During the two world wars, when food was in short supply, someone came up with the idea of growing food in public places like parks or community garden plots or private gardens in order to supplement the need for fresh food. In order to extend the food being rationed, such as meat, eggs, milk and butter etc., it was an effort not just in the United States but also in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, and Australia. As a young girl growing up in Cheshire, England during the war years, I remember everyone’s yards were growing food not grass. It was such a tremendous effort by private citizens. That was how it got its name, the Victory Gardens, also called the War Gardens.
It is said that there were millions of Victory Gardens in the United States. Many schools around the country dug up playgrounds to plant Victory Gardens and used what they grew for school lunches. Vegetables were grown in window boxes, on the roof tops, and in pots. The different foods were shared in the community. The possibilities were endless.
The government printed out recipe books on how to prepare homegrown vegetables to make tasty meals and how to can the extra food for winter.
There were also tips on how to make seeds work in different climates.
So, maybe it could be done now at this time of stress and uncertainty.
A good selection would be everyday veggies like tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, beets, peas, cabbage, broccoli and if you are really good, cauliflower. Plant Swiss chard and kohlrabi as they are easy to grow. Once the veggies are planted, how about fruit? Well, put in some berry bushes like raspberries and blackberries but these two need to have “social distancing” as they will cross pollinate. Strawberries and blueberries are also excellent choices. Not enough room for strawberries? Grow them in flower beds, they make excellent ground cover and the strawberries can be eaten when ripe.
Urbana’s own Market Street Gardens is a fine example of community garden plots and how much food can be grown in a small area. Many communities in America and throughout the world have these community gardens. Perhaps, a group of neighbors could join together to form a small residential garden and share the harvest.
To read more on the Victory Gardens and community gardens, go to the internet. It is fascinating to read all that was done with the food ordinary citizens grew and what a community can do together today.
Paddy Barr is an OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Champaign County.