Master Gardener: Victory garden |

Master Gardener: Victory garden

Victory garden seedlings.
Dan Edmiston/courtesy

During World War II when food rationing hit the home front, millions of Americans took to the soil, converting yards, parks and public places to vegetable growing spaces. Some 20 million victory gardens produced almost half of the fresh fruits and veggies in the U.S., providing food security at home and freeing supplies for the troops on the frontlines.  

Today, we are at war with a viral enemy and again concerned with food security. For me, it’s been a wakeup call to see shelves at City Market valiantly, yet meagerly, stocked. It’s a reminder that most of our food is not local and relies on fragile systems of growing, harvesting, processing and shipping. It’s also been a great motivator to convert my backyard vegetable patch into a victory garden. You, too, can convert a portion of your lawn, flowerbed or balcony into a food-producing location.  

While you likely won’t be producing all your own food — though consider that early pioneers in this area clearly produced most, if not all, of their own sustenance — you can improve your home resilience, creating access to fresh food without relying on big agriculture in distant locations or making quite so many trips to the grocery store. You might even produce enough to join Colorado State University Extension in their Grow and Give: Modern Victory Garden Project by visiting and donate your surplus bounty to LiftUp of Routt County. 

To me, the process of planning my victory garden, of starting my seedlings and tucking tiny seeds into soil, has been cathartic — a small, but tangible way to regain some control over my circumstances.  For immediate return this summer consider greens like lettuce, spinach, arugula and bok choy; root crops like carrots, potatoes, beets and radishes;and brassicas, including kale, broccoli and cabbage.

I also encourage you to consider the long-term resilience of living in our rural Colorado home by considering perennials like rhubarb, asparagus, raspberries, strawberries, chives, oregano and thyme, and even an apple tree.  If I haven’t convinced you to grow a victory garden, look into purchasing from local farms offering Community Supported Agriculture and selling at the farmers market and through the Community Agricultural Alliance.

Master Gardener: For more

Colorado State University Master Gardeners are available to answer your gardening questions. Email or call the CSU Extension office at 970-879-0825 and ask to leave a message for the Master Gardeners. Thursday morning office hours and scheduled site visits are currently suspended.

Becky was in the 2018 Colorado Master Gardener class. She is a professor of biology at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs. She also teaches permaculture design and is an active beekeeper in Routt County.

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