Why Every Vintage Housewife Needs To Grow a Victory Garden

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Victory Gardens were a vital part of the war effort in the past, and they can be a vital part of building a sustainable and resilient food system for the future. If you’re looking to improve your health and well-being while also reducing your environmental impact, there’s no better place to start than in your own backyard. By growing your own vegetables in a kitchen garden, you can enjoy a range of benefits that will improve your physical health, mental well-being, and environmental sustainability.

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What is a Victory Garden?

Originally, Victory Gardens were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens planted during World War I and II to supplement food supplies and boost morale. Outside of wartime, they are usually called kitchen gardens. Kitchen gardens, also known as potagers, have been around for centuries and have played a vital role in households’ food production.

Kitchen gardens were an essential part of medieval life and were primarily used to provide herbs and vegetables for medicinal and culinary purposes. During the 17th century, kitchen gardens became more ornamental, and their primary function shifted from a source of medicinal and culinary plants to a place for relaxation and entertainment. Flowers, herbs, and topiaries were popular additions to these gardens, which were typically situated near the house.

In the 20th century, kitchen gardens became known as Victory Gardens, and their purpose shifted once again. During World War I and II, the government encouraged people to plant these gardens as a way to supplement their food rations. The initiative was so successful that it resulted in the production of over 9 million pounds of food in the United States alone. 

Why You Should Grow a Victory Garden

If you’re looking to improve your health and well-being while also reducing your environmental impact, there’s no better place to start than in your own backyard. By growing your own vegetables in a kitchen garden, you can enjoy a range of benefits that will improve your physical health, mental well-being, and environmental sustainability.

A Return to the Past

Victory Gardens can help create a healthier and happier world for all. Today, the Victory Garden movement is being revived to encourage people to grow their own food, to promote self-sufficiency, sustainability, and better health. 

A Nostalgic Way to Eat

Growing a kitchen garden is a way to return to the past when families ate wholesome, home-cooked meals made from scratch. The 1930s and 1940s were marked by war rationing, which meant that families had to rely on their own gardens to supplement their diets. Today, we can rediscover the joy and satisfaction of growing our own produce and using it to make delicious, nutritious meals.

Get Back to Basics

Cooking from scratch is not only a way to enjoy healthier meals, but it’s also an opportunity to reconnect with the rhythms of nature and the seasons. By cooking with local, seasonal ingredients, we can reduce our carbon footprint, support our local farmers, and enjoy the freshest, most flavorful produce available.

Sustainability is Key

Growing a kitchen garden and cooking from scratch is an important step towards creating a more sustainable food system. By reducing our reliance on processed and packaged foods, we can reduce the amount of waste we produce and lessen the environmental impact of our food choices.

A Healthier You

Eating a diet rich in fresh vegetables is one of the best things you can do for your health. Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and can help reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Save Money

Growing your own vegetables can also save you money in the long run. By reducing your reliance on store-bought produce, you can reduce your grocery bills and enjoy the satisfaction of eating food you’ve grown yourself.

A Fun Family Activity

Gardening is a great way to spend quality time with your family and teach your children about where food comes from. By involving your kids in the gardening process, you can help them develop a love and appreciation for fresh, healthy food.

Resources for Starting a Victory Garden

Hands down, the best books for starting this garden are The Joy Of Gardening by Dick Raymond, and also Dick Raymond’s Gardening Year. Both of these books were published in the 1980s, but Dick Raymond was gardening in the 1940s, and teaching in the 1960s. The amount of practical wisdom and experience in these books is phenomenal.

Vintage Tips to Start Your Victory Garden

Vegetable gardening, like any other gardening, isn’t a thing that can be learned overnight. But you can save yourself a great many disappointing mistakes and much valuable time by learning, from the experience of others, a few of the most important factors of success.

The most important half-dozen things for the beginner with vegetables to keep in mind are:

1: Don’t attempt too much in the first year.

Starting a garden can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never done it before. Don’t try to take on too much at once. Start with a small plot and a few easy-to-grow vegetables like lettuce, radishes, and green beans. As you gain experience, you can expand your garden and try more challenging plants.

Understanding your local climate and growing season is essential to successful gardening. Research what vegetables grow best in your area and when to plant them for the best results.

And there’s no point in growing vegetables you won’t eat! Consider your family’s tastes and choose vegetables that you’ll enjoy eating.

2: Select the sure-fire things to start with

Some vegetables are easier to grow than others. Choose the ones that are most likely to succeed in your garden.

Some of the easiest vegetables to grow include lettuce, spinach, radishes, green beans, and tomatoes. These vegetables don’t require a lot of special care and are more likely to thrive in your garden.

Starting with transplants, rather than seeds, can give you a head start. Transplants are already established and have a better chance of surviving.

Traditional gardens, laid out in rows are the best place to begin. 

3: Have the ground adequately prepared

Proper preparation of the soil is essential to growing healthy plants.

Before you start planting, you need to know what your soil needs for plants to thrive. Your local agricultural extension office can provide you with a soil test kit, or you can find an experienced gardener whose plants you admire and pick their brain!

Adding organic matter, such as compost, is always a good idea. It improves soil quality and help your plants grow stronger and healthier.

Raised beds can be a good option if you have poor soil quality or drainage issues. They also make gardening easier by reducing the need for bending and kneeling, 

4: Get planting done on time

Timing is everything in gardening. Research the best time to plant each vegetable in your area. There is a best time for anything you plant. Planting too early or too late results in poor growth or no yield at all.

Weather conditions also affect your plants’ growth and health. Pay attention to the forecast and take steps to protect your plants from extreme heat or cold.

You can also look into succession planting, which maximizes your garden’s productivity throughout the growing season, but this is a somewhat advanced skill!

5: Keep weeds under control, and ground well cultivated

Weeds can compete with your vegetables for nutrients and water. Keeping them under control is essential to your garden’s success. A well-maintained garden not only looks good but also keeps pests and diseases at bay. 

Invest in good quality gardening tools such as a hoe, spade, and hand trowel. These tools make it easier to keep the soil free of weeds and cultivate it to the right depth.

Water properly, such as in the morning or evening when the sun is not too strong. This helps the plants to absorb the water better and avoids evaporation. Avoid getting the leaves wet, as this can lead to fungal diseases.

Mulching around plants can help to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and regulate soil temperature. Use organic materials such as straw, hay, or leaves, and spread a layer of mulch around the plants to a depth of 2-3 inches.

Remember, in summer, it’s always weeding, weeding, weeding. Make it a habit to walk through the garden daily and remove any weeds as soon as you spot them. This helps prevent them from taking hold and ensures they don’t compete with your vegetables for nutrients and water.

6: Be prepared to fight insects before they get a start

Insects can quickly take over your garden and cause damage to your plants. It’s important to be proactive and take steps to prevent them from taking hold. You can do this by using natural pest control methods, such as companion planting and using insect-repelling plants, or by employing chemical pesticides. 

Keep your garden clean and free of plant and garden debris, which can attract pests. Set up barriers to keep pests out, such as row covers or netting.

Check your plants regularly for signs of damage or infestation, and take action quickly to prevent further damage.

7: Know how to preserve your produce

Even after all your hard work growing your own produce, the housewife’s work is never done! You still need to preserve it properly so that you can enjoy it for months to come. There are many methods for preserving vegetables, including canning, freezing, and drying. 

Canning is a great way to preserve vegetables for long-term storage. It requires some special equipment, but the results are well worth the effort. The traditional recommendation was to can 85-115 quarts of fruits and vegetables for each family member.

Freezing is a very modern but quick and easy way to preserve vegetables. Simply blanch them in boiling water, then freeze them in freezer bags or containers. It requires a lot of energy to maintain the storage, however, which is why other methods may be preferable.

Drying is a good option for herbs and certain vegetables, such as tomatoes. You can dry them in a dehydrator or in the sun. Storage is usually very simple.

If these six points are kept in mind, and followed, I can guarantee satisfaction even to the neophyte who has never before grown a vegetable.

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4 thoughts on “Why Every Vintage Housewife Needs To Grow a Victory Garden”

  1. We have a large garden but I am wondering…how in the world does caring for it fit in with all of the homrmaking schedules? I have been trying to figure that one out for a long time! it seems like I can have either a clean house OR a well kept garden, but not both. Never mind all the time that goes into preserving. 😄

    1. Kari McCloskey

      It is so reassuring to read that comment! I feel the same way! I can’t wait for Emily to answer.

    2. By the 1950s, most housewives were no longer dependent on a garden for fresh food, but my 1910s housekeeping manual replaces sewing with gardening during the summer months. So those couple of hours in the afternoon, you’d devote to gardening and preserving.

      Here, it is usually hot or raining in the afternoon, so I usually do my garden work right after breakfast (except on laundry day), do the rest of my work in the late morning, and do food preserving in the afternoon, right before dinner prep, after the rain cools all the things.

      Also, I make my kids spend a lot of time outside, and I switch toys, clothes, and furnishings for summer to make my housekeeping lighter during the summer months.

      Hope this helps!

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