Ohio's Victory Garden program returns this spring, expands in the Miami Valley
Ohio State University extension offices, in partnership with the state's department of agriculture, are getting ready to kick off this year's Victory Garden program.
Victory gardens date back to WWI. Backyards, front yards, schoolyards and vacant lots were turned into gardens to address severe food shortages at the time.
There were posters and magazine catalogs encouraging beginning gardeners to grow all sorts of vegetables, grains and fruit.
In 2020, OSU with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, revived the effort at a time when some feared widespread food supply shortages. Pamela Bennett, a professor in horticulture for Ohio State, said the goal of the program was simple.
“The goal is to try to get people inspired to garden. So we give them the nudge. We kind of nudge them to get started on gardening and hopefully they continue with that.” Bennett said.
About 50 counties across the state participate in the program, including Miami and Champaign counties, which are new this year.
Beginning home gardeners can get free sample seed packets at their local OSU extension office. The packets include lettuce, cucumbers, carrot and sunflower seeds.
Some extension offices will also hold regular workshops on how to manage pests or grow a successful garden.
Bennett said what’s interesting about the home gardening movement is how it tends to pick up.
“Community gardens and interest in gardening has gone up and down over time,” Bennett said. “But what typically happens after there's like a surge when there's a depression or something, Everybody wants to grow their own. But when prices go back down, people tend to go back to the grocery store.”
Some surveys suggest home gardening interest boomed during the pandemic. Bennett said this growing season will tell whether that interest is still up or winding down. Either way, Bennet said gardening is just good for the soul.
“The joy of doing it, the physical health of doing it, the mental health. Just the outdoor benefits of growing your own vegetables and of course, the taste, you just can't beat the taste of fresh fruit.”
OSU extension offices will begin distributing seed packets in early April. Specific distribution dates are the OSU Victory Gardens website.
Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.