How to Conserve Resources When Planting Victory Gardens

Overview

A victory garden, regardless of the plants grown in it, is not a true victory garden if it does not include resource conservation in the overall plan. The whole point of these war-time gardens was to save resources to aid the war effort, and millions of people in America contributed with plots of their own. Towards the end of WWII, these community gardening efforts resulted in one of the largest home vegetable production records of all time, with "...nearly a third of all the vegetables consumed in the country" produced in 1943 alone, according to Revive the Victory Garden.

Step 1

Conserve space by placing smaller, less demanding vegetables between larger, more nutrient-hungry plants. For example, plant leafy vegetables with high nitrogen requirements, such as lettuce, next to plants like peas, which "fix" nitrogen. (Common atmospheric nitrogen must be converted to ammonia to be use-able by plants; nitrogen-fixing bacteria found in the root nodules of peas and other legumes form a symbiotic relationship with hydrogen in soil to create ammonia, thus enriching poor soils.)

Step 2

Train squashes, beans, cucumbers and other vines on fences and trellises to save even more space. Use twine or soft cloth strips to attach vines to open trellises or screw cup hooks to solid surfaces, training vines between them. Grow plants like cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets.

Step 3

Economize on your water bill by watering less. Grow species that are naturally tolerant of dry conditions, or plant edible, low-growing plants such as radishes and spinach as "living mulch" between taller plants to shade roots and keep soil moist.

Step 4

Direct the downspout from gutters to collect rainwater from your roof in barrels for additional water savings. Use soaker hoses that slowly feed water to plant roots through small "leaks" along their length, instead of wasteful sprinklers that lose much of their fountain-like spray to evaporation and run off.

Step 5

Grow companion plants that compliment one another's nutrient requirements rather than using expensive chemical fertilizers. A classic collection is the "three sisters" grouping of corn, beans and squash planted by our Native American ancestors.

Step 6

Plant cover crops and green manures like winter wheat, rye grass, vetch or clover (available as bulk seed in feed stores and catalogs) to protect gardens from erosion and nutrient loss in winter. Turn under these cover crops to enrich and improve soil conditions prior to spring planting.

Step 7

Buy, grow and save seeds from your best vegetables to save money and natural resources; vegetables that produce well in your garden will pass on their adaptive qualities to the next generation and ensure that successive crops are particularly well-suited to your climatic and other conditions.

Step 8

Reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming by buying local. Reducing produce trucks on the roads adds up to less carbon in the air, less gasoline used and a healthier planet.

Things You'll Need

  • Trellises or fences
  • Pots or hanging baskets
  • Rain barrel
  • Soaker hoses
  • Bulk cover crop seeds

References

  • Revive the Victory Garden

Who Can Help

  • Companion Planting
  • Green Manure and Cover Crops
  • Conserving Resources in Home and Garden
Keywords: Victory Garden, plant a victory garden, conserving resources

About this Author

Deborah Stephenson is a freelance writer and artist, who brings over 25 years of both professional and life experience to her writings. Stephenson boasts a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Bio-Archeology from University of Arkansas at Fayatteville. She is an anthropologist & naturalist, and has published a field guide on Michigan's flora & fauna as well as numerous political and environmental articles.