House & Home

10 Tips for Starting a 'Victory Garden'

Posted November 20, 2007 3:20 p.m. EST
Updated November 23, 2007 5:02 p.m. EST

Here are 10 tips for starting a backyard garden in the spirit of World War II-era victory gardens. The advice was assembled by Blair Randall, the director of a San Francisco project to revive victory gardens.

-Get to know your soil. Is your soil more sand, more clay or more silt? What is the history of your soil? For soils near freeways or alongside buildings older than 1978, when lead was banned in paint, consider having your soil tested for lead before growing food crops.

-Get to know your climate. Do you have cool, dry summers, or are they wet and humid? This will determine what plants you should purchase from the seed catalog.

-Add compost, add compost, add compost! Adding compost will solve many problems in the garden. Compost will greatly improve the "nutrient profile" of your soil and allow your soil to accept and release water. And compost is easy to make at home with either a backyard compost bin or a worm compost bin.

-Give up part of your lawn. If you have a yard, consider turning part of it into a vegetable garden. If space is limited, use the sunniest part.

-Plant a fruit tree. To eat an apple today from your garden, you need to have planted that tree three or four years ago. A large number of apple trees can be purchased on "semi-dwarfing root stock," keeping them to a manageable size.

-Share with your neighbor. You will grow too many carrots and they will grow too much cabbage. Invite them over for a picnic and make a salad with your extra produce.

-Plan in the winter for your spring plantings. Order seed catalogs and allow the excitement for the coming spring and summer to carry you through winter.

-Eat locally. A frequently cited 2003 study found conventional produce traveled an average of almost 1,500 miles from farm to markets in Chicago and St. Louis, consuming a great deal of fuel in the journey. You can reduce those "food miles" by growing some part of your meal at home.

-Get out into your yard by tending a garden. The flowers you plant will attract wildlife like birds and beneficial insects to your yard, but it will also attract you to your yard!

-Donate extra produce to your local food bank. It is common to suddenly have too much of something - say, too many radishes. Local food banks or food pantries will appreciate your homegrown produce.


Environmental Protection Agency's information page on testing soil for lead: