During World War I, Americans were called to help the war effort at home by growing their own vegetables in “Victory Gardens” that aimed to reduce pressure on the public food supply.
And they answered that call, not once but twice. By World War II, more than 20 million Victory Gardens were supplying Americans with more than 1 million tons of vegetables, according to the National World War II Museum. The Missouri Botanical Garden did its part, too, which you can read about here.
Now, with our country again in a state of crisis, many Americans are once again taking to the gardens. The New York Times reports an uptick in seed sales and views of YouTube tutorials on creating raised garden beds.
Once again, the Missouri Botanical Garden is proud to do its part to support these efforts with the following advice on growing a Victory Garden.
What to Plant
The first step in creating a Victory Garden is knowing what to grow. The answer of “what to grow” really comes down to a simple question — what do you like to eat? Think of your favorite veggies, but also consider those that have the highest density of vitamins and minerals, like leafy greens and kale. Also consider crops that are easy to store longterm by freezing or canning, like tomatoes and beans. Be sure to consider your space needs, too. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, and corn are excellent food crops, but only recommended if you have adequate space.
Where to Plant
We know you may have limited space to work with, but whatever the size, consider a few key factors in the location of your vegetable garden. Full sun is best for most vegetables, so try to find the sunniest spot in your yard. If you aren’t using a raised bed, try to find a flat area, as gardens on slopes may require terracing. If you can, try to find a location with shelter from strong winds, which can knock plants down and cause foliage to dry out. Your site may be a compromise of these factors.
When to Plant
Cool season vegetables, like broccoli, greens, and Brussels sprouts, can be planted in the spring.
Warm season vegetables, like tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, should wait for warmer weather, but don’t wait too long.Transplanting of warm season crops should be planned so that flowering and fruit set occur before air temperatures rise into the 80s.
How to Prepare
Properly preparing your site is critical to the success of your vegetable garden. The first step is to remove any existing vegetation from the area. Add the discarded vegetation to your compost pile. You’ll also want to test your soil to see if you need to add any additional fertilizers. Till or turn your soil, if necessary, before adding any fertilizer.
For a more thorough explanation of necessary preparations for your vegetable garden, check out this guide to growing vegetables from the Kemper Center for Home Gardening.
Why to Plant
Growing your own vegetables is a great way to take a small step to taking pressures off of public food supplies, but it can also have many personal benefits for you. Gardening itself can be therapeutic, and there is certainly a delicious reward in eating produce you’ve grown in your own backyard. And, vegetable gardens can be a fairly simple project that require minimum gardening tools, which makes it an excellent venture for gardeners of all levels.
But a vegetable garden may not be right for everyone. If you don’t think you have a suitable location, or if you know you won’t take the time to care for the garden, don’t waste seeds. While we aren’t currently facing a seed shortage, it’s always best to conserve resources when possible.
The Kemper Center for Home Gardening has a vast amount of resources on vegetable gardening, including fact sheets on specific vegetables, soil and fertilizer, and even visual guides.
Public Information Officer