During World War I, patriotic Americans planted victory gardens. They were so popular during World War II that home, school and community gardens produced 40% of the nation’s fresh fruit and vegetables.
In the coronavirus pandemic, victory gardens are back — and many residents of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs have planted one. Their reasons vary from worrying about job security and the stability of the nation’s food supply to having time on their hands and wanting to teach their children important values.
Many are first-timers with small gardens consisting of neat rows of raised beds, containers of varying sizes, small spaces in flower beds and even a mobile garden. Others are more experienced gardeners using the quarantine to rediscover gardening.
“I’m planting one to teach my kids and be less dependent on the grocery store supply chain, get some exercise, spend time outside and build something,” said Steven Simms of Mill Glenn, a consultant whose office is currently closed and whose job “may be at risk if the economy doesn’t recover soon.”
Simms is growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in his three newly constructed raised beds.
“Fewer trips [to the grocery story] mean less chance of exposure to the virus,” he added. “Times like these remind me that the great convenience our free-market economy provides can easily get disrupted, so providing some of our own food is an important part of our family ‘insurance’ plan.”
Concern about a food shortage is motivating other more experienced gardeners.
“I decided to plant a garden when we started hearing reports of food shortages,” said Dunwoodian Jennifer Carabacca, who has a small backyard garden. “I’ve had a garden on and off, but this year is bigger with more variety.”
Cliff Gott, of Sandy Springs, has planted his entire garden in a 7-cubic-foot dump cart, which he is incorporating into his children’s homeschool curriculum.
“My wife and I try to expose our kids to ‘life skills,’ and being able to garden is an important [one],” he said. “The COVID-19 quarantine just so happened to align with our plans for a spring garden.”
One life skill he’s teaching is practicality because his wheeled garden solves the problems of too much shade and too many hungry deer. During the day, he moves the cart into the sun, and at night he moves it into the garage to prevent the deer from getting “a late-night snack.”
Dunwoodian Matthew Webster also credits the pandemic for his garden.
“I always liked having a veggie garden but hadn’t had time with three young kids or a spot with enough sun close to the house — until recently,” he said. “The whole pandemic thing provided me with both the time and the motivation to get going again. Also, I’m expecting inflation and possible shortages of quality produce.”
He tries to involve his boys — Daniel, 7, Evan, 5, and Austin, 3 — as much as possible.
“They help some, but it’s not always easy to keep them focused,” he said.
Some people have victory gardens they started after other threatening events.
“We’ve done a victory garden every year since 9/11,” said Lisa Stacholy, a Dunwoody-based architect, whose two children were very young at the time.
“The enemy was clear and known, but the ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’ was the PTSD type of event that we wanted to shield our young kids from,” she said.
Despite the pandemic, gardeners are clearly happy people
“Planting a garden is a great way to create lasting memories,” said Gott, the mobile gardener.
But what if you live in an apartment? Try the Dunwoody Community Garden and Orchard, at Brook Run Park, where 4-by-8 plots cost $60 a year. Though all are currently taken, the wait list is wide open. The DCGO sells plants at its greenhouse daily 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and offers classes at “the barn,” currently on hold till the city reopens the park to group activities. Information is at dcgo.org.