Planting a vegetable garden in 1943 was considered an act of patriotism. During World War II Americans were called on to help with the war effort. They conserved metal. They gave up normal things to help with their country win the war. Citizens collected materials, like rubber, silk, aluminum, and glass for recycling into needed weapons, machinery and supplies for the soldiers. Women sewed and knitted gloves, socks, wristbands and such.
One thing nearly twenty million Americans did was to plant a Victory garden or a “war garden.” This helped provide more fresh foods to keep people healthy. It helped alleviate the demand on commercial food sources. It help feed the troops at war because there was less stress on markets.
Planting, working in, and harvesting vegetables and herbs from a garden helped people learn to work together in harmony. Communities planned their gardens as coops, so a greater variety of foods could be produced.These “food gardens for defense” helped draw Americans together. Citizens made their the Victory gardens family or community efforts.
People learned that gardening could be a blessing, an enjoyable pastime rather than a drudgery. Now many people are learning to eat healthier foods and many like to know how and where those foods were produced. They want fresh produce. So gather up and plant a school garden, a family garden, or one all your own. Here’s how.
Chose a site:
Your first step is to pick a plot or spot to plant your garden. You may have no area of your backyard that you want to commit to this effort. You could use a flowerbed or even containers—large pots of potting soil, like a strawberry planter. Your garden may be planted in a window box, a small strip along a backyard fence, or a vacant lot. Even a city rooftop or apartment patio can serve the purpose.
Plan the garden:
Which vegetables do you know and love? Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, potatoes, green beans, peas, corn, onions, cucumbers, and broccoli are some more common vegetables to try. Lettuce, greens and spinach are good healthy vegetables. Radishes, zucchini, and summer squash grow fast.
Here are some questions to consider when you plan your garden?
- How much space do you have for your Victory garden? Do you have a half acre? An eight by ten-foot strip? Some containers? A flowerbed?
- What tools are available for your work? Do you have a hoe and rake? Only hand tools? A tiller?
- How much time are you able and willing to spend on the garden?
- How will you water your garden? Closeness to a reliable water source is important.
- Will you have help? Who can you get help and advice from? Can you work the garden yourself?
- How long is the growing season in your area?
- What climate zone are you in? What sorts of plants do your local gardeners raise?
Prepare the soil: Dig up with a shovel the garden area. Work to get out all grass and weeds. Shovel and re-shovel, turn and work the soil several inches deep until it is soft and smooth and fine. Add commercial fertilizer or composted material to enrich the soil. Work the soil several times. Lay out rows using sticks and kite string to make your furrows straight.
Shop for Seeds and/ or plants:
The plants should have healthy untorn leaves. They should not be root bound or overgrown. The seeds should be fresh and young. The varieties should be suitable for your local climate zone.
Consider some vegetables that you don’t know. How about kohlrabi, eggplant, chard, endive, or Brussels sprouts. For long growing seasons, try cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, beets, pumpkins, melons, and rutabagas. Include some herbs like parsley, oregano, tarragon, rosemary and thyme?
For an extra learning experience, plant something fun: peanuts, cantaloupe, cotton, hot peppers, kiwi, Indian Mini-corn.
Plant your seeds:
Plant the rows or containers and water the garden well. Follow packaging directions. It is a good idea to make a chart showing where each type of seed or plant is planted. Soon you will have some sprouts. See the seed packets to know what the plant sprouts should look like.
Thin the Crop:
When the plants have sprouted you can inspect them. Pull out the ones too close together. Leave the sturdiest-looking sprouts to grow. Give your plants plenty of room. Thinning out sprouts is hard, but necessary for the best production.
Weed and water:
Keep the area around your plants carefully weeded. Water often. Evening is best because in some areas. Because the afternoon sun can scorch plants after watering.
Fly the flag:
Let folks know your garden is a Victory garden. Fly some flags! Decorate your garden with banners and streamers. Add some marigolds and zinnias for color and pizazz! Make your garden a celebration of self-reliance and unity.
Soon enough you should have plenty of vegetables to eat and even some extra to give away to those who don’t have a place or the time to garden. Raising your own vegetables can be rewarding and help you feel that you are doing your part. Basic gardening know-how is an valuable skill which will serve you well during war or peacetime.