A Victory Garden is virtually unknown to a populace currently searching to fight back against the COVID-19 virus, the enemy of this generation. Commonly known as war gardens or food gardens for defense, Victory Gardens accounted for close to 40% of the fresh vegetables grown during World War II. Estimates vary on the number of Victory Gardens during that time ranging to upwards of 20 million. It was a call to action to join in a common bond to support the war effort by working the land and being self-sufficient. It was a shared experience during a time of hardship and uncertainty.
The parallels to then and now are stark. Fast forwarding 75 years to 2020, we find ourselves in a similar situation as many feel the need to grow their own food. It’s a way to be self-sufficient, mentally rewarded and fulfilled during trying times.
Gardeners have long appreciated the gifts that come from the ground, both for their valuable produce and cultivated beauty. This labor of love is amazingly rewarding and equally frustrating. You’re totally at the whim of nature. No growing season is ever the same as the last. You are always learning and adjusting on the fly to whatever is thrown at you by the weather, animals and insects. This love/hate relationship keeps gardeners endeavoring year in and year out.
The trend toward people getting dirt under their fingernails gardening is exploding. Burpee, a major online catalog and retail supplier, is reporting a double-digit increase in seed sales. Local nurseries and garden centers have increased stock considerably over previous years. Visits to these retail establishments over the past few weeks show a noticeable increase in customers that make weekdays look like weekends. There is an insatiable desire to purchase items to plant and grow, whether in a bed or a container.
What gardening newbies are going to learn is that once you get a “taste” of gardening, it usually sticks with you for life. Watching the amazing growth of plants that literally happens before your eyes. The explosion of colorful flowers in bloom. The dark green zucchini, brilliant red tomatoes and the bright yellow squash paint a palette of visual delight. Harvesting produce that goes straight from the garden to the table. Suddenly farm-to-table takes on a very different and personal meaning. One of accomplishment and pride knowing that you grew it yourself. It provides a sense of control in a world where much individual control has lately been lost.
Much about gardening is deeply personal, from selecting the plants that you grow to the time you put into taking care of them. There is a sense of tranquility that comes from being one with a garden. Troubles seem to melt away when you immerse with living things. It gives families a chance to share and learn together in a garden, both adults and children. There is sure to be an explosion of community gardens going forward, and with it the untold benefits of personal engagement in the pursuit of growing produce that comes from seeds planted in the soil.
The fruits of the labor are both seen and unseen. The produce that you harvest is a real bonus, but the physic income that is derived from being immersed with a garden can’t be calculated. You can experience the intoxicating fragrance of lavender and rosemary in an herb garden. The calming presence in the early morning with dew dripping off plants, or the sun reflecting off flowers in the late afternoon. This visual tapestry paints a mosaic that gardeners have long appreciated and valued.
The 2020 Victory Gardens create the opportunity to leave an imprint on many, not just this year but for many years to come. Victory Gardens used to be promoted through poster art in the 40’s; now it arrives in the form of Instagram posts. We’re feeding a family rather than a nation. What hasn’t changed is the ability to fight back against an enemy in our own very individual way.
Gardening nourishes the body as well as the soul. You get so much more out of it than you put in. Like in life, you’ll have many successes and failures along the way. It’s our collective opportunity to achieve personal growth during a very difficult time. Get outside today. Start a garden, however big or small. Experience the difference that gardening can make in your life and declare victory in a way that works for you.
The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut, Inc.