Victory Garden Handbook

Victory Garden Leader’s Handbook (1943)

Published during the time period of WWII by the United States Department of Agriculture. The Victory Garden handbook was written for the benefit of Americans, most of whom were short on food and supplies because of the war. Americans were strongly encouraged to grow their own ‘Victory Garden’ to supplement their food supply.

It’s an interesting read. It’s short, and to the point. It might be useful preparedness information.

Victory Garden Handbook

Excerpts from parts of the handbook. I found a PDF copy and will link it below.

“The Victory Garden Handbook offers some suggestions to those who are leading the great drive for Victory Gardens, and points out certain things to watch for – common errors which waste seed, fertilizer, land and labor, and therefore must be most carefully avoided in wartime.”

“As a nation, we have always taken food pretty much for granted. Not the farmers, of course. Food is the stuff life is made of, to a farmer. But the rest of us haven’t always understood that. We have always had the idea in mind that there was plenty of food, if we just had the money to buy it. Now we are learning that a nation or a group of nations is no stronger than its food supply. We have stopped taking food for granted.”

The Opportunities of a Victory Garden

On the farm. Every farm where weather and water supplies permit, can produce the family’s entire year’s supply of vegetables, both fresh and processed, and also as much fruit as possible.

In town and suburbun back yards. Families who have sufficient open sunny space and fertile ground can grow a large supply of vegetables for their own use.

In community gardens. People living in metropolitan areas seldom have enough suitable ground at home for a garden. But supervised community projects with space allotted to each garden have proven successful. Preferably they should be within walking distance or a short bus or street car ride. In some towns and cities, groups have arranged with a nearby farmer for the use of an acre or so of good land to use as a community garden, paying in either crops or cash. As part of the bargain, the farmer plows and drags the soil.

In school gardens. Rural and city schools can have gardens planned and managed on a scale that will provide a large part of the fresh and processed vegetables for school lunches.

Good Gardens Aren’t Luck – They’re Planned

Making a garden is something like making a bridge. You have to know where to start and where to finish. You have to figure out in advance what the traffic load will be, and the best way to accomodate it.

Most new gardeners don’t realize that it is possible to figure just ho much of everything to plant to supply the family – through the garden growing season – and in some preserved form for the rest of the year. Not only is this possible, buy by studying charts such as those further along in this handbook, it is fairly easy.

Most beginners are amazed to learn that there are not one or two but six good methods of preserving vegetables and fruits.

  1. Tomatoes and fruits can be canned with ordinary cooking utensils.
  2. Nearly all vegetables can be canned with the aid of a pressure cooker.
  3. Root vegetables, pumpkins, squash, apples and pears can be stored in the cellar or underground.
  4. Fruits, corn, beans, peas and okra can be dried
  5. Pickles and sauerkraut can be made at home.
  6. Almost every vegetable and fruit can be preserved in a home or warehouse freezing locker.

Preserving Vegetables and Fruits

  • Canned
  • Stored
  • Dried
  • Frozen
  • Pickled

What Some Vegetables Can Contribute To The Year’s Food Supply

Make four servings each day.

1. Leafy, Green, and Yellow Vegetables.

Serve one from this group each day. Eat 3½ pounds per week per person (½ pound per day, 182 pounds per year) fresh or its equivalent in canned, dried, stored, or frozen vegetables. Can 25 quarts. Store 45 pounds.

Beans, Snap (50 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (1½-2 lbs. to can 1 qt.)
Beans, Lima (50 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (3-4 qts. in pod)
Beet Greens (25 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (2-3 lbs. to can 1 qt.)
Broccoli (50 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (Freeze)
Chard (100 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (2-3 lbs. to can 1 qt.)
Collards (50 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (Dry, Freeze)
Kale (75 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (Dry, Freeze)
Lettuce (50 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (Fresh)
Spinach (50 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (2-3 lbs. to can 1 qt.)
Turnip Greens (50 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (Dry, Freeze)
Peas (40 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (2 lbs. to can 1 qt.)
Carrots (100 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (2½ lbs. to can 1 qt.)
Squash, Yellow flesh (100 fruits Yield /100 ft. Row) (4 lbs. in shell)

2. Tomatoes, Cabbage.

Serve one of these each day. Eat 2 pounds per week per person (~¼ pound per day, 104 pounds per year). Can 25 quarts tomatoes or juice. Store or kraut 25 pounds of cabbage.

Tomatoes (200 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (3 lbs. to can 1 qt.)
Cabbage (raw) or Kraut (100-175 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (Store or kraut)

3. Other Vegetables.

Serve one from this group each day. Eat 3 pounds per week per person (~½ pound per day, 156 pounds per year). Can or freeze 15 quarts. Store 40 pounds.

Corn (100 ears Yield /100 ft. Row) (10-12 small or 5-6 large to can 1 qt.)
Beets (100 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (2½-3 lbs. to can 1 qt.)
Onions (50-100 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (Store)
Parsnips (100 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (Store)
Turnips (100 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row) (Store)
Chinese Cabbage (80 heads /100 ft. Row) (Store)

4. White Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes.

Serve one of these each day. Eat 3½ pounds per week per person (½ pound per day, 182 pounds per year). Store 140 pounds.

White or Sweet Potatoes (200 lbs. Yield /100 ft. Row)

5. Dried Peas, Beans, Lima Beans, Soybeans.

Serve one from this group three times a week. Eat 6 ounces per person per week (20 pounds per year). Store 14 pounds.

 
Adapted from Victory Garden Leader’s Handbook, US Department of Agriculture, mid 1940’s

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15 Comments

  1. Great article! Will definitely help when planning and winter seed starting. It’s easy to start too much of something and not enough of another.
    Thank you Ken.

  2. – Right this moment have around 50 pounds of frozen vegetables still from our elementary school’s student garden that was gifted to us. The comment was that we had done so much for the school and students. Some of the tastiest bicolor hybrid corn that our kids grew, in addition to others.
    – Papa S.

  3. great article ken,
    everyone should plant enough for 2 yrs because when you said, Good Gardens Aren’t Luck – They’re Planned, wrong, wrong, wrong! there is always the weather to deal with. just ask the farmers in the mid west now. to wet this spring to plant and now they are looking at drought. farming has always been a roll of the dice. never-ever depend on one crop to see you through to next year. i’m telling you guys, and i mean this in a good way,and i’m just trying to help. plant your gardens and try and live of of it for a year. you may be surprised at just how little it will go without going to the grocer. we have over 200 pint and quart jars now from last year and God willing and the creek don’t rise we will put up 200 more this year. if we don’t make anything this year we will still be in good shape i think. we go to the grocer for things like salt, flower and the good BBQ stuff and snacks, but we never have to buy any veggies.
    i was forced to go to the hardware store this morning and noticed gas has gone from 3.89 a few weeks ago to 4.09 now. glad i filled up last time i went, a tank will last me about 3 months now no more than i travel.

  4. Excellent advice in this article. Due to weather, I just finished planting my garden today here in North Idaho. Two weeks later than normal. Hope all turns out well. Every year I take a sheet of paper and plan out my garden right to the square foot. A blueprint if you will. I plan exactly where each thing will be planted, and it varies from year to year. I figure out how much space each plant, depending on what it is, will take. Remember, corn is usually the tallest, so you’ll probably want to plant it in the north end of your garden. My gardens are small, so I have to plan them well. I get the maximum yield possible out of them. My back garden is 15’x30′, and front garden 4’x25′. What we get is amazing, and it lasts us till next season. Still have to go to the store for some things though, can’t grow everything.(darn) Anyway, good luck to everyone with your gardens this year. I think we’re going to need the extra food.

  5. Right now I am cutting spinach, collards, cauliflower, lettuce as well as strawberries, raspberries, early cucumbers, squash and zucchini so we have been enjoying fresh salads and grilled and roasted veggies. My wife made a great casserole tonight with some leftover ham, vegetables and beans. Tomatoes, beans, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes and beets are doing well and we got a couple of nice rain showers this afternoon that will help. The work is well worth the produce.

  6. A timely article! I am hoping to get the last of my garden in this weekend. I’m about two weeks late. Still getting frost overnight in my area also!

    1. CJ in CDA – I too am late getting my garden in but I finished it yesterday. We moved to a new home at the end of April and this new home had no previous garden. It did have heavy sod and quack grass. Took me 5 days to bust the sod and get a minimal garden in. Once we get organized, we will be building raised planters for the future garden. Good luck this growing season!

      1. Thanks Northern Sarge. Last year I pulled out all my raised beds because of crab (quack) grass taking over. I had better luck controlling it as a result. If I put raised beds in at a point in the future they will have to be a different design than what I used previously. Good luck with your raised beds!

        1. CJ in CDA,
          Did you have a weed barrier in the raised beds? Such as filter fabric on the ground, and up the sides, before filling with soil?
          Would it help if you put your raised beds on legs? As an added benefit, being elevated the “bed” is off the ground and the soil will be that much warmer. Also, voles can’t reach it. And less bending over, if that is a concern.
          Warmer soil — another option to this elevated bed is to place a heat sink under the beds to draw in more (solar) heat.

  7. I have a neighbor who planted my garden a couple years ago. She did everything wrong according to the book. I have a 24 x 32-foot area and she planted more stuff in there than I usually planted in 2 years. There was no room between the plants in the rows and no room between the rows. You had to step carefully, and you still may squash something. She said, “You no give room for weeds to grow.” She ran twine between poles over the rows and used yarn to tie the plants up to the twine. Stuff grew up the yarn and over the twine and each other. She was right about the weeds; they had a difficult time competing. We still had to pull some weeds but nothing like when I plant. This lady is now 78 and still has the greenest thumb I know.

  8. good article !!! Love the PDF–thank you for that.

    My backyard garden is planted and looking good. Harvesting the blueberries (lots of them) and Peas. Some beet greens and cabbage. A small handful of raspberries–they are first yr.

    Life is good in my backyard.

  9. The victory gardens were from a time when the government still had some utility and people still had a brain,

    I seriously doubt in this day and age that they would or will encourage anything that looks like self reliance or independence. It will be interesting to watch this unfold. I believe many still have the thought pattern to do stuff like a victory garden, but still vastly more who will line up for the government teet, and IMHO most government will want to take from those of us who can be self reliant yo feed those who cant, thats where i draw a fat red line. Its one thing sharing with those you are willing to share with, its a whole nother thing being stripped of what is rightfully yours for some imaginary greater good.

  10. With the heavy snows this year, and miles of drifts. Still haven’t even gotten to the garden yet. Plan B is to put in something of a garden here in town (“in town” = on the road system). So have planted some potatoes…
    With the warm temps and lots of sun, the drifts are finally melting. Right now we have 24 hours of light and currently (today) the sun is above the horizon for 20 hours and 46 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes 50 seconds longer. Every day more and more snow disappears.
    The wintersown plants need to be put into the ground. Have been holding off for now…

  11. “Japanazis”….hilarious.
    Spraying for bugs…not so hilarious.
    But overall a great rah – rah pamphlet to encourage self reliance.

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