbor who always grows the most beautiful tomatoes on the block!
Your victory garden is how you do your part
During WWII, victory gardens made more food available for troops, helped Americans supplement their food rations and boosted morale. Victory gardens have a valuable role to play today, too. Food grown in local gardens helps decrease food insecurity in communities, provides fresh produce when store shelves are empty and is a rewarding activity as we protect each other by sheltering in place.