Pandemic Gardens: A Return to Victory Gardens

Jordan Freytag + photo

Jordan Freytag

May 7
4 min read
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After nearly eighty years, It may be time to start up Victory Gardens again!

Victory Gardens, aka "war gardens", were gardens planted on people's private property, and public lands with the aim of helping citizens become more self-reliant in regards to food supply during times of national distress. Started in December of 1941, shortly after The United States entered World War II. People were seen tilling the grass of their front lawns and parks, making these places suitable for garden beds or raised beds, converting them into sources for food. These community gardens changed the landscape of food in the US for a time. By 1941, close to half of all produce was grown by local communities. Victory gardens, now termed, Pandemic Gardens", turn "survive" into "thrive" and "sustainability" into "unity".

With the COVID-19 scare, now might be the optimal time to begin tiling our front yards and public lands to start growing our own food without an over-reliance on corporate food systems.

It would not only relieve the pressure of the national food supply, it may provide work, and a means for us to remain united local and therefore globally. Social distancing doesn't mean we have to stop being social or to stop having collective goals we work toward. Yes, let's keep a safe distance and keep washing our hands, but let's still work together as a community. A Victory Garden, or as some people have been calling them, a Virus Garden, can be a great way of achieving an independence from corporate food systems, an increase in community involvement, and an intimacy with the natural environment.

Here are the basics of getting started:

Understand your grow zone and climate -

Knowing your grow zone helps you to know what to expect from your growing season from beginning to end in regards to your place in the nation. It gives you a sort-of map of the growing season, informing you of when might be the best time to lay down seeds. Check online for your local agricultural extension for up-to-date information on the climate of your area. Extension offices are run by university employees who are experts in local crops.

Calculate your ideal harvest for you and your family -

Getting a fair estimate of how much your family consumes is a great way to establish a harvest goal. Also, plant crops that you know your family craves, so that harvest will be consistent and that no plant will be neglected.

Determine your growing space -

Whether you live in a home with a back or front yard or if you are living in an apartment with neither, you CAN grow your own food. The space you have will affect the scale of your gardening. If your apartment doesn't have a deck or patio--or even roof access--look around your community for already-established gardens, or a place where you can possibly start one. Otherwise, looking into growing microgreens, babygreens, and sprouts!

Research Cool-season versus Warm-season plants -

After you've decided WHAT your family likes to eat. Find out each plant's ideal growing season. This ties into knowing your grow zone and understanding what time of year your climate is ideal for your chosen seed. Are they a cool-season crop or a warm-season crop? For example, tomatoes and peppers are a warm-season crop because they prefer consistent temperatures above 65° to thrive and produce, whereas broccoli and cabbage need cooler temperatures to produce their fruits.

Remember to include pollinators around your crops -

Once you know what you're planting, look up some pollinators and their ideal growing season. Bringing beneficial insects, especially bees, to the garden is essential for fruit production. If pollinators aren't drawn to your garden, you may end up with a weak or less than adequate harvest.

Prepare soil -

Determine if you are planting in containers or in the ground, if you have it. If in containers, use a quality potting soil, which should contain all the nutrients your plants need to get started. If you have a piece of property to grow on, first identify if you need to remove any preexisting plants such as grass. Once you've done that, adding mulch or manure to your tilled ground is a good way to prepare ground in general without getting into the depths of nutrient balance. To read more on achieving the healthiest soil, click here.

Save your seed packets and follow instructions -

Your seed packet often has all the information pertaining to that particular seed that you'll need to have a successful crop. At times, there may be troubleshooting information in case you start experiencing problems. Just hang on to them in case you need to refer to them later for any reason.

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I agree 100%. It is time for all of us to garden! Grow and eat REAL food.


My dad shared many stories about their family Victory garden back in the early 40s. His dad found a plot outside of the urban area in which they lived and it was a weekly ritual spending Saturday at the garden with a picnic and lots of work for all. His dad, being a true patriot demonstrated in many ways, goaded family members to do the same. I think we still have a hand drawn map of their garden plans. It surely was a different time. It wasn’t all great in the kids mind though. Dad did not enjoy it one bit and disliked a number of the vegetables they grew in quantity until the day he died. As an adult he focused on flowers and roses and never grew a vegetable again. Ha! All about perspective.

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