“Victory Gardens” Making a Comeback

Karen Russ
Home & Garden Information Center

An assortment of gardening tools and catalogs
Karen Russ, Clemson Extension

Thinking of planting a “victory garden” to help cope with the economy and high food prices this year? If so, then it’s time to haul out the shovels, rakes and hoes, take a soil sample, spread some compost and order some seeds. Tomato season may still be a long time off, but there are many vegetables that can be planted this month for spring harvests. If you start now, you can enjoy fresh spinach and lettuce salads and other early vegetables for months before summer’s bonanza.

A World War II poster promoting planting a garden
WW II poster promoting gardening (from the National Agricultural Library)

Victory gardens were planted throughout the US during WWII. Encouraged by the federal government to supplement scarce fruit and vegetable supplies, Americans planted more than 20 million victory gardens. Those gardens produced an estimated 40% of all vegetables eaten nationally during the later war years.

The practice of growing a garden to supply most of one’s own fruit and vegetables is regaining popularity today. Reasons vary from a desire to eat more locally produced food, to environmental concerns, to saving money in a difficult economy. At the Home & Garden Information Center, callers showed an increased interest in vegetable gardening in 2008, and even greater interest is expected in 2009.

All regions of South Carolina can get started on a new style “victory garden” this month. Along the coast, gardeners have been able to plant a few early spring crops since December. Now in February, there are even more vegetables that can be planted, not only in the Coastal region, but also in the mid-state Central region and in the upstate Piedmont.

A map of South Carolina divided into 3 gardening zones
South Carolina’s three growing regions include the following counties.
Piedmont: Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Lancaster, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Saluda, Spartanburg, Union and York counties.
Central: Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Calhoun, Chesterfield, Clarendon, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Kershaw, Lee, Lexington, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Richland and Sumter counties.
Coastal: Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper and Williamsburg counties.

Several early season vegetables can be planted in the Piedmont region of South Carolina in February. These include asparagus, cabbage (from seedlings), mustard, garden peas, radishes, spinach and turnips. Even if not planting in February, Piedmont gardeners should be sure to prepare their garden beds now as many more vegetables can be planted in March.

In the Central region, all of the above (except for garden peas) can still be planted. In addition, February is the month to plant beets, broccoli, carrots, collards, lettuce, onions from sets and plants, and Irish potatoes.

In the Coastal region, early season vegetable gardening is in full swing. Most of the crops above, with the exception of cabbage and garden peas, can still be planted. Second or third sowings of mustard, radishes, spinach, and turnips can be planted for extended harvest. Hurry though if you want to sow an extra row of lettuce, which should be planted by the first week of February.

Even more vegetables can be planted as the weather warms in March, April and May. For information on planning and preparing a vegetable garden, including planting dates for each region, see HGIC 1256, Planning a Garden. Soil sampling and testing information can be found in HGIC 1652, Soil Testing. Even more information on vegetable and other edible crops gardening can be found in the numerous fact sheets in the Vegetable, Fruits & Nuts section of the Home & Garden Information Center web site.

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.