Tuesday, May 27, 2014

V is for Victory Gardens

It's springtime, and I have a close friend who loves to garden. And she's very good at it. She grows vegetables and fruit and often has plenty to share. A recent conversation with her brought to mind the Victory Gardens of WWII. During the war, families planted “Victory Gardens” to stretch their ration coupons and ensure there was enough food to send to troops overseas. More than twenty million gardens were planted across the United States, and by 1944 they were responsible for producing over 40% of all vegetables grown. People with no yards used window boxes, and some city dwellers created roof top gardens. Even First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt got involved when she put a Victory Garden on the White House grounds.

Because vegetable gardening was new to many people, the government issued pamphlets with instructions on how to prepare home grown vegetables, proper canning techniques and recipes. These pamphlets were specific to the various geographic areas of the country. Keep in mind that creating and maintaining these gardens added to an already overwhelming workload for the folks left at home, many of whom were women whose husbands were off at war.

My husband and I tried vegetable gardening when we were living in Virginia many years ago. We had an acre of land, and it seemed like a fun project. After all – how hard could it be? Well, considering that the year we did this we experienced a drought, it was very hard!

The soil where we lived was heavy clay, so before we did anything we had to till it and add peat moss to loosen it up. Once that was done, we added fertilizer and built mounded rows in which to put our seeds. Never ones do anything halfway, we planted a huge garden - bush beans, pole beans, carrots, several varieties of tomatoes, green peppers, hot peppers, corn, potatoes, and lettuce. We watered as we could (the town had rationed water usage due to the drought), weeded and watched. Finally! Sprouts began to push their way through the dirt then a few days later the leaves began to come on. It was working!
One morning I went out to check on the plants to see if there was anything to harvest. I trotted across the yard to the garden and noticed a pair of cute bunnies watching me from near by. I should have noticed their fat bellies and the satisfied gleam in their eyes. They had eaten the bean plants – every last one of them! There was a row of identical two inch stalks where the night before there had been beautiful little seedlings. Later we found out that most people fence their gardens for this very reason. Live and learn!

We had the garden for several years, and as time went by we got more knowledgeable and it got a little easier. But that first year's experience gave me a great appreciation for what folks did to get by during the war. And my hat is off to the many farmers who produce today's food for the public.

Have you ever planted a vegetable garden? How did it go?

A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda Matchett also writes historical fiction. She is currently seeking a publisher for her series about war correspondent Ruth Brown. www.lindashentonmatchett.com


  1. We had a garden but the deer and squirrels benefited more than we did. Next summer I plan on trying again.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

  2. We have the same challenge as Melanie. The critters would devour most of our best efforts. :) We would have to put up a fence I'm sure. Right now, my mom has a huge garden, so we benefit from her love of gardening. I love to garden too, but for now all my efforts go into flowers. The critters find those yummy as well. I enjoyed your post, Linda. Interesting history.

  3. I enjoyed the history of Victory Gardens, as well as your own gardening experiences. My grandparents have always planted a garden and they are now sharing that love of planting with my children.

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

  4. Chipmunks have often been my nemesis. They stalk the tomatoes and take a bite out of every one. Ugh! Last year I have a bunch of volunteer tomatoes because I didn't clear out the garden plot. I let them grow and had a free harvest.

  5. It has been years since I've had a place for a garden. Our last one was 8 square foot gardens, it was so easy to take care of and we had a bounty of produce!
    worthy2bpraised at gmail dot com

  6. Thanks for sharing your experiences! I wish I were better at gardening. My grandfather was an amazing gardener. His "hobby" garden late in life was well over an acre but that was after farming for nearly 50 years!