Victory Garden Challenge

Victory Garden posterThe folks over at Foodshed Planet are doing something called the Victory Garden Drive this year. We all know about Victory Gardens, right? In previous wartimes, instead of telling Americans to go shopping, the president asked people to plant gardens and become as self-sufficient as possible.

It’s never been a bad idea, and now, with all the nebulous threats out there (like “peak oil,” “terrorist threat to the food supply,” “eColi,” “tainted imports,” and “flavorless hothouse tomatoes”), it’s an idea whose time has come again. There is no cure for your worries like digging in the dirt. It’s real. It’s tangible. It’s living. And it just might help feed you if/when the compost hits the spreader. To that end, the Victory Garden Drive is aiming to start 2 MILLION new vegetable gardens in 2008. Existing gardens don’t count, though I wonder if they’d accept “greatly expanded” gardens in their count.

My garden is already established, but I’d still like to join this effort. Here’s what I propose: several of you have expressed an interest in starting a small garden.  I will offer personal gardening help to the first 5 people who respond on this blog. Help can be in almost any form you like – except doing the gardening for you. 🙂 Here are some thoughts:

  • Walking you through a site and soil analysis.
  • A personal garden design consultation: what to grow that will thrive on your site, suit your tastes, and be fairly certain of success.
  • Basic growing assistance: when to plant, how to plant, plant care, and harvest info.
  • How to cook what you’ve harvested.
  • If you’re close enough, I’ll even visit and help you pick a site for your garden and do some of the heavy lifting and bed building with you!

What I’d ask of you is a location that gets at least 6 hours of full sun in the summer and a commitment to tend the garden at least once a week (container gardens will need daily watering). It would also be awesome if you’d formally join the Victory Garden Drive.

I’ll also be blogging some basics under a thread called “So you want to garden?” if you’d like to just follow along!



  1. Pattie said,

    January 20, 2008 at 6:29 am

    LOVE this idea! Because of you, I’m now encouraging all blogging organic kitchen gardeners to TAKE FIVE!

  2. Emily said,

    January 20, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Ok, we have our first volunteer: Starr from Arkansas! I envy her longer growing season… 🙂

  3. Anonymous said,

    January 20, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    *raises hand hesitantly*

  4. Jennifer said,

    January 20, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    whoops – that was me.

  5. Emily said,

    January 20, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Ok, Anon…er, Jennifer…you’re on! With your experience with herbs, this’ll be no sweat. 🙂

  6. Kerry said,

    January 20, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    hi Emily,
    I’m a total newbie to gardening, so I’d love to take you up on your offer. I’m just outside Boston and living on some challenged soil — our vast 0.07 acre lot was used for various industrial purposes up until a few years ago. You may have your work cut out for you! 🙂


  7. Martha said,

    January 20, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    What a great idea, Emily.
    I put your Vicory Garden challenge, offer of help, and links to Eat Close to Home and Foodshed Planet on my blog.
    Your encouragement and guidance will help the effort.
    Martha in Muskogee OK

  8. TopVeg said,

    January 21, 2008 at 8:35 am

    That is a great offer – which will help the victory garden challenge. I hope it beats its target!

  9. Emily said,

    January 21, 2008 at 10:56 am


    I’d be happy to help you! I have lots of family in Boston and Springfield, so I’m familiar with the area and the climate. My aunt is spearheading a local food effort on a historical farm in Newton Centre. 🙂


    I’m not as familiar with Oklahoma (though I think I have distant relations there) but I’d be happy to help you get set up.

    TopVeg –

    Thanks for the vote of encouragement! Are you wanting some virtual gardening assistance, or are you all set?

  10. Emily said,

    January 21, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Folks who are going to be starting gardens…I’ll post some basic advice on this site, but for personalized info e-mail will be best. You can e-mail me from my web site: .

  11. onestraw said,

    January 21, 2008 at 2:45 pm


    GREAT post. Plithy, snarky and informative. Top Notch Blogging!


  12. Emily said,

    January 21, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks, Rob!

  13. Kerry said,

    January 22, 2008 at 2:39 am

    I’m glad I made it into your 5 and I’m really looking forward to your help.

    Btw, I just started a local/organic New England food blog:
    Perhaps you could connect me and your aunt for a chat sometime.

    Talk to you soon.

  14. January 22, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Emily, thanks for posting about this as I hadn’t seen the original call to Plant! I had already planned to revive my gardening this year, thanks to the generosity of friends who are going to terrace around their backyard for me, so I’m definitely going to call that our Victory Garden! (Something worth teaching their toddlers about, too!)

    Not asking for help at this point, though I’ll stop back and check on your tips and progress to see what more I can learn… but I hope to encourage some more people to join up! 🙂

  15. Oldnovice said,

    January 23, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Is there still one slot left in the “first five”? I could certainly use some help.

    I’ve TRIED a few attempts at gardening the past two years, but have never had much success. That could be due to my unwillingness to throw a lot of money into it; I’m not sure. I’m in North Texas, so I need to get going on this pretty soon (as in before the hot hot weather comes).

    I put in some peach trees this past fall in addition to some fruit bushes. We’ve just got a standard suburban neighborhood lot, but there’s room on the sides which get a little more shade that I’m just starting to think might be ideal for greens like spinach and lettuces. Planted the fruit bushes at the side of the house, too.

    Neither my husband nor I are very handy, so we haven’t built frames for raised gardening. I kindof wonder how y’all handle grass growing next to those frames without power tools … or do you not have ANY grass in your yards?

    I’ve set aside some money to spend this year on the garden. First thing I’m considering seriously is an investment in bamboo poles to create teepees for vertical gardening. VG could offer more bang for my buck, I think.

  16. Emily said,

    January 23, 2008 at 9:41 am

    OldNovice – Welcome! You are contestant #5. 🙂

    The main thing I would recommend for you is to get either raised beds or buy very large containers. The key for you in Texas is going to be water – you want enough soil to hold the water that will feed your plants. You can put them right on the grass (especially if you put a layer of cardboard in the bottom before adding the dirt) and mow right up to the edges.

    The cheapest way to go is to build a 4’x8′ bed out of 2″x10″ planks. (Do NOT get treated lumber; this can put arsenic into your soil.) If you have more money than handyman skills, you can buy corner connectors that you just slide planks into. (Hint: Lowe’s will cut lumber to length for you – so you could have them saw one 8′ plank in half)

    You can also buy 3’x3′ beds that snap together. Gardener’s Supply Company ( has a large selection of other raised bed kits, including self-watering containers, which are a little pricey but might be just the thing for Texas.

    Vertical growing is a great idea, too! Bamboo poles are great for pole beans. And you’re right…your lettuce and such will want cooler temps and less direct sun – though there are other options for sun-loving greens later in the year.

  17. Denise aka earthwomyn06 on LJ said,

    January 26, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Hey!! I don’t think I answered you back on being a mentoring gardener… I need all the help I can get..
    If you know of someone who would be willing to be my mentor that would GREAT!!!
    I’m doing container gardening this year… so wish me luck!

  18. Emily said,

    January 27, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Hiya, Denise! I’m still looking for more “garden mentors,” so in the meantime let’s just assume we’ll be working together. I think I can squeeze in a container garden… 🙂 I’ll be sending some questions by e-mail soon.

  19. Linda Davis said,

    January 31, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Hi Everyone,

    I love this idea. I gardened in Arizona on hills and irrigated, 33 years ago. I again gardened in Florida, 30 years ago where I swore that had I started gardening there I’d have never really gardened. It was tough. I then gardened in Mo. and went crazy, growing in real dirt and canning like crazy. I then got busy with family and growing a business for the next 25 years. I’m now 59, living in Florida, and joining your victory garden challenge. Holy cow, I’ve even contemplated buying a tractor and tearing up a couple of acres of the ten we own here. I could sure use some help from anyone gardening in a sand based soil.

  20. Linda Davis said,

    February 2, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I’ve decided to try the earth box for gardening in Central Fl because of the work that it would require to improve the soil and the length of time to do it. Does anyone have any experience with growing corn in a container type situation? Any help would be appreciated.

  21. Emily said,

    February 2, 2008 at 7:54 pm


    I’ve not grown corn in containers, but I know with corn you have to be sure you have enough of it so it can be pollinated properly by the wind – a 5’x5′ block is what I’ve read as the smallest amount that will produce well. It’s important to plant it in a block, not a line.

  22. Linda Davis said,

    February 3, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Thanks Emily. I’m going to try both, putting the corn in this Earth Box and also the rows. I’m a little concerned to put so much into the earth box and not be successful. Will keep you posted.

  23. February 3, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    […] new book, and at the same time so many of the Garden Blog set have Spring Fever and are challenging each other to various great ways to expand their gardens. But what if you read Pollan’s […]

  24. February 4, 2008 at 9:44 am

    […] Pollan’s new book, and at the same time so many of the Garden Blog set have Spring Fever and are challenging each other to various great ways to expand their gardens. But what if you read Pollan’s books, […]

  25. commonweeder said,

    February 7, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    I love the idea of getting everyone to garden, and produce even just a little of the food, but I blanch at the word Victory. Victory gardens were grown when we were at war, and doing our bit for the war effort, but I think our gardens now are more about helping to return our planet to health. We don’t want victory over Mother Nature, and we couldn’t get it anyway, but we can work cooperatively in the HOPES that we can restore Mother Earth to health. How about growing HOPE GARDENS?

  26. Emily said,

    February 7, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    HOPE gardens! I love that!

  27. Linda Davis said,

    February 13, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Hi. Just checking in. Wanted to let you know how excited I am with this gardening. It was the challenge here that pushed my decision over the fence. I can’t do all the bending I did when I was younger and before I had injured my back so I’ve decided to put in 255 Earth Boxes at the height where I can do the gardening without bending over. I visited their research center here in Florida and was amazed. They certainly do have 16 corn plants growing in one 30 inch box. Not only that, I can do this all organically. My first five boxes have blackberries growing in them and doing well. If anyone is interested you can see these boxes in action in video’s on One box can handle two tomatoe plants and produce 40 to 50 pounds of tomatoes. Sixteen bush beans can go into one box. Best of all theirs no weeding needed and min. of water usage. Just thought someone might be interested in all the research I’ve been doing.


  28. Treasa Birchett said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    A few months ago I started with vermiculture. and I have recently been thinking about starting a new garden. I haven’t had one in years . I was thinkg that what the world need right now was more home gardens like the old victory gardens so I get on the internet and here you all are with the same Idea. WOW< I’m am now hooked. I am in Arizona and we can pretty much grow year around depending on what you are growing. gets hot in the summer but only for a few months. so I am starting late but decided I would
    start small with some summer squash and melons. I have been growing herbs for a while now. Thanks for the inspiration

  29. May 24, 2011 at 5:04 am

    I’d like to know more about going green and using worms. Do you know of there are any workshops or trainings this year? Thank you! – Michelle

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