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I find the history of Victory Gardens fascinating.
I mean the government was encouraging and educating people to grow and preserve food.
Nowadays you get into serious trouble for growing a vegetable garden in your front yard, fined, then forced to remove it.
In this victory gardening post I’ll talk about
- The history of victory gardens
- The crops they grew in old victory gardens (Including a pdf of an old program)
- Our spoiled modern day gardening
- A crop list & planning to grow a modern victory garden.
What is a victory garden?
Victory Gardens mostly took place during the World War II.
Food was already being rationed since WW I, but by 1943 the government encouraged people to grow produce for increased food supply for civilians and troops.
‘Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defence, were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany during World War I and World War II. They were used along with Rationing Stamps and Cards to reduce pressure on the public food supply. Besides indirectly aiding the war effort, these gardens were also considered a civil “morale booster” in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown. This made victory gardens a part of daily life on the home front.’
Victory Gardening was known for having encouraging posters
I’m digging these awesome Modern Victory Garden Posters you can get from WirtheimDesignStudio
Why am I thinking about Victory gardens today?
I’m not sure if you’ve read the news the past few of years: global economy shakiness; global debt being far higher than the amount of money in currency; crazy and erratic weather extremes causing massive crop and hay shortages as well as fires & drought; potential warmongering, I could go on… but many people feel like a little food security could be a big deal in the coming years (maybe even sooner). Just this past year in Canada we’ve seen a large spike in the cost of fresh produce and I only think it’s going to get higher.
Our Spoiled Modern Day Gardening & Homesteading
The gardening & homesteading most of us do is hard work but also pure luxury.
- If a crop fails we can still go to the store.
- If we screw up or the weather kills our crops, our family doesn’t starve.
- We can open many seed catalogs and choose from thousands of varieties, from anywhere in the world and I don’t have to worry about seed saving.
- We have an infinite amount of online resources and books to read and learn from, not to mention the ability to buy soil, amendments, and season extenders.
- We have full access to a freezer, canning supplies, dehydrators, etc. Even things like sugar, spices, citric acid or lemon juice for canning tomatoes! We have access to all of it!
We modern day folk are blessed with multiple options for growing and preserving our garden bounty.
When I really think about our modern-day living and modern-day homesteading, I think we’re so incredibly lucky.
Now if we lost power the freezer produce would cease to exist.
Canning would require an indoor wood-stove (good luck using one during the hot summer months) as outdoor fires would likely spark a wildfire if conditions were dry.
Solar dehydrating would be an excellent method of food preservation but not all vegetables dehydrate well.
Cold room storage would be another excellent way of storing your crops. But most homes no longer have them as they were replaced by energy sucking freezers and fridges.
Fall and winter gardening would be highly beneficial to learn and have the right varieties for.
When I look at the crop varieties that I’m currently growing in our garden, I have to wonder what would I have to change if I had to grow a ‘modern-day victory garden’.
The Shift from Pleasure to Practicality
I truly believe we’re in for even more food price increases as global weather becomes less reliable. The last time we had the need for victory gardens there was only 2 billions people.
We’re at 7 billion now and that’s an extremely difficult amount of people to ration out food with and spread out the resources.
Of course I’m hoping the need for victory gardens and food rationing won’t be necessary.
How much to plant for a Modern Victory Garden?
The original 1943 pamphlet called “Victory Garden: Leader’s Handbook”, issued by the US Department of Agriculture shows the following recommendations for home food supply: (from HipChickDigs)
Of course this is a survival diet, not one of modern luxury, it’s meant for enduring not the pleasure of eloquent cuisine and taste.
Wow are we in for a rude awakening should #$%* hit the fan eh?!
- Food preservation and storage
- Growing climate limitations
- Lack of access to soil amendments, fertilizers etc to replenish the soil
- Learning how to save seeds for the next season
- Watering challenges
- Difficulty in growing (cauliflower, heavy feeders like tomatoes & corn, picky veggies like brussel sprouts or broccoli.. just to name a few that would likely not be worth the risk).
- Lack of access to frost protection fabric, tunnels, greenhouse supplies, new hoses for watering, new tools etc.
My top vegetable choices for our family ‘Victory Garden’
After some thought, there are vegetables I would no longer grow for a survival type garden. For our growing zone 5, I’d be focusing on crops that excel in cold rooms as they require minimal preserving. Growing enough calories are important too , winter squash is a stable (& also requires no preserving other than curing until you cook it). I also would make sure I had plenty of cold hardy crops that can handle some light snow or frosts for our fall and winter gardening. I’d make sure we had lots of vegetables overwintering for an early spring harvest and perennials would play a larger role, as would wild edible weeds. For this list I haven’t included fruits and fruit trees, just your usual annual vegetable crops. If you have fruit trees & bushes you’re extra blessed!
Crops I would definitely be growing & methods for preserving are:
- Potatoes (cold room storage)
- Root veggies: carrots, turnips, parsnips and beets (cold room storage & fall/winter gardening. Parsnips overwinter amazing under the snow and we’ve harvested them in Feb with fluctuate thaws).
- Winter Squash (easy to store at room temperature after curing)
- Garlic, onions and maybe leeks (the latter are great for a fall/winter garden even though they’re harder to grow. Onions and garlic would be dry storage)
- Cabbages ( can be cold hardy for fall gardening and last 5 months in a cold room)
- Kale and Swiss Chard (for a summer, fall & winter garden crop. It even overwinters if the plant is smaller and low to the ground).
- Perennials such as asparagus, rhubarb, sprouting broccoli..
- Herbs for flavour (air dry & stored in jars)
- Overwinter: Spinach, mache, kale, parsnips, arugula (maybe, it self-sows well, so does mache).
- Lettuce & radishes spring-fall (the latter would be cold hardy varieties)
- Dry soup beans, likely bush plants because of the short season (dry storage)
- Peas for eating fresh and as dry peas (store in jars)
- Zucchini (eat fresh & dehydrate)
Crops I might consider growing:
- Tomatoes (would hope on canning them but you need citric acid or lemon juice. You could sun dry/dehydrate them)
- Cayenne or paprika peppers for flavour (& cayenne has medicinal value). Dehydrate them and powder.
- To eat in season: Snap beans
Is this an exciting diet compared to our modern-day diet?
No of course not! I know I’d be jonesin and reminiscing of the great food eaten ‘in days of old’ if life ever came to this.
But I also think it’s good to think of potential hard times ahead and how to be prepared for them. After all when you look at human history, we’re never without huge decades of ‘shaky periods’, disease, war and famine. The illusion these days is that our technology will save us (& it could to some degree as there are many advances in technology for growing food…just not enough time or finances for 7 billion people).
What about you?
Have you thought about growing food for serious survival times?
My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.