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Victory gardens---an idea that was lost to me. I had never heard of victory gardens before I came across this old photo of my great-grandfather with my grandfather and his brother. The story I am told is that this photo was taken on the day they planted their first WWII victory garden.
Growing up in a family that had members in every war from the War for Independence from England to the Gulf Wars, I thought I knew everything there was to know about life during the trying times of war. I had seen the photos in the albums and heard the stories of bravery and loss, but there was at least one more story these albums had to share. Finding the old photo and hearing my grandfather’s sweet memories of the victory garden and the brothers and cousins they had planted it in honor of, I knew that I needed to learn more.
The idea to plant a garden and make every yard work for the nation came from the United States government.. I have been told that there was not a yard to be found in Eastern Oklahoma that was not given, in part or full, to a victory garden. The idea was simple. Every person would plant all they could in order to take the pressure off the national food supply. These gardens also gave many a worried mother and father something to fill their time with during the long months of waiting for their sons to come home.
The call to “Plant more in 44” was answered by over 20 million Americans. Our counterparts in England and many other friendly nations also took part in the effort. The end result was that the U.S. War Department could buy the mass produced fruits and vegetables cheaply if the people back home would produce their own.
My grandfather called his little vegetable plot a victory garden until the day he had to stop gardening because of his health. Until that time, he still planted it to remember those who never came home and honor the bravery of those who did.
The war department told people to plant the following vegetables in their home gardens: beans, beets, carrots, peas, radishes, lettuce, spinach, chard, onions, cucumbers, parsley, squash, corn, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, onions, and leeks. They passed out booklets on how to plant the garden, care for the garden, and how to cook and use the fruits of their labor.
Sadly, this was the end of the common garden in America. In the aftermath of the war, people stopped the victory gardens and went back to buying their produce from the stores. What followed was the trend toward more flowers and less vegetable gardens. In the last few years people around the nation have started to care more about what they eat and less about buying foods for quick consumption. There is hope that people will once again take the advice of the World War Two War Department and plant a garden to feed themselves and their families.
About Mitch Fitzgerald
I am a pentecostal preacher, gardener,husband, and a father. I love natives, daylilies, iris, and roses. I love teaching others, be they children or adults, about the garden and plants.