How to Grow a Victory Garden

Senior man selecting vegetables for harvest in vegetable garden
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Victory gardens emerged during World Wars I and II as a way to minimize demand on an overburdened public food system. Citizens were encouraged to grow fruits and vegetables so that more of the foods coming from farms and processors could be shipped overseas to soldiers.

Victory gardens are once again becoming popular. But this time, the goal is different. The new victory garden is all about self-reliance. It's about growing your own food so that you have control over how it is grown and how much you pay for it. It's about getting back to real food.

Are you ready to plant a victory garden for you and your family? Here's a list of what you need and the steps to follow to plan your victory garden.

What You Need for a Victory Garden

  • A space to garden
  • Plants or seeds
  • Tools: hoe, trowel, gardening gloves, watering can

1. Decide Where You'll Plant Your Garden

A sunny patch in the backyard is an obvious choice, but it's not the only option. Window boxes, containers, and even rooftops can be utilized with great success. Are you short on space? Consider working edibles in around your existing flowers and shrubs.

Are you stuck with a shady backyard? Then, think about planting your victory garden in the front yard. Many fruit and vegetable plants are actually quite attractive, so there's no need to give up curb appeal. Front yard gardens and gardens in the parking strip are becoming common in some neighborhoods. If they aren't yet sprouting up your neighborhood, you could start the trend.

No space to garden? See if there are any community gardens in your town, or ask a friend if you can garden on their land in exchange for a cut of the harvest.

2. Determine Your Zone

The USDA Hardiness Zone is a guide for what will grow in different areas. You will find the zone listed on seeds, seedlings and plants. Once you know your zone, this will allow you to choose plants that are suited to your specific growing conditions and increase your chance of success.

3. Pick Your Plants

Focus on the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that you eat regularly to make the biggest impact on your grocery bill. Are you new to gardening? Then, start with plants that are easy to grow. Do you like to keep things low-maintenance? Then, include lots of perennial foods, and you'll have less to plant next year. See if your local garden center, community college or county extension agency has classes for beginning gardeners.

4. Shop for Supplies

Catalog companies are usually the cheapest source for seeds and plants. Place your order early, and they'll ship everything out when it's time to get things in the ground. If you need soil amendments, those are likely to be best purchased locally to save on shipping.

5. Study Up

While you're waiting for spring to arrive, pick up some gardening books from the library, and learn everything you can about gardening. Check to see if there is a Master Gardener program in your area and how you can consult with one. Ask at your local garden centers about classes, seminars, and people you can talk to about starting a garden.