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Gardener's Dirt: Victory gardens revisited

By Helen R. Parks - Victoria County Master Gardener Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
May 26, 2011 at 12:26 a.m.

Victory garden salad recipes were often printed on materials promoting war efforts in World War II. This magazine clipping with recipes is indicative of the time with, "Save Ration Points - Save Fuel - Save Time - Get Vitamins with Salads From Your Victory Garden!"

With Memorial Day on Monday, we are reminded of the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform who, through the years, have stood for freedom all over the world. In previous war time, civilian Americans were asked to support the war effort in various ways by turning to the simpler ways of life and to make do with less.


As a sacrifice for our country, Americans were called to make sacrifices in their daily lives to support the troops during the world wars. Government rationing of food staples took America to a new era when they were issued stamps to purchase these items. As a result, they turned to their farms and families to supply their food supplies. Shortages in fuel and labor also made it difficult to reach stores and harvest crops for the nation. The government responded with a campaign for Americans to plant "Victory Gardens."

According to Wikipedia, such gardens, also called War or Food Gardens for Defense, planted fruits, vegetables and herbs at their residences and U.S. public parks. It became a morale booster and contribution of labor as well as a much-needed reward by the produce growers.


In March 1917 during World War I, food produce fell dramatically. With most of the male population called to military service and European farms bombed in the conflict, it was left to the population with land and manpower already engaged in agriculture to take up the reins and provide for the war-torn countries.


Nearly 20 million patriotic Americans planted gardens on every land plot available. Some city dwellers used their roof tops, and even city parks pooled labor in communities across the nation. Many different crops were planted, and bartering with neighboring communities was how the cooperatives were formed. Large fields of squash and corn were planted for these community co-ops. Families planted gardens in their backyards and preserved their produce. It was your patriotic duty to plant and preserve your own food supplies, and families saved money while enjoying the freshly harvested crops.


Magazines of the time published articles for women about victory gardens and growing foods and preserving them. By canning their own vegetables, families were able to save canned foods for the military troops. The number of pressure cookers sold during the war effort quadrupled due to the food shortages. More than 20 million victory gardens planted and harvested 9-10 million tons of fruits and vegetables - 40 percent of all the vegetable produce consumed nationally. After the war ended, so did the family gardens, according to Wikipedia. Only two victory gardens remain in the U.S. today, in Boston and Minneapolis.

Recently, a grassroots campaign promoting such gardens has recently sprung up in the form of new victory gardens in public spaces, to both renew a national campaign for the victory garden and to raise awareness about healthy food.


Start a victory garden for your family in your own backyard. It can be cost-effective and easy to grow. Gardens boost the availability of fresh, nutritious, food. Growing vegetables during the summer months means non-perishable, frozen and/or canned food can be saved for winter. If there is a surplus of food, some may be sold at the Farmers Market to help raise money to offset garden expenses - or donated to area shelters.

Charming Vintage Recipes: Preserving Recipes and Cookbooks from the Past Century,, is a great resource highlighting victory garden recipes. With the cost of fuel and produce rising, fewer trips to the grocery store can make victory gardening pay off for you. To get started in gardening, contact any of the Victoria County Master Gardeners, call Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Victoria County at 361-575-4581 or go to the Extension website

The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at



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