Have you heard of the term victory garden? These were gardens that were planted during WWII in order to increase food security and prevent famine. The government encouraged homeowners to grow their own food to feed their families, as much of the available food was needed for soldiers. Victory gardens were a hit; in fact, 40 percent of all consumed vegetables during this period came from these garden beds. Since the end of WWII, victory gardens have diminished in popularity. But now, the country is calling on gardeners to revive these gardens for another war: the war on climate change.
Two years ago, nonprofit organization Green America initiated a movement that revived the victory garden. This nonprofit has sought to refashion victory gardens as a means of enriching the earth rather than our people.
Conventional agricultural practices have stripped the land of vital nutrients and polluted our air and water. Years of tilling, which entails churning the soil in order to prepare it for new crops, have damaged the soil’s microbial structure; its ability to retain water and store carbon; and its earthworm colonies.
Farmers have relied on monoculture, or the cultivation of one crop on a plot of land, for years, leaving the soil exposed to harsh conditions after crop harvest. This has also contributed to our soil’s infertility.
In addition, the excessive use of fertilizer and pesticides has polluted our air and water as well as harmed insect and pollinator populations.
Regenerative farmers, however, have challenged conventional ag practices. Regenerative farming techniques, which seek to repair the soil and support biodiversity above and below ground, have swelled in popularity over the last few years. And now, Green America is using victory gardens as a vessel for gardeners to practice regenerative ag.
Modern Day Victory Gardens
Modern day victory gardens are less about preventing famine and more about preventing environmental disasters.
We’ve all recognized that climate change is beginning to affect everyday weather patterns (well, most of us have). Our storms are more severe, our droughts are longer and drier, and our winters are warmer. Sometimes, we experience all four seasons in the span of one week. This not only makes it difficult to garden, but it makes it difficult to farm.
But many researchers believe that regenerative agriculture could mitigate the negative effects of climate change.
Regenerative agriculture seeks to repair the soil. And the soil is the most important element in agriculture. Soil with vital nutrients–like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium, and potassium–supports healthier crops. Soil with good structure helps reduce erosion and control flooding.
Last spring, farmers in the Midwest were hit with torrential storms that caused severe flooding. Many farmers faced losses because the soil wasn’t healthy enough to bounce back. But, miraculously, regenerative farmers found that their land did bounce back.
So we know that regenerative farming supports healthy soil. What Green America wants is for regenerative gardening to support healthy soil.
By practicing regenerative gardening, we can help support and sustain healthy soil. Healthy soil sequesters carbon, so by enriching our soil and strengthening its structure, we can help absorb some of the CO2 in the atmosphere.
Currently, we are releasing carbon from the soil through tillage and monoculture. And as the earth continues to heat, more and more carbon will be released. We can stop this, however, with victory gardens.
How to Plant a Victory Garden
You might be wondering how you would plant a victory garden to fight climate change. You might also be wondering what exactly is a victory garden and how does it differ from a normal garden?
Victory gardens are very similar to regular gardens. The only difference is the way you tend to them.
To help guide you through the process, focus on these three principles:
- Repair the Soil
- Support Biodiversity
- Protect Natural Resources
Now, on to your victory garden…and your battle with climate change!
Repair and Support Soil
Begin by supporting your soil, as this is the number one principle of regenerative ag. You can support the soil in a number of ways:
- First, don’t till your soil. If you have plants that require tilling, try employing minimum-tillage methods, which only break up the surface of the soil.
- Second, enrich your soil with nutrients with a compost pile, which will also help you reduce your food waste.
- Third, support earthworm colonies. Earthworms are endangered and many die due to tilling, as the process destroys their burrows (and their bodies). Of course, you won’t just be helping them. Earthworms enrich the soil by eating litter and depositing nutrient-rich castings, so they’ll also be helping you.
- Plant cover crops–such as alfalfa, clover, legumes, and spinach–in order to protect the soil after harvesting. Cover crops will protect the soil from harsh conditions and will also keep carbon from entering the atmosphere.
- Plant perennials, because these plants can actually restore infertile soil. You can read all about this here.
Once you’ve determined how to support the soil, move to the animal and plant life in your garden. To support biodiversity, you can create a pollinator garden, plant native species, and support the natural order of the world by providing food and shelter for beneficial insects, mammals, and amphibians.
Pollinators are responsible for 75% of the fruits and vegetables we consume. Yet, many of them are declining due to habitat loss and pesticide poisoning. You can create shelter and supply nutrients for these pollinators in your garden by following the steps outlined in this article.
Protect Natural Resources
Lastly, to protect natural resources, you should eliminate your use of pesticides and switch to an ecofriendly fertilizer.
As stated above, pesticides contribute to the loss of pollinators and other beneficial insects. For instance, fireflies, who eliminate pests, are being poisoned by glyphosate (roundup). By eliminating your use of pesticides, you can protect them. Instead of using chemicals, opt for natural predators who can eat your pests. Try introducing garden spiders, ladybugs, lace wings, or toads. You can check out a list of critters that are great for keeping pests away here.
As for fertilizer, you’ll want one that does not contribute to runoff. Stay away from solid fertilizers, as they will often clump together and form hotspots that are impossible for plants to absorb. Instead, they’ll sit within the soil until rainwater carries them off into streams and rivers.
You’ll also want to steer clear of any fertilizers containing high-salt contents, as salt can affect your soil’s pH and burn your plants.
For a salt-free, runoff-free fertilizer, try xVital. Our nitrate water is made entirely of ionized water and nitrate, so it won’t damage the soil or your plants. In addition, xVital does not contribute to runoff. Plants have an easy time absorbing our fertilizer, so there is little left in the soil. And what is left evaporates into nitrogen rather than nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas), like other nitrogen-based fertilizers.
So what are you waiting for? You’re armed with the facts. Now plant your victory garden and begin the fight against climate change!