Gardening

What to Plant in a Victory Garden

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You’ve probably heard a lot about victory gardens lately, and it’s no wonder. Now is a great time to get your hands dirty and dig into the challenge and fun of growing your own food. After all, learning a new skill offers an awesome diversion, and getting outside in the sunshine and fresh air provides a potent mood booster. Plus, kids love playing in the dirt (or, as we like to call it, “soil”), and kids who grow their own food are much more likely to eat their veggies. When you grow food, there’s a terrific sense of accomplishment, too—for everyone involved.

From planning the garden to planting the vegetables, caring for them all season, harvesting them, and then creating delicious meals, it’s a fabulous feeling of self-sufficiency. So, as the weather warms and you’re eager to get outside, why not grow your own food? We’ll help you choose the best edibles to plant in your victory garden.

What Is a Victory Garden?

Victory gardens began during World War I, with Americans called to grow food in whatever space they could (think empty lots, backyards, even fire escapes and rooftops) to help with the war effort. Food production fell dramatically as agricultural labor joined the military service, and America needed to increase its food supply. The government asked Americans to work whatever bit of land they had to produce their own food, and people eagerly showed their patriotism by growing gardens. 

During World War II, the victory garden movement resurfaced, with Americans waging battle on the homefront with hoes and shovels. Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden on the White House lawn. Americans were encouraged to “Sow the Seeds of Victory,” and they did. By 1944, 20 million victory gardens produced 8 million tons of food—40 percent of all the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States.

Today’s victory gardens are all about supporting self-sufficiency while also focusing on the trend of eating seasonally for delicious, healthy meals. After all, nothing tastes as good as food harvested fresh from the garden only minutes before becoming dinner!

What to Grow in a Victory Garden?

Traditional victory gardens included foods high in nutrition, such as beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, kale, lettuce, peas, tomatoes, turnips, squash, and Swiss chard. The government also encouraged citizens to maximize their gardens’ productivity by succession planting—planting a new crop in the same space after harvesting a previously grown veggie, and staggering planting times. This remains an especially good idea for vegetables, like lettuce, that need to be eaten fairly quickly. Instead of planting 20 heads of lettuce at one time, it’s better to plant 10, then wait a week or two to plant the next 10 to provide a continuous supply throughout the growing season.

While the traditional list of veggies for a victory garden offers great nutritional value, we’re going to add a new guideline: Grow what you and your family like to eat. After all, kale may be a super food, packed with vitamins, but if no one likes it, no one will eat it—why grow it? 

Once you’ve chatted with your family and come up with a list of what to grow, the next question is, how many plants for each vegetable type do you need to keep your family well-fed throughout the season? Here is a guide to get you started. Recommendations are based on the amount of plants needed to feed one person, so multiply by the number of family members who will be eating that particular veggie. If you’re vegetarian or want to try your hand at preserving food for the colder months, add even more.

Bonnie Plants Victory Garden

Vegetables for Your Victory Garden

Quantity Per Person

1 to 2

5

10 (perennial–takes about 3 years until first harvest)

5 to 10

3 to 5

5 to 10

3 to 4

2

3 to 4 

1 to 2

15 to 20

3 to 4

4 to 6

3 to 4

3 to 4

2

4 to 5

6 to 8

10 to 12

8 to 10 (stagger planting for continuous harvest)

5 to 10

6 to 8

15 to 20

2 to 3

25 to 30

5

4 to 5

2

8 to 10

20 to 30 (stagger planting for continuous harvest)

8 to 10

2 to 3

2 to 3

10 to 12 (plant in blocks for best pollination)

5

3 to 4

2

1 to 2

3 to 6

3 to 4

6 to 10

1 to 2

Along with your fruit and veggies, add some fresh herbs to your garden—they’ll give your homegrown veggies the boost they need to become gourmet meals! Basil pairs beautifully with tomatoes for bruschetta. A couple basil plants work well grown with tomatoes, but if you want to make pesto (which freezes nicely), bump up the quantity to make sure you have a bountiful harvest to process. Chamomile is both a pretty flower that attracts pollinators to your garden and a great herb to grow to make a soothing tea to help you sleep. If you love Mexican dishes, make sure to grow cilantro to add flavor to your salsa.

Now it’s time to get planting. Give your victory garden a great start with Bonnie Plants®. For more than 100 years, we’ve produced plants specifically for home gardeners, growing the best varieties that set you up for success. Healthy plants begin with healthy soil, so make sure to choose the right soil for where you plan to plant. If you’re planting in-ground, add Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® In-Ground Soil, enriched with aged compost, to your bed. Mix it into your current soil to help break up clay or add nutrients to sandy spots. Or, if you’re growing in raised beds, Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Raised Bed Mix makes it super easy to fill new beds or replenish old ones with the perfect blend of soil, compost, and nutrients. You’ll also want to water regularly and feed your plants (and the soil!) with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition. For more growing info, check out How to Grow a Victory Garden.

Have Fun with Your Victory Garden

Sure, victory gardens create self-sufficiency, but they can also inspire fun loads of family fun. Why not let everyone pick out a plant to tend and award prizes for the weirdest-shaped veggie, the biggest tomato, most perfectly proportioned pepper, or the best harvest. Once you begin harvesting food from your victory garden, start a cooking competition within your family or even online with friends. Challenge each other to create delicious, interesting, new-to-you meals with your homegrown produce. After all, it’s OK to play with your food—as long as you eat it, too!