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Victory garden

American WWII-era poster promoting victory gardens.

Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany during World War I and World War II. They were used along with Rationing Stamps and Cards to reduce pressure on the public food supply. Besides indirectly aiding the war effort, these gardens were also considered a civil "morale booster" in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown. This made victory gardens a part of daily life on the home front.


  • History 1
    • World War I 1.1
      • Canada 1.1.1
    • World War II 1.2
    • Postwar 1.3
  • Films 2
  • Television 3
  • See also 4
  • Further reading 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Two American war gardeners in 1918

World War I

WWI-era U.S. victory poster.

In March 1917,World War I, especially in Europe, where agricultural labor had been recruited into military service and remaining farms devastated by the conflict. Pack and others conceived the idea that the supply of food could be greatly increased without the use of land and manpower already engaged in agriculture, and without the significant use of transportation facilities needed for the war effort. The campaign promoted the cultivation of available private and public lands, resulting in over five million gardens in the USA[1] and foodstuff production exceeding $1.2 billion by the end of the war.[2]

President Woodrow Wilson said that "Food will win the war." To support the home garden effort, a United States School Garden Army was launched through the Bureau of Education, and funded by the War Department at Wilson's direction.[3]


Victory Gardens became popular in Canada in 1917. Under the Ministry of Agriculture's campaign, "A Vegetable Garden for Every Home", residents of cities, towns and villages utilized backyard spaces to plant vegetables for personal use and war effort. In the city of

  • Recipe for Victory: Food and Cooking in Wartime
  • The Victory GardenPBS:
  • A Visual History of Victory Gardens curated by Michigan State University
  • Victory Gardens Handbook of the Victory Garden Committee War Services, Pennsylvania State Council of Defense (April 1944)
  • complete film at archive.orgVictory Garden
  • History of Urban Gardening in the United States
  • reference pubbed Mar. 1942, intro/first chapterGARDENS FOR VICTORY
  • Victory Garden Initiative - a grassroots organization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin promoting revival of the victory garden movement as a means to address food system and environmental issues.
  • Oldest Remaining Victory Gardens in Boston
  • He Plants for Victory1943 propaganda film (National Film Board of Canada)
  • Victory Gardens1941 propaganda film (United States Department of Agriculture)

External links

  1. ^ Pack, Charles Lathrop. War Gardens Victorious (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1919) p. 15.
  2. ^ Eyle, Alexandra. Charles Lathrop Pack: Timberman, Forest Conservationist, and Pioneer in Forest Education (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1994) p. 142.
  3. ^ Hayden-Smith, Rose: Sowing the Seeds of Victory (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014).
  4. ^ Hopkins, John Castell (1919). The Province of Ontario in the War: A Record of Government and People. Toronto: Warwick Brothers and Rutter. pp. 60–61. 
  5. ^ "Victory gardens, Second World War". Australian War Memorial. 
  6. ^ Kallen, Stuart A. (2000). The war at home. San Diego: Lucent Books.  
  7. ^ "Where our men are fighting, our food is fighting". Retrieved 2014-03-24. 
  8. ^ "18,000,000 Gardens for Victory". Popular Mechanics. May 1943. p. 1. 
  9. ^ "Victory Gardens during World War II". 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "World war II: Civic responsibility" (PDF). Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Burrows, Marian (March 19, 2009). "Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House". New York Times. 


  • Hayden-Smith, Rose (2014). Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I. McFarland Books. p. 264.  
  • Hayden-Smith, Rose (2005). "Soldiers of the Soil: The Work of the United States School Garden Army in World War 1". University of California 4-H Youth Development Center. Retrieved 12 May 2014. 
  • Kuhn, Clifford M., "‘It Was a Long Way from Perfect, but It Was Working’: The Canning and Home Production Initiatives in Green County, Georgia, 1940–1942," Agricultural History (2012) 86#1 pp 68–90.

Further reading

See also

The WGBH public-television series The Victory Garden took the familiar expression to promote composting and intensive cropping for homeowners who wanted to raise some vegetables (and some flowers).

Historical documentary and reality television series such as The 1940s House, Wartime Farm and the second season of Coal House place modern families in a recreated wartime settings, including digging victory gardens.


  • World War II
    • Victory Gardens (1941, 1942, 1943)
    • Barney Bear's Victory Garden (1942)
    • As Ye Sow (1945)

 United States

  • World War I
    • Grow Vegetables For War Effort
    • War Garden Parade
  • World War II
    • Dig For Victory! (1940, 1941, 1942)
    • Children's Allotment Gardens (1942)
    • Compost Heaps for Feeding (1942)
    • Digging For Victory (1943)
    • Winter Greens (1943)
    • Blitz on Bugs (1944)
    • Dig for Victory - Proceed According To Plan (1944)

 United Kingdom

  • World War II
    • He Plants for Victory (1943)


Several countries produced numerous information films about growing victory gardens.


Since the turn of the 21st century, interest in victory gardens has grown. A campaign promoting such gardens has sprung up in the form of new victory gardens in public spaces, victory garden websites and blogs, as well as petitions to renew a national campaign for the victory garden and to encourage the re-establishment of a victory garden on the White House lawn. In March 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama planted an 1,100-square-foot (100 m2) "Kitchen Garden" on the White House lawn, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt's, to raise awareness about healthy food.[14]

The Fenway Victory Gardens in the Back Bay Fens of Boston, Massachusetts and the Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota remain active as the last surviving public examples from World War II. Most plots in the Fenway Victory Gardens now feature flowers instead of vegetables while the Dowling Community Garden retains its focus on vegetables.[13]

In 1946, with the war over, many British residents did not plant victory gardens, in expectation of greater availability of food. However, shortages remained in the United Kingdom.


In New York City, the lawns around vacant "Riverside" were devoted to victory gardens, as were portions of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The slogan "grow your own, can your own", was a slogan that started at the time of the war and referred to families growing and canning their own food in victory gardens.[12]

Although at first the Department of Agriculture objected to Eleanor Roosevelt's institution of a victory garden on the White House grounds, fearing that such a movement would hurt the food industry, basic information about gardening appeared in public services booklets distributed by the Department of Agriculture, as well as by agribusiness corporations such as International Harvester and Beech-Nut. Fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots was estimated to be 9,000,000–10,000,000 short tons (8,200,000–9,100,000 t) in 1944, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables. [9] [10] [11]

Amid regular rationing of food in Britain, the United States Department of Agriculture encouraged the planting of victory gardens during the course of World War II. Around one third of the vegetables produced by the United States came from victory gardens.[6] It was emphasized to American home front urbanites and suburbanites that the produce from their gardens would help to lower the price of vegetables needed by the US War Department to feed the troops, thus saving money that could be spent elsewhere on the military: "Our food is fighting," one US poster read.[7] By May 1943 there were 18 million victory gardens in the United States - 12 million in cities and 6 million on farms.[8]

Australia launched a Dig for Victory campaign in 1942 as rationing and a shortage of agricultural workers began to affect food supplies. The situation began to ease in 1943 however home gardens continued throughout the war.[5]

Victory gardens were planted in backyards and on apartment-building rooftops, with the occasional vacant lot "commandeered for the war effort!" and put to use as a cornfield or a squash patch. During World War II, sections of lawn were publicly plowed for plots in Hyde Park, London to promote the movement.

In Britain, "digging for victory" used much land such as waste ground, railway edges, ornamental gardens and lawns, sports fields and golf courses was requisitioned for farming or vegetable growing. Sometimes a sports field was left as it was but used for sheep-grazing instead of being mown: for example see Lawrence Sheriff School#Effects of the Second World War.

A victory garden in a bomb crater in London during WWII.
The British "Dig on for Victory" poster by Peter Fraser

World War II


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