Even with the current events going on, we are lucky as Americans to have a stable food supply system. Many of us garden as a hobby and are able to supplement some of our normal groceries with things we have produced in our own gardens. In the early 1900’s many families solely depended upon the gardens they grew in their own backyards. During the First and Second World Wars these backyard gardens played a much bigger role in the battle against food insecurity.
Victory gardens were encouraged by the US government in an effort to avoid food shortages that had occurred with the First World War. Citizens were, at first, encouraged to grow War gardens, which quickly became called victory gardens. These gardens were grown in a variety of locations; backyards, window boxes, and even on top of apartment roofs in cities. Experienced gardeners assisted new or green gardeners as they went through their first growing season. Even some of the first Agriculture Extension Agents were involved with helping promote and grow these gardens.
It was recommended that garden plots be 1/10 of an acre for each member of a family. Each one of these plots should focus on succession planting where you can get the most out of that one spot. Start with some early season crops like lettuce and spinach, then follow in with your summer loving crops like tomatoes.
Excess food was shared between families and neighbors. Gardeners were also encouraged to preserve their items to make them last throughout the winter months.
I want to encourage you to think about growing a little extra this year. Even if we were not in the current situation that we are in, it’s always nice to have a bountiful harvest to feed our families. Think about sharing extra produce with a neighbor (while practicing social distancing) who may not be able to get out as easily and make trips to the grocery. Take this opportunity to get outside, get your hands in the soil, relax, and enjoy the rewarding feeling of growing your own food.
Submitted by: Jessica Bessin, Mercer County Extension Agent for Horticulture