Whether you’re looking to cut back on trips to the grocery store, are intrigued by the notion of growing your own food, or are just looking for a way to have fun and enjoy the outdoors with your family, the answer is simple: Grow a victory garden! A victory garden helps reduce your carbon footprint by ensuring your food is just about as local as it can be, plus fills your pantry and fridge with veggies that you know were grown with your well-being in mind—because you grew them yourself!
Now, we won’t lie to you. Growing a victory garden takes a bit of work and it won’t all happen at once. You’ll need to be patient and get your fingernails dirty. But trust us, it’ll be totally worth it when you serve your family a salad made with lettuce from your own garden, or pick your very first ripe tomato.
Ready to set yourself up for victory? Read on to learn how!
What Are Victory Gardens, Anyway?
Victory gardens are home vegetable gardens that were originally born out of necessity. They got their start during World Wars I and II, when people grew their own produce to free up food for the war effort and help stabilize the country’s food supply. Both back then and now, victory gardens are all about producing large volumes of food quickly and efficiently.
Why Should I Grow a Victory Garden?
Besides shrinking your carbon footprint and allowing you to “shop” for produce in your own backyard, a victory garden is a great way to get you and your family out into the fresh air. It’s also better than any YouTube video when it comes to teaching your kids—and you!—about how plants go from seed (or tiny plant) to plate. And trust us on this one: Food just tastes better when you grow it yourself.
When Should I Plant My Victory Garden?
It’s never too early to start planning! But when it comes to actual planting, it depends on where you live. You’ll want to determine your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone and use it as a guideline for when the threat of frost has passed and it’s safe to plant outdoors. Meanwhile, you can start seeds indoors (usually 4 to 8 weeks before outdoor growing season, but be sure to follow the directions on the seed packet) and transplant them into your garden when the weather warms.
How to Grow a Victory Garden
1. Plan Your Plot
Use some graph paper to create a rough plan for your plot. Do a little research on the types of plants you’re interested in and their mature sizes, then draw in where they’ll go so when it comes time to plant you’ll know exactly where to put them.
2. Prep Your Space
Start by choosing a sunny, open, level area, then measure and stake out your garden space. Remove the existing turf with a shovel or sod cutter. Next, improve the quality and nutrition of the soil by mixing in 3 inches of aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose In-Ground Soil with the top 6 inches of existing soil, using a garden rake.
Another option is to plant your victory garden in raised beds, which give you more control over the soil quality and add a polished look to your garden. The drawback, of course, is that if you need to build the actual beds, they require more materials than in-ground gardening. (Here’s a simple way to build raised beds.) For best results, fill raised bed gardens with a mix of garden soil and aged compost designed especially for raised bed growing, such as Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Raised Bed Mix.
3. Choose Your Vegetables
To help you pick the right types vegetables to give you the biggest bang for your gardening buck, check out What to Plant in a Victory Garden.
As for the plants themselves, you’ve got two options: Pick starter plants or start your vegetables from seeds. Virtually any plant will be easier to care for when you begin with strong, vigorous starter plants like those from Bonnie Plants®. After all, much of the hard work has already been done for you, putting you several steps closer to harvest right from the start.
Growing vegetables from seed can be fun and rewarding, not to mention cost-effective, but it’s also undoubtedly more time- and labor-intensive. Depending on where you live, you may have to start seeds indoors under a grow light or in a bright window. Give them a strong start with Miracle-Gro® Seed Starting Potting Mix, which helps seeds germinate quickly and form strong roots.
4. Plant Your Victory Garden!
When it comes to planting seeds, let your seed packet be your guide. First, make sure the weather is appropriate for outdoor planting. Some seeds do just fine with a little frost, while others need to stay inside until that particular threat has passed. Once you’re good to go, plant seeds directly in the soil, making sure to place seeds at the correct depth and distance from each other (check the seed packet for that info). Try digging all your holes first, then simply drop in the seeds and cover with soil.
For starter plants and seedlings started inside, carefully remove them from their containers and gently loosen the outer roots. Using your trowel, dig a small hole so that the roots fit comfortably and are lower than the level of the surrounding soil (tomatoes should be planted even deeper, so about 2/3 of the stem is buried). Place the plant inside the hole, then fill in with soil so that all the roots are covered. Be sure to measure so that you have enough space between plants (the plant tag will tell you how much you need). It may look silly at first to have tiny plants so far apart, but come mid-summer, when those babies reach full size, you’ll be glad you followed directions!
5. Water Well
Most gardens need about an inch of water per week (more when it gets really hot outside) from rain or watering; to measure, use a rain gauge or small see-through container. Aim to water deeply every few days instead of quickly every day, to encourage root growth. But let common sense be your guide when it comes to watering. If it just rained (more than a sprinkle), you probably don’t need to water—the same goes if the sky is turning downpour gray.
6. Don’t Forget to Feed
Edible plants are notorious for pulling nutrients from the soil, so your garden will need to call in some reinforcements throughout the growing season. That’s where Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition Granules comes in, ready to replenish soil nutrition and feed plants with organic goodness. It’s specifically formulated for tomatoes, vegetables, herbs, and fruits, and will wow you with visible results in just 7 days (versus unfed plants). Begin feeding—following the directions on the label, of course—a month after planting.
7. Keep Weeds at Bay
Take a stroll through your garden every day and hand-pull any baby weeds you see pop up. Why so often? Well, you’d be amazed at how quickly weeds can take over when you’re not paying attention! One other thing you can do to keep them in check is to cover exposed soil with untreated grass clippings or other organic mulch, which blocks the sunlight and makes it harder for weeds to grow.
Once your plants start producing in earnest, you may find yourself with more veggies than your family can eat at one time! No worries. Check out Canning Your Homegrown Food to find out how to safely preserve that delicious produce for the winter months.
Yes, we’ll admit, growing a victory garden isn’t a one-and-done kind of project. But the continued hands-on time is worth it for the reward and security of growing your own food—and the satisfaction that comes from spending time in your garden. Before you know it, you’ll be whipping up fresh, delicious meals made from ingredients grew yourself!