Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


Back in Style: Victory Gardens

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” It is not expected or intended that we, as backyard gardeners, can or will produce enough to take care of all our individual needs. But every bit that we do will help. A garden, however small, can be made to produce quality products which few markets can supply.

Our transportation systems–the railroads, airfreight carriers, and truck lines–require vast amounts of precious energy to move foodstuffs to market, and shoppers burn incredible amounts of gasoline driving to the supermarket. Home-produced food does not have to be shipped. It is consumed right where it is produced”.

Sound familiar? Yes, but, this was taken from the introduction to The Original Victory Garden Book written by M.G. Kains in 1942. This little book will tell you practically everything you need to know to have a successful vegetable garden today, almost seventy years later. Not much has changed including our motivation. Back then it was your patriotic duty to grow some of your own food so commercial food production could go toward feeding the armed forces and industrial workers. People were encouraged to be “fit, strong, and healthy, able to do our jobs well during this emergency and afterwards”.

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Now we are bringing vegetables out of the backyard rectangular plots and integrating them into our lives and landscape. Kitchen Gardeners International is an informative virtual non-profit community of gardeners and wannabes from 96 countries dedicated to promoting global sustainability and self-reliance through home-food production. It offers a wealth of information on all aspects of growing and preparing food.

Robert Doiron founded KGI in 2003. Recently he has proposed that the next President plant a kitchen garden on the White House lawn to cover the food needs of the administration. This, in the tradition of the Victory Gardens of the 40’s, would set an example of how we can all play our part in supporting sustainable food systems. His proposal, “Eat the View,” is posted on www.ondayone.org — a website where people have recorded their visions for the next President.


This idea is not as radical as it sounds. According to Rose Hayden-Smith, a historian and garden educator, several presidents and first ladies have had gardens at the White House starting with John Adams. During WWI, Woodrow Wilson had sheep grazing on the lawn to save fuel and labor while his wife Edith planted vegetables. Just after Pearl Harbor, Eleanor Roosevelt grew peas and carrots on the White House lawn. By the end of the war, 40 percent of our country’s produce came from home gardens. To read more — NYTimes article, “Out of the Yard and Onto the Fork”.

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It seems we are once again motivated by a desire to be healthy and to save our planet for those who come after us. (The incredible garden in the photos above belongs to a new friend who lives in Lake Forest Park).

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2 Responses »

  1. I planted my first ever garden this year, and I can’t tell you how rewarding I’m finding it. I am startled at my success so far, as well, as we’re regularly harvesting lettuce, radishes, and strawberries now, and our other crops appear to be flourishing.

    I read that in the 1940s some two fifths of produce was grown at home, in victory gardens. That’s a huge percentage! I’m nowhere near that close, but every bite I take out of my garden is local, organic, and somehow so much more delicious than anything else I’ve tasted.

  2. Kristina,
    Your garden story is inspiring. Keep on growing your own!