Plant World

Soil, Gardening, and Farming

What was a victory garden?

During World War II, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard (1893–1967) encouraged home owners to plant vegetable gardens wherever they could find space. Everyone believed that the produce from such gardens would help lower the price of vegetables needed by the U.S. War Department to feed the troops, thus saving money that could be spent elsewhere on the military. In addition to indirectly aiding the war effort, these gardens were also considered a civil “morale booster”—individual gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce that was grown. This made victory gardens a part of the daily life on the home front. By 1945 there were said to be 20 million victory gardens producing about 40 percent of all American vegetables in many unused scraps of land. Such sites as the strip between a sidewalk and the street, town squares, and the land around Chicago’s Cook County jail were used. The term “victory garden” derives from an English book by that title written by Richard Gardner in 1603.


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