Many people are looking towards growing their own food in these uncertain times. But it wasn’t too long ago that people were called upon to grow their own food to support the war effort through a “victory garden.” Here’s information about growing your own food during a pandemic.
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What is a victory garden?
During World War I and World War II, in the United States and a few other countries, citizens were called upon to grow their own food during the stress and strain of feeding millions of soldiers both here and abroad. The United States government asked their people to grow a “victory garden” full of vegetables you would use in your kitchen to help with the war effort. Lots of people started planting vegetables and keeping chickens, even in some cities.
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At the time, this little additional food was to both help with morale and ease the strain on the existing infrastructure for food throughout the country. It was also during the First World War that the 1918 Spanish Flu spread around the globe. Luckily, many people had only in the last generation or so moved away from the land and thus either had a relative who grew some of their own food already or had themselves at one point in their lives. Which made getting started a little easier than perhaps this modern era.
What is survival garden?
A survival garden is a little different from a victory garden. First, it is not being requested from the government or actively campaigned. Second, it is a step further than a victory garden because it is designed to provide all the plant matter you and your family need.
It takes A LOT of plants to feed an entire family. In fact, many fruits and vegetables we have become accustomed to here in the United States are not and cannot be grown here (at least without a specialized greenhouse and extensive external resources). One of these would be bananas. Thus a diet that is consistent of what you can grow looks very different from what you are capable of buying at the grocery store.
The beauty of growing your own food is that you can prioritize what you like and learn skills to preserve the things you grow. If you a tomato growing guru, you can turn all those into pasta sauce, ketchup, canned tomatoes, salsa etc. with canning at home. A survival garden will focus on nutritionally dense, easy to grow foods that you can save seeds from.
What is a modern victory garden?
If you are like many millions of people suddenly being forced to be at home, all day everyday per your government to stop the spread of the global pandemic COVID19 (a.k.a. Coronavirus) then you might have a lot more time on your hands to garden. In addition to having more time, you may have noticed a shortage of some foods at your local grocery store. This has a lot of people looking into supplementing their diet with their own homegrown foods.
This is a modern victory garden. It is a little different in that a global pandemic, rather than war, is driving more and more people to grow their own food. It takes capital (money as well as sweat equity) to get the infrastructure you need to grow all your own produce (as in a survival garden). Finally, it also takes time.
The pandemic rose at the beginning and is continuing during spring for much of North America. Which is actually when very little can grow outdoors. In fact, this is when most people who do grow their own food are relying on the remainder of their winter squash, canned goods and early leafy greens. However, it is an excellent time to start a garden and buy some food security for the future.
Getting started with a rapid response victory garden
Don’t worry, you can and probably should garden a little food if you are able. At the very least it could be one less trip to the grocery store. There are several questions you need to ask yourself before you order soil and seeds.
First, where do you live? Check out these USDA Hardiness zones. I live in zone 8 and have lots of options in early spring due to the mild winters here. If you’re in the northern part of the US it may still be too early to plant much outside (without protections or heat). Also, you may live in apartment. In which case, you can definitely grow food but you’ll be limited by space and access to sunshine.
Second, what do you eat? Look around at your pantry and produce drawer. What food do you typically buy? If you haven’t been able to get some food, which plant foods are you missing? This is important as you are likely to tend to and help garden crops you enjoy.
Related post: Spring garden goals
It is also important to ask because some things take a loooong time to produce. Like fruit trees and almost all perrenials. For a rapid response garden you may want to reconsider these unless you are truly driven and ready to wait years for the return on investment.
Third, what is easy to grow and what will keep? Many people find some fruits and vegetables easier to grow than others. What grows fast? what can be stored for long periods of time? These are also important to consider because you’ll need to make choices especially with limited space, like many of us.
Plants for a modern victory garden
Below are some great options to consider when planning and planting your modern victory garden. There are three criteria for these: easy, fast and designed to keep for a long time. They’re not mutually exclusive so those that hit several of these will be priority.
Easy to grow plants from seed
- Peppers (sweet and hot)
- Beans (pole and bush)
- Strawberries (from starts not seed)
Fast growing crops to eat ASAP
- Swiss chard
- Beans (pole & bush)
Food to grow that stores well
- Winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, acorn, etc.)
- Onions (bulb)
- Corn (especially dent or corn for flour)
Difficult or more complicated to grow
- Perrenials, most take years to get a crop includes
- All fruit trees
- Nut trees
- Berry bushes
- Tropicals, many are not capable of growing outside of tropical regions. When they do, they die back or don’t produce food, includes:
- Onions from seed
- Almost all grains (wheat, quinoa, rye, etc.) because you need A LOT of space to grow even a portion of what you’ll need
Other food options
As many homesteaders know, there are other options to acquiring food. I have four hens that lay all the eggs my family needs. You can also keep meat animals, even in small spaces, such as quail, rabbits and meat chickens. Dairy is a little tougher but it is not hard to make nut or grain dairy alternatives. Finally, there is foraging. Parks and gathering places may be close but nature in general is not. Here in Louisiana there are lots to forage, even in my own backyard such as wood sorrel, dandelions and a random patch of elderberries.
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