Victory Gardens: Why You And Your Family Should Start One
In this worldwide crisis, many people are turning to gardening to relive stress and provide for their families. Victory Gardens are popping up in yards and people are coming together to share their produce and knowledge about growing. In this time of hardship, many people are feeling anxious, worried about the future of the food supply, and struggling with staying home. But we gardeners know that suddenly being asked to stay home means we now have more time to grow a better garden and give more time and effort to taking care of what we are hoping to grow.
I have always loved gardening because it is a creative way to express myself and take some “Me Time” where I know I won't usually be bothered. Gardening lowers cortisol levels and reduces stress!
But now I feel that my gardening is part of a bigger effort to help support my community and take some of the workload off others.
During World War II, Americans began gardening to not only provide food for their families but to support the war effort. Victory Gardens have returned to homes around the world. People are turning to gardening once again to grow food and medicine for their families. Victory gardens or “war gardens” were important during the 1930s and 1940s, and were how many people were able to feed their families and neighbors with what they could grow.
Because of Covid-19, many people are growing scared of grocery store produce, we can't go to farm stands this spring, and large farms are throwing away millions of pounds of product because they can't get it to the customers before it rots. This disease has changed us, and the way we see produce.
I’ve been a lifelong gardener, but I have to admit, this year it feels like there is more urgency to turn my beds into food production mode, and fewer flowers.
Why turn to gardening?
Besides helping to relieve some of the fears and stress about food production, people have been turning to gardening to help them manage anxiety and to feel more connected. There is a connection that most garden fanatics all agree on, that makes you feel like the work you are doing helps you to feel more “grounded,” and the physical digging into the soil is therapeutic.
Gardening can also improve your health. Gardening has actually been shown to lower your BMI. Studies have found that women community gardeners had an average BMI 1.84 lower than their neighbors, which translates to an 11 pound weight difference for a woman 5 feet 5 inches tall. For men, the BMI was lower by 2.36 for gardeners — a difference of 16 pounds for a man 5 feet 10 inches tall — compared to the neighborhood cohort. Gardeners were also less likely to be overweight or obese; 46 percent less for women gardeners, and 62 percent less for men gardeners.
The Victory Gardens of the past helped Americans take action against going hungry. Everyone planted gardens filled with whatever they could grow in the space they had. Today's gardens are similar, we are planting on rooftops, front yards, and patios. We plant to not only feed our families, but to share what we have with others. Let's take some of the weight off the food system, and work hard to grow as much food as we can. It's great for our mental health and our physical bodies.
Gardening can be an act of rebellion
For many years, we have moved away from growing our own food and turned valuable land into lawns or covered it over with cement. In fact, some areas have even outlawed growing food-producing vegetation in your own yard. HOA groups would hand out citations to people who dared to replace chemical driven lawns with garden space.
“Guerilla Gardening” and “Pea Patches” have popped up when communities have demanded changes and options for inner-city residents to grow their own affordable food. This defiant act of planting gardens in spaces like abandoned sites and areas not being cared for has spread like weeds, and now townships and cities are embracing this rebellion with community gardens and edible public forests.
In 2011, Ron Finley– a resident of South Centra L.A. decided not only to dedicate space for his own garden but to start teaching other residents how to do it for themselves. He faced threats and even arrest for installing raised beds along sidewalks. The “Gangsta Gardener” now speaks professionally not only about how to grow fabulous gardens in any environment, but how this act of rebellion is a movement of peace. You can take Ron Finley's Gangsta Gardener Class online.
Gardening is taking back control.
In the early days of the pandemic, there was a rush on guns and ammo, toilet paper, and security systems to protect your homes. People were scared, many still are. That fear comes from feeling like you have no control over what's happening. Guns are not helping the many hungry people in your community, but gardening certainly is. And that's something we can control.
I turned to gardening after being diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I was faced with a lot of uncertainties and fears about my disease and how I would be able to raise my children.
I had always grown small gardens of flowers and herbs. Still, after getting a fearful diagnosis, I needed something I could physically do that helped give me action instead of anxiety.
I’m not a drinker. I wasn’t big into social activities before Covid-19. But gardening is the one thing that I think about all year long. It has grown from a weekend “time out” to a lifelong passion. I love watching my work go from seeds to the dinner table. This passion has spread from me to my children, who are now all grown with gardens of their own.
There is something magical about turning your thoughts and hands to the soil. The sound of the birds, the smell of newly harvested herbs and fresh-turned earth, and the taste of your hard work when you bite into a tomato you nurtured from seed to salsa all drive the effort to grow a bountiful garden.
This isn't a political rant, but if we had put more emphasis on teaching people how to grow their own food, how to can and freeze for later, and how to rely on their own skills to eat, we would be a better country. My Great-Grandparents taught me that I needed to be able to survive “The Great Depression” with seeds and beans because they worried that history would repeat itself. And for many, it is.
Gardening brings people together
I’m an introvert, and it’s hard for me to make new human connections. But I’ve met so many people through gardening groups online, farmer's markets, and plant swaps. Gardening can be a great social opportunity.
Covid-19 has brought people together to talk about Victory Gardens, got more people talking and teaching about how to grow simple food in the safety of their yards. It’s even sparked topics like marijuana legalization and the ability to grow in your yard.
What should I start my garden with?
We suggest if you are starting a new garden, that you choose crops that are easy and quick. Here are a few of our favorite easy growers that are good to begin late in the season:
Also, check out our guide to starting your quarantine garden.
We love to can our fruits and vegetables so we have plenty for all year long. We can, dry, and freeze as much as we can so nothing goes to waste. I still have a couple jars of canned tomatoes from last summer we are about to use instead of venturing out to the grocery store madness.