Posts tagged ‘Victory Gardens’

Book report: Victory Backyard Gardens (1942)

1942vbg_coverI’ve been waylaid in the backyard, working on my vegetable garden.  Some might say fruit and vegetable…there are tomatoes, tomatillos (thank you, Fox Point), cukes, peppers, and raspberries. Let ’em say what they will.

A friend gave me a yardsale find: Victory Backyard Gardens: Simple Rules for Growing your own Vegetables (1942) by T.H. Everett and Edgar J. Clissold with an intro by Secretary of Agriculture Claude Wickard. He’s the one who initially told First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt that she shouldn’t plant a victory garden at the White House and later changed his tune.

Sixty-seven years later, the book gives a firsthand glimpse at how gardeners went about their task during World War II. Intensive cultivation was the key. This was the era of shortages. As gas rationing and scrap drives made Americans conserve, so they would make the most of their available land. Succession planting, minimal space between rows, etc.

Another gardener asked me what victory gardens looked like. Here’s a sample plan:1942vbg_planThis is a lot of food! I admit I had to look up what “catch crop” (a quick growing crop to plant before or after another main crop) and “hot bed” (a cold frame over a hot surface, like manure or a heating element) meant. And though fertilizer is considered a precious resource–see the bugs panel on the left–note the compost pile in one corner of the garden.

1942vbg_2don'tsFinally, one of the distinctions of WWII victory gardens is that they were considered to be part of America’s Civilian Defense program. I love how the cartoon on the right encourages gardeners to share their surplus. Shouldn’t making sure your neighbor has something to eat make for a more secure community?

July 21, 2009 at 10:37 pm Leave a comment

Back to the 1970s: Recession gardens

090614crockettIt rains so much in Providence nowadays that I spend more time with the newspapers and online and less time in the garden. First the newspaper…

Yesterday, the Providence Journal ran a story on recession gardens. Southside Community Land Trust is expanding the Prairie Street Community Garden to accommodate more plots, and URI Master Gardener Coordinator Roseanne Sherry is hearing from more and more new gardeners this year. And the trend is national, with seed companies reporting record sales in 2009.

The last upsurge in food gardening took place during the economic crises of the 1970s.  In Rhode Island, Bristol legislator Gaetano Parella put forth four resolutions to make underused local, state, and federal land available for individual gardens in 1974. Reflecting on the victory gardens of WWII, Parella said there was “no reason why our citizens cannot do the same thing now to fight rising food costs.” A ProJo article from the same year described “Rhode Island’s growing army of backyard farmers.”

Now that you have read this newspaper article (online, perhaps), try googling “recession garden,” “recession gardens,” or “recession gardening.” Expect this term to start competing with victory garden/s/ing.

Speaking of googling, if you enter “Victory Garden,” the first entry to pop up is PBS’s television show. “The Victory Garden” began broadcasting in the mid-1970s; it was America’s first gardening program on tv. The goal was to encourage Americans to fight the recession by growing their own food. By using the name “Victory Garden,” the creators evoked nostalgia for the can-do spirit of wartime gardens. And I suppose that in 1975, nobody wanted to watch a show called “The Recession Garden.”

In 2009, we just might.

June 14, 2009 at 8:52 am 1 comment

Seed Swap Sunday!

090606seedsMy vacation from Prov became a vacation from blog. And then working in my garden became a vacation from the blog. To get back in the grind and on the grid, I want to let you know about:

Fox Point Community Garden seed swap
Sunday June 7th from 4-5:30pm
Gano Street Park, Providence

Says Christie, the garden coordinator: “come by and swap some seeds, share some advice, and get to know your fellow gardeners.”

Sounds good to me…I just dug up some irises.  Plus I have some volunteer tomatoes and dill, and some other flowers from seed to share. On the lookout for parsley, cilantro, and what have you. I don’t have a plot at Fox Point, but like many community gardens, the gardeners there are tremendously proud of their work, delighted to give tours, and happy to connect with other local gardeners. See you there!

June 6, 2009 at 9:53 am 1 comment

In the zone

451px-arcimboldo_summer_1563Thanks to everyone who stopped by Firehouse 13 last night for Green Zones: From the War Garden to Your Garden and the first-ever Urban Ag Spring Start Party.

The talks and discussion went over really well, and the seed-swapping table was hopping.  I got a chance to connect with gardeners, historians, and gardening historians from all over.

A spring party was a great outlet for gardeners with seeds, plants, and stories to share. As RI’s food gardening network continues to grow, imagine another garden event this fall?!?!?!?!

May 6, 2009 at 11:44 am Leave a comment

Today: Urban Agriculture Revival!

uswargardensoverthetop All the vegetables are ready to rumble at Firehouse 13 (41 Central Street, Providence).

Start at 5:30pm with Green Zones: From the War Garden to Your Garden. Check out 3 presentations on past and present gardening movements, and join the discussion.

Then at 7:30pm, it’s the first-ever Urban Ag Spring Start Party. Seed-swapping, plant-swapping, sharing info about garden and green groups, meeting other gardeners, etc. It’s a potluck, so bring a dish…as well as your seeds and plants to share.

Let’s start the spring together!

May 4, 2009 at 11:19 am Leave a comment

Green Zones Event…and Urban Ag Spring Start?

wargardensvictorious-wright1Check out the updated page for Green Zones: From the War Garden to Your Garden, a presentation on Victory Gardens, the Women’s Land Army of America, and how/why gardeners are growing their own food today. The event takes place on Tues., May 5, starting at 5:30pm at Firehouse 13, 41 Central St. in Providence.

A plan is stirring to hold an Urban Agriculture Spring Start Party afterwards. This will include seed/plant swapping, exchanging ideas, food, music, and kicking off the garden season together.

Community gardeners, backyard gardeners, local foodies, green folks, farmers, teachers, kids. . .can you help out with this emerging event?  Contact me at szurier at wesleyan dot edu or leave a comment, and I’ll be in touch.

April 3, 2009 at 7:17 am 2 comments

Kingston squares

1944-45-kingston1In 1943-45 (at least), a bunch of Kingston neighbors organized a victory garden with the help of a local RI State College (now University of Rhode Island) professor and several local property owners.

The group collaborated on the purchase of fertilizer, seeds, and rototilling. Each family could sign up for 4000- or 2000-square foot plots.

The same pattern of neighbors organizing community garden spaces together was repeated throughout Rhode Island and throughout the country. What was unique about the Kingston Victory Gardens was that the neighbors gardened side-by-side with professors from the the RI State College Extension Service. What the professors learned from their experience on the ground in Kingston, they could share with gardeners throughout the state through the outreach of the Extension Service. This program continues today as URI Cooperative Extension.

You can find correspondence, plot plans, gardener rosters, and other materials relating to the Kingston Victory Gardens at the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society in Kingston Village.

March 24, 2009 at 9:33 pm 1 comment

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