'Victory gardens' are surging in popularity: Here's everything you need to know to get growing

Korin Miller
·5 mins read

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Let's get growing. (Photo: Getty Images)
Let's get growing. (Photo: Getty Images)

History is repeating itself. Victory gardens, which people planted during World War I and II to help with food shortages and boost morale, are having a comeback. Growing veggies and herbs is relaxing and good for the soul—so it’s easy to see why people are reviving the concept during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you didn’t create a garden in the spring, don’t panic—experts say you still have time to plant all kinds of produce. “You have lots of options right now,” Rebecca Finneran, senior horticulture educator at Michigan State University Extension, tells Yahoo Life. “A lot of the spring vegetables have very short maturity seasons and, even though you missed the window for things like peas, there are plenty of other things you can plant,” she says.

There’s still time to plant some summer produce, but you have to get going, Pamela J. Bennett, associate professor and state master gardener program director at The Ohio State University, tells Yahoo Life. “The window for planting a summer harvested garden is getting a little bit slim, but it’s not too late,” she says.

A good way to know if there’s time is to check the seed packet, specifically the number of days to maturity, Bennett says. “If you find something that takes 90 days, it won’t be ready to eat this summer and may not produce as days get shorter and temperatures get cooler,” she says. “However, a green bean that has 50 days to maturity will be ready to eat in late August. A zucchini that has 40 days to maturity will be ready in mid August, and so forth.”

Keep in mind that where you live matters, too. If things tend to stay warm in your area into September and October, you’ll have a little more wiggle room.

“You can plant summer crops like green beans, summer squash and okra right now and through the next couple of weeks, and you’ll still have time for the harvest this summer,” vegetable and fruit specialist Jon Traunfeld, director of the Home & Garden Information Center at the University of Maryland Extension, tells Yahoo Life. Not only that, Traunfeld says you can still plant seedlings, like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, if you can find them.

Experts say these are good options to grow right now:

  • Green beans

  • Swiss chard

  • Squash

  • Basil

  • Collard greens

  • Kale

  • Beets

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Spinach, lettuce and other greens

  • Green onions

  • Kohlrabi

  • Turnips

It’s not a bad idea to consider planting in containers, Finneran says, especially if space is an issue. And don’t forget to stock up on some fencing and caging to keep out rabbits and birds—those creatures would love to enjoy the fruits of your labor, say Finneran.

If you’d rather plan ahead for fall produce, that’s doable too. Bennett says to start gathering stuff now to plant a fall garden in early August. “Lettuce, spinach, greens and all of the other cold-loving plants can be started in August and harvested in the cooler part of September and October,” she says.

Ready to get your victory garden off the ground? Read on for some delicious options:

MABES WAREHOUSE Spacemaster 80 Cucumber Seeds

Perfect for summer salads. (Photo: Amazon)
Perfect for summer salads. (Photo: Amazon)

These cukes grow to about seven and a half inches on vines around 36 inches long. They grow best outside. Excellent for pickling when small and for slicing when bigger.

Seeds of Change Blue Lake Bush Beans

Seeds of Change Blue Lake Bush Beans (Photo: Amazon)
Seeds of Change Blue Lake Bush Beans (Photo: Amazon)

These seeds yield tender, sweet beans that are ready in just 55 days. Plant them in full to partial sun, and make sure they get moderate amounts of water. Once they’re ready, you can eat them off the vine or pickle them for winter.

Clovers Garden Big Boy Tomato Plant

Perfect for salads and burgers. (Photo: Amazon)
Perfect for salads and burgers. (Photo: Amazon)

These two live non-GMO Big Boy tomato plants will ensure you have plenty of ripe, juicy goodness for the foreseeable future. Individually grown and shipped in 3.5-inch pots.

Sow Right Straight Neck Yellow Summer Squash Seeds

Straight Neck Yellow Summer Squash (Photo: Amazon)
Straight Neck Yellow Summer Squash (Photo: Amazon)

This compact variety can be grown in containers and does well planted in late summer for a fall harvest. The squash, with yellow skin, has a tapered straight neck and is disease resistant.

Sow Right Power Greens Seeds

Sow Right Power Greens Seeds (Photo: Amazon)
Sow Right Power Greens Seeds (Photo: Amazon)

This four-pack contains plenty of options so you can get your greens fix this summer and beyond. You’ll have a garden filled with Swiss chard and kale in six to eight weeks. Set aside the arugula and spinach seeds for your fall crop—they prefer cooler weather.

Sow Right Genovese Basil Seeds

Sow Right Seeds - Genovese Basil Seed (Photo: Amazon)
Sow Right Seeds - Genovese Basil Seed (Photo: Amazon)

Genovese basil has oversized, slightly spicy leaves that are perfect for things like pesto and bruschetta. These seeds can be planted indoors or out. Expect to see germination in as little as five days.

Everwilde Farms Red Burgundy Okra Seeds

Red Burgundy Okra Seeds (Photo: Amazon)
Red Burgundy Okra Seeds (Photo: Amazon)

Red burgundy okra adds a pop of pretty color to any garden, and tastes delicious off the vine or in dishes like gumbo. You can expect to harvest your crop about 55 days after you plant.

Gaea's Blessing Seeds - Organic Beet Seeds

Make delicious beets at home. (Photo: Amazon)
Make delicious beets at home. (Photo: Amazon)

It’s easy to grow your own beets at home. This heirloom variety is blood red in color and has yummy tops that can be used for salad greens. Matures in 58 days.

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