Saturday, May 16, 2009

Grow Your own Victory Garden

With the onset of World War II, numerous challenges confronted the American people. The government found it necessary to ration food, gas, and even clothing during that time. Americans were asked to conserve on everything. With not a single person unaffected by the war, rationing meant sacrifices for all. In the spring of 1942, the Food Rationing Program was set into motion. Rationing would deeply affect the American way of life for most. The federal government needed to control supply and demand. Rationing was introduced to avoid public anger with shortages and not to allow only the wealthy to purchase commodities.

Others planted "Victory Gardens" to conserve food. For a small investment in soil, seed and time, families could enjoy fresh vegetables for months. By 1945, an estimated 20 million victory gardens produced approximately 40 percent of America's vegetables.

Training sessions were held to teach women to shop wisely, conserve food and plan nutritious meals, as well as teach them how to can food items. The homemaker planned family meals within the set limits. The government's pursuading of people to give up large amounts of red meats and fats resulted in people eating more healthily.

The government also printed a monthly meal-planning guide with recipes and a daily menu. Good Housekeeping magazine printed a special section for rationed foods in its 1943 cookbook. Numerous national publications also featured articles explaining what rationing meant to America.

Essentially it is a vegetable garden. The intention behind it is what makes it unique. Victory Gardens are a legacy of World War I, the Great Depression and World War II.

But now some say the pendulum may be swinging back. Between E. coli scares, global warming, the "buy local" movement, aging baby boomers with more time to spare and a desire to enjoy the freshest of fresh, a new wave of grow-your-own has begun.

And a new study out of St. Louis University suggests that young children in rural areas eat more fruits and vegetables when the produce is homegrown, and that garden-fed children prefer the taste of fruits and vegetables to other foods.

During World War II, some 20 million people answered the call to plant their own gardens in the name of patriotism. This time, Doiron says, the issue is about feeding the world, which is expected to grow from 6.5 billion to 9 billion people by 2045.

"It's all meant to be working toward the goal of sustainability, which we have to be working toward if we're going to feed 9 billion people nutritiously in the next 40 years or so," he said.

Here are 10 tips for starting a backyard garden in the spirit of the World War II era. The advice was assembled by Blair Randall, the director of a San Francisco project to revive victory gardens.

1. Get to know your soil. What is the history of your soil? For soils near freeways or alongside buildings older than 1978, when lead was banned in paint, consider having your soil tested for lead before growing food crops.
2. Know your climate. This will determine what plants you should purchase or seeds you can sow. North Texas is USDA Zone 7 north of LBJ Freeway or 8 south of it.
3. Add compost, add compost, add compost! Compost will greatly improve the nutrient profile of your soil and allow your soil to accept and release water. Compost is easy to make at home with either a backyard compost bin or a worm compost bin.
4. Give up part of your lawn. If you have a yard, consider turning part of it into a vegetable garden. If space is limited, use the sunniest part.
5. Plant a fruit tree. To eat a plum today from your garden, you need to have planted that tree three or four years ago. A large number of fruit trees can be purchased on semi-dwarf root stock, keeping them to a manageable size.
6. Share with your neighbors. You will grow too many tomatoes, and they will grow too much zucchini. Invite them over for a picnic, and make a salad with your extra produce.
7. Plan in the winter for your spring plantings. Order seed catalogs, and allow the excitement for the coming spring and summer to carry you through winter.
8. Eat locally. A frequently cited 2003 study found conventional produce traveled an average of almost 1,500 miles from farm to markets in Chicago and St. Louis, consuming a great deal of fuel in the journey. You can reduce those "food miles" by growing some part of your meal at home.
9. Get out into your yard by tending a garden. The flowers you plant will attract wildlife such as birds and beneficial insects to your yard, but it will also attract you to your yard.
10. Donate extra produce to your local food bank. It is common to have too much of, say, okra.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post, Paula.

    Our family has always had a small garden (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, herbs) but this year we got inspired to build a raised bed along one whole side of our backyard (about 45 feet).

    We're hoping to enjoy organic, homegrown produce all summer long, and to spread the love as well!