During World War I and World War II, resources were scarce and citizens were asked to conserve however they could in order to make sure that the troops had what they needed. One thing that people did was to plant “Gardens for Victory”. These victory gardens were popular in cities as well as in the country and sparked a new spirit of self-reliance. These gardens could be found at private residences as well as public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Germany. A side benefit that the gardens created for home gardeners was the sense of empowerment that came from producing edible goods through their own labor.
The Post-War Years
After World War II, public interest in victory gardens dwindled as residents believed that the end of the war would bring increased produce availability. In some parts of the world, however, shortages continued as late as 1946. Today, in light of the current economic conditions, home gardening has seen a surge in popularity. Seed companies have reported record increases in sales as many people have turned what had been a hobby into a necessity. In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama even planted a 1,100 square foot garden at the White House which she expanded to 1,500 square feet in 2010.
Our Little Slice of Heaven
Our garden is tiny by Michelle Obama standards even after an expansion of our own. We have just over 100 square feet in a raised bed on the side of our house. Every year I make an attempt at gardening but this year was different. This year – as we all ‘tightened our belts’ due to the economy – I vowed to produce something that we could and would actually eat. What’s even better is that it is an incredible educational opportunity for the boys. Our oldest loses interest quickly since gardening has absolutely nothing to do with sports, but my baby is still my assistant and loves to go outside with me and dig in the dirt.
This year, we planted carrots, leaf lettuce, English peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and a variety of herbs. Unfortunately, our approach has not been the most scientific. Because my grandmother always instructed me to plant on Good Friday, the baby and I typically hit the seed store a few days before Good Friday and he grabs whatever sounds good. We pay little mind to the specific growing needs of our various crops and simply enjoy the time we spend together digging and talking. So far this year, we’ve done OK. The herbs are a bit overgrown, but the tomatoes and cucumbers have yielded an incredible bounty. The lettuce is just about ready for harvesting and the carrots seem to be happy as well.
I’ve already begun next year’s garden plan. I’d like to have a little more than just tomatoes and cucumbers next year. The nice thing is that there is no shortage of FREE gardening resources on the Web and in most communities. I went to the Better Homes and Gardens website and found a whole list of garden plans that you can download to your computer. They give complete instructions for planting gardens anywhere from 16 square feet to my 30′ x 30′ dream kitchen garden. Then, I went to the website of my state’s Cooperative Extension to get a planting guide so I know exactly how and when to grow great veggies in my part of the world.
My plan is to section off my garden into three distinct areas. The first will be reserved for American classics like peas, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. The second section will include Italian favorites with lots of herbs for great pasta dishes. I’ll save the last section for rotating out seasonal favorites like cabbage and broccoli in the cooler months for beans and peppers in the warmer months. I am sooooooooo excited. My grandmother and so many other relatives who were gardeners out of necessity will be so proud of me for learning to feed my family with food that I planted with my own two hands. We’ve had the best salads this summer because as my Aunt Cissy used to say “it’s fresh from the garden!”