During the Second World War, many common items were rationed in support of the war effort. Not only were items such as gasoline, bicycles, shoes, cars and stoves in limited supply, the list also included consumables such as canned foods, meats, cheeses, coffee and sugar. No matter how wealthy you might have been, there was a limit to what you could purchase.

In addition to rationing, there were transportation problems that caused disruptions in supply chains. The trains and trucks used to deliver items during peacetime were diverted to war activities. Even if there was a surplus of goods in a nearby town, there might not have been a way to deliver them.

Many people took over the responsibility of feeding their families by planting a garden. Front yards, backyards, vacant lots, parking strips, rooftops and even window boxes suddenly became gardens. Many victory garden locations were on land not owned by the gardener, to be returned after the war ended. Victory gardens were practical and helped boost morale back in the day.

Practically speaking, planting a garden during the war was the only way to supplement a family’s diet with fresh foods. Victory gardens raised morale by allowing those who were not fighting on the front lines to feel like they were contributing. This trend engaged children as well. Planting seeds and harvesting their own food helped many children feel as if they were doing their part while their fathers were fighting in the war.

After the War

Unfortunately, victory gardens disappeared as quickly as they sprang up. With the war over, many people abandoned their gardening projects. As early as the spring of 1946, there was a serious decline in victory gardens, which is surprising since food supply chains had not returned to pre-war levels. Why did victory gardens disappear so quickly? Simple. The government stopped promoting them, and people just stopped planting. Besides, when the troops came home from the war, there were other things to do—where do you think all the baby boomers came from?!

Today

These days there has been a resurgence of victory gardens. Although they might not be in support of a major war, we can still call them by their prior name. But, no matter what they’re called, home gardens are a great way to supplement your diet with fruits and vegetables that you grew. Knowing where your food comes from is a fantastic feeling and you can typically grow better-quality food than you can buy. Even the White House is getting back into gardening. In March 2009, Michelle Obama planted a 1,100-sq.-ft. garden on the south lawn. Although she had no prior gardening experience, she planted her garden to provide better nutrition for her daughters. This makes me think, if the First Lady can’t get the produce she wants to feed her children, who can?

A Call to Garden Shop Pros

A lot of hydro shop owners and employees like to talk about how they are the best growers around. I say, prove it! This is your chance to shine and become closer to your community at the same time. Since a lot of successful hydro shops have gardens in them, why not use those demonstration gardens to grow fruits and vegetables to donate to local food banks? Earn your bragging rights and help feed the hungry at the same time. Keep those donation receipts—not only can you use them for your taxes, maybe we will start a competition!

A Call to Everyone

If you’re reading Maximum Yield, you’re probably an active gardener. Therefore, YOU have the power to change your community and feed those in need locally. If you have the space, plant your garden in a highly visible location, such as a raised bed in your front yard or parking lot. Visible gardens tend to spread, in my experience.

With your garden in plain view, it won’t be long until your neighbors start planting their own gardens and come over to talk to you about their projects. Encourage them to donate their excess produce to a local food bank, then tell two friends