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Planting Your Victory Garden

May 8, 2012


There is something deeply satisfying about plunging a beat up old spade through perfectly manicured non-native turf grass, ripping through the roots, flipping that piece of earth, and starting over again on the other side with something edible.  The summer days may be fewer here in Minnesota than other parts of the country, but they are longer too.  Make no mistake – there is a lot of room for growing inside of a June day where twilight drags on until 10pm.

The notion for Victory Gardens in the United States was born of the pressures wrought on the food system by World War II.  Americans were encouraged to plant gardens to aide the war effort, and over 20 million of them did so, driven by the assurance that their peppers and tomatoes were helping to bring down the Axis of Evil itself.  Eleanor Roosevelt even had a swath of the White House lawn torn up and replaced with produce, despite the Department of Agriculture’s concerns that the movement it inspired would damage the industrial food system.  They needn’t have worried though.  After the war, the White House Victory Garden disappeared, as did many of the citizens’ gardens that, according to Wikipedia, once produced 40% of the vegetables consumed in the States.  The garden, it seemed, was simply another weapon; to be used only in times of violence, and in times of peace put quietly away.


The idea of the Victory Garden is beginning to enjoy a renaissance though.  In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama had a garden planted in the White House yard for the first time since the Roosevelt days, as part of her youth-oriented campaign for healthier eating and living.  Americans are beginning to understand that the enemy isn’t always as clearly identifiable as an insane despot with a tiny mustache, and a war isn’t always something that happens far away.  Sometimes the enemy is Convenience and the battlefront is a Drive-Thru; and it’s taken a lot of healthcare bills and landscapes raped by monoculture for this understanding to come to the home front.


In Minneapolis, Minnesota you can find the last true vegetable Victory Garden from the WWII days – The Dowling Community Garden.  The land there is special.  Its soil is made up of the composted roots of ancestor plants that bore fruit in a time when people knew that growing one’s own food was critical to survival.  It’s time that we regained a bit of that perspective.  For Twin Cities locals, The Dowling Community Garden is having a plant sale on May 19th with over 200 plant varieties to choose from.  And you can often find seedlings at the many farmers’ markets around MinneapolisSt. Paul.


What shape will your Victory Garden take?  A raised bed in the backyard?  A container garden on a sunny urban deck?  Or – like me during the years I spent in my old, ill-lit apartment here – a tiny tray of herbs growing on the window sill?  Fresh herbs, whenever I wanted them.  Victory herbs.


Happy growing,


One Comment leave one →
  1. Brandon Breen permalink
    May 8, 2012 4:37 pm

    Victory Herbs – great concept! I wish I had me some Victory Grapefruits around! Gotta buy some soon from the local producer down the road!

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