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October 2, 2020
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Victory gardens first emerged at the beginning of World War I when families planted fruits and vegetables at home to ease pressure on the nation’s food supply.
More than 100 years later, as people have begun to spend a lot more time at home, victory gardens have made a comeback — and for good reason! Who doesn’t like to see a young seedling poke out from under the dirt after weeks of tending, or make a hearty vegetable soup out of homegrown potatoes and tomatoes?
That’s not to mention that growing food at home — even small indoor herb gardens on kitchen windowsills — can save you and your family a lot of money in the long run.
Here’s a brief history of how these historical gardens came about and how to set one up at home, even if it’s the middle of winter. Skip to the victory garden plans or the printable inspiration posters modeled after historical victory garden posters. (Editor’s tip: Ready to get gardening? Check out these Gardeners.com coupons and deals for savings on setting up your indoor or outdoor garden.)
A Brief History of Victory Gardens
The victory garden movement began in 1917 — at the beginning of the First World War — as Europe faced severe food shortages, according to the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.
To help out its European allies and boost its own food supply, the U.S. government encouraged Americans to plant “war gardens.” It did so with posters and pamphlets that framed these gardens as ways for families to exercise their civic duty. Americans were urged to plant gardens at home, in parks and vacant lots, at school and almost anywhere there was open space.
By the end of World War I, there were about five million war gardens in the U.S., and they were rebranded as victory gardens, according to the Ohio History Connection.
The U.S. government again encouraged Americans to plant victory gardens during World War II as a way to support the war effort, but also save money, eat more healthily and boost morale. Toward the end of the Second World War, in 1944, as many as 20 million American families were growing 40% of America’s vegetables, according to the Smithsonian Gardens.
Today’s victory gardens still serve many of the same purposes: celebrating homegrown food, encouraging healthy eating, boosting morale and reducing grocery bills.
How to Start a Victory Garden
As was the case 100 years ago when Americans planted victory gardens in whatever space they had available, victory gardens today can be as big or as small as you want. Maybe your victory garden is a couple of pots on your kitchen table, or maybe it’s a well planned plot of land in your backyard.
Regardless, you should set yourself up for success by planting vegetables that are easy to grow: carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, green beans, green onions, herbs, lettuce and other greens, radishes, peas, peppers and squash, according to the Food Network.
You should also familiarize yourself with what vegetables grow best in which season. Here are some rough guidelines provided by Smithsonian Gardens:
Fall: beets, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, parsley, radishes, spinach, swiss chard, turnips
Spring: carrots, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes
Summer: beans, corn, cucumbers, okra, peppers, tomatoes, watermelon
Explore the following victory garden plans for some inspiration on what you can plant and when.
Indoor Victory Garden Plan
Many of the early victory gardens were outside: in parks, backyards and school lots. However, you can grow a lively victory garden inside during the winter months (or really at any time of the year) just as easily.
All you need is a sunny south-facing window and a room that isn’t drafty and doesn’t get too cold at night (below 60 degrees Fahrenheit). Here’s what you can grow:
Herbs: You can easily grow basil, dill, lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme right in your kitchen window, and each one comes with its own unique scent. Of this batch of herbs, basil and dill like the heat the most, so you should make sure your room doesn’t drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Leafy greens: Arugula, kale, lettuce and spinach are also easily grown indoors in a sunny south-facing window. Many people harvest them as baby greens and continually plant new seeds, instead of waiting for these vegetables to mature.
Microgreens: You can also soak and plant the seeds of greens, peas, turnips, beets and radishes and harvest the first shoots for salads.
Other plants that produce fruit, like cherry tomatoes and hot peppers, can be grown inside during the winter. However, they require 16 hours of artificial light per day and nighttime temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. (Editor’s tip: Check out these Amazon coupons and deals for potential savings on plant growing lamps. Also explore affordable plants that you can grow in other rooms of your home.)
Spring Victory Garden Plan
In some cases, you don’t have to wait until April or May to plant your victory garden outside. Depending on where you live, your frost schedule and your soil type, you might be able to get a head start on your planting as early as January:
Early Spring (January–March): beets, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, kale, onions, peas, radishes, spinach
Late Spring (March–June): beans, cantaloupes, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, watermelon
Fall Victory Garden Plan
You’re probably used to planting a garden once a year — most likely in the spring — harvesting the fruits and vegetables and waiting until the next year to repeat the process. However, victory gardens can produce food all year.
Here are the fruits and vegetables that you should plant later in the year to keep your victory garden fully stocked (you’ll notice that some are repeated from spring because certain vegetables like the cool weather of early spring and fall):
Early Fall (August–October): beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale, lettuce, radishes, spinach, turnips
Late Fall/Early Winter (November–December): asparagus, onions
Victory Garden Printables
Posters, graphics and catalogs with slogans like “Food will win the war,” “Can all you can” and “Dig for victory” were widely circulated in America and Europe during both World Wars to encourage families to grow as much as they could in their victory gardens.
As a nod to these historical posters — and a source of inspiration for your modern-day garden — here are some reimagined victory garden posters.
This poster reimagines the classic “War Gardens Over the Top” poster created by the National War Garden Commission in 1919.
This poster tweaks the classic “Dig for Victory” slogan thought up by the British Ministry of Agriculture during the Second World War and shows “Potato Pete” and “Doctor Carrot,” who were two characters created to promote healthy eating during the war, according to National Museum Wales.
How Growing a Victory Garden Can Save You Money
Victory garden savings can add up, especially as your garden grows and you plant multiple times during the year.
For example, consider tomatoes. They’re pretty easy to grow at home, and one plant typically produces eight pounds (or as many as 12–20 pounds if planted on a trellis). A tomato plant might cost you $4 at a plant shop.
The retail price of tomatoes is about $2 per pound, according to Statista. Eight pounds of tomatoes at the store would cost about $16. Meanwhile, homegrown tomatoes cost about a fourth of that — and even less if you start from seeds.
You can apply similar cost-benefit analyses to many easy-to-grow plants like lettuce, beans, squash and herbs. Plus, eating a homegrown salad can be a lot more satisfying than eating a store-bought one, and you might even discover your new favorite hobby! (Editor’s Tip: Once you get good at gardening, you’ll need somewhere to store all of your veggies. Check out these PlanetBox coupons for potential savings on eco-friendly containers and lunchboxes of all sizes.)
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