Victory gardens were planted in the United States during World War II insuring an adequate supply of vegetables for American citizens by freeing up resources for the war effort. I’m Lisa Hilgenberg of the Chicago Botanic Garden with garden history for the week.
The National Victory Garden Institute responded to shortages of fresh produce by asking people to grow their own. This Victory garden movement ushered in an interest in gardening as the national message went out…that everyone who can– shall, grow their entire food supply.
Locally, in 1943-1945 The Chicago Park District, Chicago Horticultural Society, along with community gardens and clubs became important sources of information teaching home gardeners how to plan successive plantings to increase productivity. It was so successful that nearly 41% of the fresh produce was grown in home gardens, greatly easing critical wartime food shortages.
At the end of the season economizing gardeners preserved and canned the excess until they’d stored away the required 125 quarts per person per family.
In September of 1945, 69 years ago this week- Soldier Field became the site of a Great Vegetable Round Up and a celebration of this tremendous interest in gardening that had grown during the war. Gardeners were encouraged to walk in the parade of the Vegetable Hats to celebrate luscious vegetables and beautiful flowers.
Lisa Hilgenberg is the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden Horticulturist. She teaches classes for the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden and mentors interns from the Garden’s urban agriculture programs in the summer. Lisa draws on a rich family farming tradition, having spent many summers on her grandparents’ farms in Iowa and Minnesota. You can follow Lisa on Twitter @hilgenberg8.