Victory Gardens Are Making a Comeback Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
At the moment most of us feel that we have lost all sense of control. And since there is no guarantee that life will ever feel normal again, many people look for their own feeling of security, whether by baking comfort foods (read: banana bread), trying out new craft projects or gardening for the first time.
In particular, interest in gardening has increased in recent months, partly due to seasonal changes, but also due to an increasing fear of food supplies during the coronavirus outbreak. According to Google Trends, interest in growing a garden reached an all-time high at the end of March, while the search for “growing vegetables from scrap” increased by 4,650% compared to the previous year.
Kindergartens, hardware stores and garden centers in all parts of the country report that seeds, plants and garden tools fly off the shelves. George Ball, the chairman of Burpee Seeds, said Reuters that they sold more seeds in March than ever in their 144-year history, which forced the company to hold new orders for a week to catch up. Even social media reflects this growing demand: as of now, the hashtag #victorygarden has been added to more than 66,000 Instagram posts.
And really, it makes perfect sense. According to COVID-19, Feeding America, the nation’s largest food bank network, is expected to serve an additional 17 million people in the next six months due to COVID-19 Market place. Even those who weren’t financially affected by the pandemic are trying to avoid grocery stores at all costs, especially given the outdated shelves, increasing meat shortages, and current social distance policies.
While some parts of the country are returning to a (new) normal, this experience has emphasized the value of growing your own food in times of crisis. “They don’t want to go public, but they also want nutritious food safety, and there’s no better way to do that than to grow yourself,” said Ron Vanderhoff of Roger’s Gardens CBS Sunday morning.
The concept is not entirely new. During World War I, Americans were encouraged to grow their own food in “war gardens” as the food crisis grew. Many farmworkers were recruited into the military, which meant that there weren’t enough people to plant, fertilize, and harvest crops. In addition, the railway companies have reserved fewer wagons for the transport of food so that they can transport more military personnel at any time.
Just before America entered the war, Charles Lathrop Pack organized the National War Garden Commission to ensure that Americans could feed their families, the military, and their allies during the war. Gardens appeared in parks, schoolyards, fire escape, backyards and vacant lots. By 1918, more than five million new gardens had been created. Together, the gardens, now affectionately referred to as the “Victory Gardens”, produced around 1.45 million liters of cans of fruit and vegetables.
While some people tended their gardens during the Depression, the need for victory gardens came back during World War II. However, this time the focus was different: Americans were encouraged to plant gardens wherever they could to practice self-sufficiency. “They can help win the battle for food production. They can help our fighters get the food they need. They can help save the vital metals in the commercial canning industry,” says a radio advertisement from the Year 1943.
After signing food rationing in 1942, the Americans had another reason to try gardening. As a sign of solidarity, Eleanor Roosevelt even planted a victory garden on the lawn of the White House. It is estimated that 20 million victory gardens were created during World War II, which produce more than 40% of the country’s fruits and vegetables.
Past and present, victory gardens promote morality, relieve local farmers, and fight the demand for food. Similar to cleaning and baking, caring for a garden relieves stress and anxiety that peak in unprecedented times like this. “When we interact with green outdoor environments, we tend to breathe deeper and more regulated,” says Monique Allen, author of Stop landscaping and start living, tell us. Ultimately, “it oxygenates the blood and releases endorphins, which are natural pain relievers and mood enhancers.”
And if you’re worried that you’ve waited too long to create your own victory garden, here’s some good news: depending on where you live, The old peasant’s almanac says you have until June 2 to plant most of the fruits and vegetables, especially seasonal offerings like peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, pumpkins, and watermelons.