The Movement To Bring Back Victory Gardens

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We’re still in the middle of slowly landscaping our yard ourselves, but we decided to go ahead and start a small container garden on the porch. (Okay, dear wife did. Even weeds die when I touch them.) While doing research for this, I stumbled across the concept of “victory gardens” from World War II, where private citizens were asked to grow some of their own food in order to support the war effort.

During World War I and World War II, the United States government asked its citizens to plant gardens in order to support the war effort. Millions of people planted gardens. In 1943, Americans planted over 20 million Victory Gardens, and the harvest accounted for nearly a third of all the vegetables consumed in the country that year. Emphasis was placed on making gardening a family or community effort — not a drudgery, but a pastime, and a national duty.

The above was taken from, which is one of many organizations which are trying to bring back victory gardens. There are many potential benefits, including:

  • Financial relief from high food prices. (My favorite crops are basil and tomatoes).
  • Healthier eating through less pesticides, chemicals, and preservatives.
  • Environmental benefits from less energy spent on packaging and transportation.
  • Physical benefits from getting more exercise, sunshine, and fresh air.
  • Mental and patriotic benefits from being more self-sufficient.

The city of San Francisco has a Victory Garden 2008+ project with a goal of urban sustainability. There is even a campaign to convince the White House to plant a large Victory Garden on the First Lawn, with the produce going to the White House kitchen and to local food pantries..

Being a visual person, the motivational posters used at the time really caught my eye. I kind of want to make a large print and frame one. Here is one I found from the World War II poster collection at the New Hampshire State Library website:

And here are some more, click to see the full-sized poster:

“This poster was part of the publicity for a brilliantly mounted campaign to encourage the use of homegrown foods. Because commercially canned goods were rationed, the Victory Garden became an indispensable source of food for the home front. The Victory Garden was a household activity during the war and one of the most well received of all home front chores. At its peak, it is estimated that nearly 20,000,000 gardens were grown and about 40 percent of all vegetables produced in the U.S. came from Victory Gardens. By the end of the war the Department of Agriculture estimated total home front production of over one million tons of vegetables valued at 85 million dollars.

The Victory Gardens of WWII remain a vivid memory for many Americans who experienced them. Across the nation, home canning and preserving of farm produce flourished so that more supplies would be made available for our troops. The idea was simple in conception and inexpensive for the individual American at home to carry out. Of all the advertising techniques used to make Americans feel a part of the war effort, this was perhaps the most successful. The Victory Garden fulfilled the requirements of a good advertising campaign: that it attracts a broad and sympathetic audience at a reasonable price.”

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  1. Thanks for the mention!

  2. That looks like a great idea, and I always love a good history lesson.

    All this blogosphere talk about starting up gardens makes me want to do one too. Now all I need is a yard…

  3. No need for a yard – look up container gardening. 🙂

  4. My wife chats on a place called and the south fla region does plant swaps. Down here things grow so fast that yard clean up means that you end up throwing perfectly viable plants away. Our yard was pretty barren 4 years ago. Now it’s a thriving tropical lush fully grown garden. Along with various ornamentals, we have bananas, mangoes, pineapples, peas, mulberries, mandarin oranges, key limes, lemons, and more. And best of all… it was all free from the swaps… what would have cost me thousands of buck if I were to purchase it, was all given to us. God bless the kindness of strangers….

  5. You aught to check this out ( My sister-in-law is doing this and loves it.

  6. Here is a great book my wife bought which sums up many people’s experience with gardening… After spending tons of money on this, I think we’ve had a total of 4 edible tomatoes, and numerous carrots that grew to a total length of about 3 inches…

    The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden (Paperback)

  7. PBS has a show called Victory Garden…it has been on for years, at least 30. They have departed from stricktly a show about gardening and harvesting food to a formate that now has a cooking segment and is hosted by folks from Australia…huh, what’s up with that? Couldn’t they find any American host that new anyting about gardening?

  8. Joseph Sangl says

    DUDE! Incredible. I am a crazy gardener, and it is incredibly rewarding.

    Thanks so much for sharing the posters – so cool!


  9. Interesting that you have this in your blog as I just read a story on that says the Dems are preposing a law where the FDA would regulate even backyard gardens. Check it out:

  10. Anyone see Alice Waters on 60 Minutes last Sunday? She’s promoting establishing a Victory Garden on the White House lawn. More info here:

    What a great idea!

  11. My wife and I have been gardening since we bought our house. We tend to end up with more tomatoes that we can possibly eat and end up giving a lot away to friends and neighbors. Once you have a good homegrown tomato, you’ll never want the once bought in your local supermarket’s produce section again.

    Herbs are easy, too. Basil, rosemary and oregano are easy to grow and awesome to have during the summer (in most US climates oregano will be a perennial). Squash is also tremendously easy to grow, though I wouldn’t try it in a container.

    Either way, gardening is rewarding and fun and it doesn’t have to be stressful. Some years your bounty may be better than others, but working in your yard is refreshing and healthy. I may be 31, but I still get joy out of seeing something that I started from a seed grow and produce delicious foods. It’s amazing to me to think of how much can come from such a modest beginning.

  12. I would suggest growing plants that do well in your area — I think it’s far easier to take care of them than to try to shoehorn in plants that detest the local weather. For example, I would love to grow tomatoes (I’m originally from Missouri and we grew tomatoes as kids), but since I now live in Seattle, I would have to expend far more effort than it is worth to grow the things.

    In our yard, we’ve got blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, and I’m going to start out apples. They’re by far the best fruits that I’ve ever tasted, so it’s certainly worth it when you find plants that actually like your weather :-).

  13. Just to be a stinkweed….

    If this sort of thing were to happen now (one third of the vegetables grown at home), the farm lobby would demand (and get) billions more in subsidies.

  14. VicfromATL says

    Great Post. I totally agree with Ben and Chris.

    One needs to experiment, takes few crops to get it right. We did container gardening in the townhouse and do now on a patch as we have a yard.
    We hardly buy any veggies from outside during June-Nov, freeze many (tomatos, beans, make pesto from Basil) for the winter. It is like Liveing off the Land..don’t have to drive to supermarket that much. We give away most of it. Suprisingly, small patch produces a LOT.
    It is Healthy, loving, family(kids love it) /community building, great for environment, good workout, Stress Reliever..the benefits are endless.

    It is a Joy..connecting with nature..hear the birds chirping, seeing new seeds germinate, grow (like pets or little kids). That’s our True nature anyway.


  15. Just tonight, my wife and I were just laying out our plans for a garden. After a few years of constantly fighting weeds in our garden, which is 20×25 foot square and has generally produced pretty well–it’s just been a lot of work, so now we are going to give square foot gardening a try. From everything we’ve read, it does look like it will make weeding more manageable; however, the funny thing is that the money we’ll spend putting the boxes together and getting good soil will far outweigh any potential money savings by growing our own food. It’s like Maury’s post about the $64 tomato.

    If I were gardening solely to save money, I probably wouldn’t do it. There are other benefits such as the satisfaction of having it grow, giving the kids something constructive to participate in, working in the dirt (at least until it gets too hot), and great tasting produce.

    Good luck to all the other gardeners!

  16. Since a number of you mentioning gardening in small plots of land…

    You might want to be careful if you or neighbors have had termite treatments lately. It’s rather one of those situations where it’s probably not a problem, but some of the chemicals involved ARE poisonous to humans and CAN leach into vegetables and human food (and they obviously stay in the soil a long time). It depends on the chemicals used, and the likelihood of anything happening is small, but just realize if you’re planting within maybe 2 meters of your house or other treated area (ie, a fence, out structure, etc) (give or take of course!), there’s a chance there will be trace insecticides in your veggies. One of the things people need to keep in mind with veggie gardens is that trace environmental chemicals day-after-day and year-after-year can add up. Also makes you realize some of the things you have to take into account to TRULY be an organic gardener (a term tossed around far too lightly and without knowing it really means, imho)

    Given the fear in some comments I’ve read of tap water, teflon, and vaccines, I thought I’d just toss this out there!

  17. this blog use to be about money, now it’s about gardening and politics. Let’s get back to the basics… MONEY.

  18. I agree with Kuzbad – good point! You also have to make sure your housing development was not built on top of a landfill. I once went around with a dept. of health guy to look at property for a research project and we found people growing carrots in soil that was on top of a landfill. This type of soil is not good for growing stuff you’ll eat. The DOH guy went on a public-education campaign after that experience.

    I’ve done Square Foot Gardening 2 years now and love it. Here’s the start of my garden last year:
    Everything did very well (sorry I haven’t updated my blog in a long time) except the onions. Can’t get onions to grow here in the Northwest I guess…maybe it just didn’t get hot enough in my garden.

  19. kev – look beyond the end of your nose man. this is about money. done right, a garden can save you hundreds of dollars. i have a friend that grows all of his vegetables in his own garden every year – talk about a money saver. not to mention the stress relief and exercise/fresh air – good for the soul – thus good for your health… and good for the wallet.

    my neighbor puts a weed blocker down each year – the black stuff – then cuts holes in it for his plants – he only does a handful of things each year – his young girls enjoy “helping” in the garden. he had about 2 weeds all of last year. i may try this around some of my plants this year.

  20. Reminds me about my Russian childhood. We had to grow everything! Hey, my parents back in Russia still grow lots of staff, fruits, veggies, berries. Love that stuff! But it was hard work. I am in Miami now and too busy to grow anything on my balcony’s condo. LOL But I love gardens. Maybe some day..

  21. What do you know…

    Obamas plant a victory garden.. hehe

  22. Saver in the City says

    Thanks so much for including my post in your round-up! You were the first personal finance blog I added to my RSS feed, so it’s a huge honor to be included!

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