Create Your Own Victory Garden
What is a Victory Garden?
Some of you may have been hearing the term Victory Garden lately, or you may have heard of it many, many years ago. This is something that is making more of a comeback now, especially with being home and quarantined due to the Coronavirus. The National Garden Bureau (1920-2020) is celebrating their 100th anniversary. They are reintroducing the concept of Victory Gardens once again.
During World War II, a victory garden was a way that citizens at home were able to help and be a part of the war effort. There were more than 20 million Victory Gardens that were planted across the United States with more than 1 million tons of produce grown. This was a means of improving nutritional value in diets and releasing food to the armed forces. The Victory Garden program was supported and organized by local groups and citizens through committees. In Pennsylvania, County Farm Agents and the college, Penn State, provided services and technical information that were needed, such as: soil tests, cultural information, and seed selection. Many people preserved and canned foods not only for themselves, but for school lunches, food banks, and hospitals. There was also a 236 page Victory Garden Committee Handbook that was created. This handbook is amazing with how much valuable information is it in dating back to this time period.
Steps and Tips for Creating and Growing Your Own Victory Garden
The first thing you will want to do is determine your growing zone. This will help you understand what will grow best in the area where you live. It will also inform you of what types of annuals or perennials to plant. You can find what zone you live in by typing in your zip code on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map website. https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
Think of What You Enjoy Eating and Make a List
Start writing down a list of foods that you enjoy eating. Think about how much of that your household usually will consume. This will determine how much or how many seeds or plants you will want to plant of that specific item. Also, think of herbs you enjoy using in cooking or adding into beverages. If you have space, you may be able to preserve or can foods for later use. Once you determine what you want to grow, start researching different varieties. You may prefer San Marzano Tomatoes over Cherry Tomatoes, or choose your type of Basil: Genovese, Lemon, Cinnamon, Thai, or Purple. You can always experiment and may discover a new variety you enjoy better, one you’ve never tried before.
Seed or Plant
Decide how much work and money you want to put into your garden. Although seeds are more cost efficient, they also take time, nurturing, and space. You will also need to check temperature and lighting. Hardening off will be important when it comes time to transplant. You can always buy transplants or starter plants that will be ready to plant in the ground. These will cost more than a packet of seeds, but are also easier to plant where you want when you are ready to start your garden.
Knowing When to Sow or Plant
Researching when to sow or plant will be important. You don’t want to plant something into the ground when the soil temperature may not be warm enough for your plant to survive. It is good to know when your first and last frost dates were to help you figure out when it’s safe to start planting. There is a tool on Bonnie Plants website that will help you figure this out. https://bonnieplants.com/gardening/first-and-last-frost-dates/ Another helpful tool to use figure out planting dates will be on the Johnny’s Selected Seeds website. They have a seed starting date calculator. https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/seed-planting-schedule-calculator.html Another idea to think about is whether or not you will want to do succession planting to have produce to harvest for a longer period of time.
All soil is different. It is very rare that you will have nice soil if you dig straight into the ground. Some options you may consider are purchasing soils to use or add into the soil that you already have. I also like to add compost, manure, peat moss, and perlite and create a mix to add into my existing soil. You may want to have a soil test done. You can request soil kits through your local Penn State Extention office. Things are being done differently due to closures currently because of the Coronavirus. If you would like to learn more about soil testing, visit this link: https://agsci.psu.edu/aasl/soil-testing.
You can start a garden no matter where you live! You may plant straight in the ground or consider raised beds. If you don’t have a lot of space or don’t have very good land to plant in, consider container gardening. This is a great option because you can move it wherever or whenever you want and it’s easier maintenance for weeding and watering.
Add Pollinator-Friendly Flowers
This is my favorite tip of all! If you are planting vegetables and herbs, add some flowers to help pollinate all plants. Pollinators are so beneficial to your garden. Birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects are necessary in the garden. They are needed to fertilize a flower, which then will produce fruits or nuts. We all know how important pollinators are to have in your garden and how some are on the decline. A few of my favorite pollinator friendly plants are: Bee Balm, Echinacea (Coneflowers), Black-Eyed Susans, Shasta Daisies, Lavender, Canna, Salvia, Zinnias, Jacob’s Ladder, and I could go on and on with a never ending list of my favorite flower additions.
Enjoy What You Have Created
Gardening is therapeutic for me. There’s something unexplainable about putting your hands in the soil and creating and watching something magical appear and grow. It brings a sense of peace while being out in nature. There is no perfect gardener. In gardening, there are experiments and experience. Educating yourself and learning new techniques are always happening year after year in the gardening world. There’s so much pride and enjoyment in watching what you’ve created grow! Make sure once you plant your Victory Garden, you find the time to sit there and enjoy it! You may even want to plant a foodscape by mixing plants, flowers, herbs, and vegetables together. Remember, it’s your creation and the possibilities are endless…
If you are interested in learning more, Penn State Extention is offering a free webinar series called, “Victory Garden Reinvented!” There was so much interest, they had to expand the room for the number of registrants. You may find the link here: https://extension.psu.edu/victory-garden-reinvented-webinar-series if you are interested in refreshing your garden knowledge or if you have interest in learning more. The first one webinar was wonderful and I highly recommend registering and watching this series!
Share with Me
I would love to hear your thoughts on a victory garden. Share with me some of your favorite things to plant! Lots of love and happy planting!
Resources and Websites
Victory Garden Committee Handbook (1944) Link
Penn State Soil Testing
Johnny’s Selected Seeds-Seed Starting Date Calculator
Bonnie’s Plants-Frost Dates
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map