Grow it Like it’s 1919…Victory Gardens/War Gardens: Resource for growing and preserving your family’s food

3g10234r Creator(s): Flagg, James Montgomery, 1877-1960, artist

How did they do it? I recall my grandma (dad’s side) put out two huge gardens every year. This woman grew everything from tomatoes and potatoes, to okra, cabbage and corn. She lived in a little house with just my cousin at the time, but had raised nine children through the Great Depression. Even when I was a kid in the seventies and eighties, she still put out these giant gardens every single year.

What she didn’t cook through the growing season, she canned, froze, or dried.  One of my uncles had an old car that did not run anymore parked next to her house. She would put green beans and apple slices on window screens, and then put them in the back window of the car with the windows rolled up. This kept the bugs away and provided a great dehydrator.  She also would break beans and string them up to let them dry. We used to call these shuck beans and they were one of my favorites. I haven’t had very many shuck beans since granny passed.

You could not play hide-and-seek inside grandma’s little four-room house. Under every bed, in every cabinet and every closet there were canned goods. There’s no telling how old some of it was. She even had some jars squirreled away inside the outbuildings. Granny and her family were NOT going to go hungry. Every Sunday after church the whole family that lived in proximity would gather at Granny’s house for dinner. She would use two and three quart jars at a time each Sunday.

I see a lot of gardens today, including my own, that would barely fit in a corner of just one granny’s garden plots. I think of all the work it takes just to maintain my little spot, and I wonder how in the world did a 75 year old lady  do this on the scale she was able to?

I think a lot of it had to do with sheer determination, and growing up in a less cushy world then we have. She never had air conditioning.  Until the late seventies, she had to draw her water up from a well. Even after she got a well pump to bring it into the house she still had to boil any water that she used because she did not have a hot water heater.

We have been working toward growing more of our own food. There are lots of gardening books and magazines out there but one I like in particular is the victory gardening manual from World War I. What those folks were able to accomplish is encouraging to me. You can find a PDF copy from the Smithsonian library website. See the link below….

What are some of the challenges and suggestions you have from your garden?