The Victory Garden

backyard vegetable gardening

Victory Gardens became popular in the 1940s during World War II. Millions of American families planted fruit and vegetable gardens in their backyards to feed America, and the impact was that more than 40 percent of all the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States were grown in these amazing independent gardens. It was so popular, even Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden on the White House lawn to demonstrate support of America’s commitment.

Victory Gardens were not unique to America. Many allied countries — Canada, Australia, and France for example — successfully planted food gardens that fed the world.

Victory Over the Pandemic.

Victory Gardens are still important today. They stretch the food budget, provide healthy exercise, produce chemical-free fruits and vegetables, and they help regenerate the environment. I love the concept of celebrating family and Country as America reopens from the worst pandemic in a century. Your garden, when worked year-round, will add variety to the diet and may even introduce you to some new favorite vegetables.

This blog is specifically about Florida gardens, and even here there are certain crops that will thrive in the heat of the summer. You may even find those new vegetables by using the University of Florida’s vegetable planting guideline.

The U of F IFAS Extension has a lot of great material to guide you in selecting crops for your garden all year long. The vegetable gardening guide identifies vegetables that are most successful in each of Florida’s hardiness zones during each season. Our best growing season is Fall/Winter from September through March. But if you’re starting your planning today, you still have choices.

  • Okra
  • Southern Peas
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cherry or Grape Tomatoes

Fall weather is more favorable to growing traditional vegetables. You should plan now to set seeds in mid-August for these vegetables.

ArugulaBeans – bush, pole, lima, greenBeets
Brussels SproudsBroccoliCabbage
Scallions / ShallotsPeasBell Peppers
PotatoesSpinachZucchini / Summer Squash
Winter SquashTomatoesTurnips

Starting Your Garden.

Don’t worry too much about the design of the traditional Victory Garden. You can grow vegetables and fruits in small garden areas or even containers.

These family-size gardens aren’t designed to feed the masses. You can employ the square foot gardening technique, a design that literally divides your garden space into 12-inch x 12-inch blocks, and customize how many and how much you’ll grow.

The “hardiness zone” will determine what kinds of plants you should get. I personally am notorious for buying herbs out of season. Some herbs will do well all year long. Florida includes growing zones 8, 9, 10, and 11. In 1990 the USDA subdivided these areas based upon 5-degree distinctions, but the general division is enough for vegetable gardens.

Garden Position

Designating an area of the yard that gets both partial shade and areas of full sun will help you get the largest yields. Tender herbs need sunlight, but often are unable to stand an entire day of Florida heat. Other vegetables won’t produce fruit at all without a lot of sun.

Other things to consider would be foot traffic. You want your garden accessible, but not in the middle of the weekly football game. Check your city zoning rules if you’re even considering planting out your front yard. Do you have a Home Owner’s Association with landscape rules?

Structure and Design

There is no rule about vegetable gardens being boring rectangular. Vegetable plants will grow in any format. I grow tomatoes in my flower beds in a triangle between colorful annuals. The trick is to leave enough space around the vegetables that you can weed and walk near to harvest.

Square foot gardening became popular in the 1980s and a well-planned garden based on the 12-inch rule can easily feed a family of four. The concept is to measure off a square foot and designate each square to a vegetable your family will grow.

container gardening

Of course there are other ways to easily identify a space for each vegetable. You may want to use containers. A lot of vegetables do well in pots and planters. Also remember that any container — buckets, wheelbarrows, old fixtures — can be repurposed to grow vegetables.