Is it Time You Created Your Own ‘Victory Garden’?

Is it Time You Created Your Own ‘Victory Garden’?

gardening with raised bed
by Ilja

Is it time you created your own Victory Garden? There seems to be a lot of interest at the moment in growing food in our own yards, and this harks back to the idea of a Victory Garden that was popular during the first and second world wars. Victory Gardens were encouraged as they were seen as a way of helping the war effort, involving ordinary folk in meeting basic needs for their families and communities. The reasons for wanting to grow our own food are many:

Economic pressures on families lead us to find ways to cut down on our grocery bills, and growing food in our own yards really does help with this
A yearning for seasonal vegetables in a world where supermarkets ship in food from all over the world to provide us with summer delicacies in the winter
The hunt for unusual or heirloom varieties among the bland choices in the supermarket
Concerns about the conditions under which our food is mass produced and the impact this has on our health and the environment make growing produce in our own back yards appealing because we can choose to grow it without the use of chemicals and pesticides
The distance food typically travels to get to our plates, so called food miles, is between 1500 and 2500 miles. The energy used for just the transportation is huge, let alone the packaging and processing that needs to go along with that.
Many families with young children want to share the wonder of growing their own food with them, so that the children grow up to appreciate nature and the true taste of fresh produce picked right from the garden

Where Can I put my Victory Garden? Build a raised vegetable garden in a sunny spot. When considering where to put your garden, don’t rule out your front yard. By building an attractive raised bed garden, and perhaps edging it with a low hedge or a living wall, you can make it look beautiful. And honestly, what is more useful in these times – a decorative lawn that needs lots of water, fertilizer and constant maintenance, or an attractive vegetable and fruit garden that can feed your family and give you a huge sense of satisfaction with less resources?

How big should I make my Victory Garden? My suggestion is to start small. I have come across many people who have built large vegetable gardens with grand plans, only to find that it becomes too much work. As Lisa Singer, VP of Gardens To Gro, says

“Who wants to be a part-time farmer? … The goal is to have a garden that, on average, does not require more than 15 minutes of work per week. Vegetable gardening is a fun hobby – don’t make it a job by building a garden that is too big”

A rectangular garden should be twice as wide as your arm’s reach with about two or three feet on either side for access. For an average woman, this would make your garden area four feet wide and as long as you need or are able. With the additional walkways either side you are looking at a space that is about 8 feet wide.

We have found L-shaped beds maximize the growing area, while they make it easy to tend to the plants. A set of four of these beds provides a very attractive semi-formal look, with the possibility of a bench or birdbath in the center. In this layout, each section of the L is about four feet wide, while the ends are two feet. This whole garden requires a minimal space that is 10 feet square.

San Diego based Gardens to Gro provide a range of garden kits ranging in size from 8 foot by 8 foot, to 8 foot by 12 foot. Their gardens are arranged in a U shape, and come complete with fencing and a gate to protect against bunnies, wire mesh to protect against gophers, and their own dedicated irrigation system and hose. Their smallest gardens feed a family of four, while the larger model will feed a family of five or six.

How should I build my Victory Garden? Raised beds built using timber provide an easy construction option. Avoid using pressure treated timber or railroad ties, as these materials contain chemicals that could contaminate your food. Lee Valley Tools sell Raised Bed stakes making the corner joints for vegetable beds easy, and flexible. The beds can be a variety of shapes, and the staking feature means you can make the bed taller to reduce the amount of bending you need to do. A typical sitting height is 18-22″ so you will need at least three stakes for each corner, and three pieces of 2″x6″ lumber for each side. Other traditional choices for building your Victory Garden include mortared wall blocks or retaining wall blocks. For some unusual materials consider recycled concrete, straw bales, sand bags and recycled bottles.

What if I don’t have room for a dedicated Victory Garden?

Think about combining vegetable plants with flowers in your yard, front or back. The idea of so-called edible gardening is also very popular, and many edible plants combine well with ornamentals. Our Mediterranean climate means that plants such as rosemary, thyme and oregano do really well here with very little maintenance, and yet they provide fragrance, color and edible goodness. Fruit trees such as pomegranate, dwarf citrus and figs can be used for shade, flower, fruit and fragrance in the edible landscape. Grape vines and espaliered apple provide us with wonderful opportunities to create living fences.
Use your patio or balcony for containers, and grow vegetables, fruit and herbs in those. Even a bright kitchen windowsill can be used to grow sprouts.
Sign up for a plot at a community garden. Community gardens exist in Escondido, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Fallbrook, San Marcos and Poway. For between and per year you can grow your own Victory Garden even if you live in an apartment.
Get creative and look around your local area. Perhaps a neighbor or friend without time or ability would let you garden their yard, in exchange for some produce.

Useful sites and further information

Revive the Victory Garden – is an organization that provides useful information about creating Victory Gardens to grow food at home, canning and preserving the excess, and the concept of food miles – how far your food has traveled between the farm and the plate
For a discussion on Food Miles see
San Diego based Gardens to Gro – provide vegetable garden kits in a range of sizes. Their site contains a useful planting calendar for Southern California as well as good advice about sizing a vegetable garden so that it stays a hobby and not a part time job
A list of community gardens and the contact information can be found on the San Diego Master Gardener Association website

Written by YardFairy

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