April 16, 2020
For the past month I’ve been receiving seed catalogs in the mail. I flip through the pages and dream of planting the perfect vegetable garden this spring. Reality sets in. Thoughts turn back to last year’s garden and how much fun it was planting, but how much work it was hoeing, weeding and watering. There was the gathering of the tasty vegetables. But in providing the needs for only two people, there was too much produce. Yes, I did give away some of the extra produce and I did can and freeze some. The storage shelves and frozen produce are still taking up space as it didn’t all get used. My mind is made up. This year I will plant a smaller raised garden, closer to the water source, which will require a minimized amount of labor. I haven’t reached the point where I want to completely give up my vegetable gardening skills.
As I anxiously wait to purchase the seed packets, I am reading up on the latest garden tips and viewing my favorite gardening shows on the television; Back Yard Farmer, Garden Smart and the Victory Garden. Years ago, while watching the Victory Garden show, I wondered what exactly was a Victory Garden. I asked my mother who quickly gave me the information.
It was exactly 103 years ago the Victory Garden campaign was initiated. During WWI a severe food crisis came out of Europe as the farmers were called into military action and their farm fields were used as battlefields. Europe looked to the U.S. for aid in providing food for millions of starving people. It was March, 1917, weeks before the U.S. entered the war, a man by the name of Charles Pack organized the National War Garden Commission. It encouraged Americans to contribute to the war effort by planting, maintaining, harvesting and storing their own fruits and vegetables so more food could be exported to the allies. Americans rallied to the Victory Garden effort. Other names used for the Victory Garden were “war gardens,” or “food gardens for defense.” Posters were placed all over with slogans such as “Sow The Seeds Of Victory.” Word was spread at women’s clubs, civic organizations, and chamber of commerce groups encouraging the effort. Pamphlets were provided giving instructions and information on how to plant these gardens and maintain them. Canning instructions were given in classes held across the country. Children were even encouraged to help out with the gardens and they were called “soldiers of the soil.” City parks, school grounds, company grounds, and private lots were quickly turned into vegetable and fruit gardens. Within the summer of 1917, there were three million new garden plots planted and 5.2 million the following summer. By the end of WWI, most of the gardeners decided to carry on the garden work. This was an aid during the 1930s, the Depression Years, when once again the food supply became limited.
The Victory Gardens returned as the U.S. went into W.W. II and food rationing was introduced in the spring of 1942. This time the Victory Gardens were not only found in large garden spots, but also in smaller containers stationed on apartment building roof tops, in town residents’ back yards, and in deserted city lots. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden on the White House lawn.
The Victory Gardens helped supply during the war’s food shortages and boosted homefront morale. They were expressions of patriotism. In 1942, 15 million families planted Victory Gardens and by 1944, it was estimated 20 million Victory Gardens had produced the equivalent of more than 40 percent of all the fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S.
In more recent years, vegetable and fruit garden planting took on a new surge as people looked of ways to eat more healthy food. Some are even suggesting this spring people are considering planting vegetable and fruit gardens who never have done it before because of the existing coronavirus conditions and with some food shortages showing up in the larger cities.
Having lived in a rural area all of my life, planting a garden has been something usually done. So my this year’s smaller garden won’t be a true “War Garden.” It still will be a garden to provide a healthier food supply while getting some much needed exercise. I guess it still could be termed my “Victory Garden.’ Anytime