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Exploring Collections at Home - Victory Gardens Return

William H. Gage in a garden, 1914, Wilmette Historical Museum Collections Online. William Gage, son of Katherine and Stanley, lived at 932 Elmwood.

Wilmettians have long been proud of their beautiful gardens, but if you find yourself with an itch to grow your own food these days too, you are not alone.

Many of us hear the phrase "victory garden" and think of WWII, when patriotism was directly linked to growing one's own food.

Victory Garden

Sow the Seeds of Victory! plant & raise your own vegetables… More from the Smithsonian on Victory Gardens can be browsed here.

Lately, "victory garden" has re-emerged and morphed into the "corona victory garden." While we certainly aren’t subject to wartime rationing, food scarcity and difficulties with shopping in grocery stores during the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out feelings of food insecurity in some Americans.

It makes sense that seeing the empty shelves in grocery stores would want us to produce food of our own. Do a web search and you'll find numerous articles about the reappearance of the victory garden. “Food Supply Anxiety Brings Back Victory Gardens,” from the New York Times or WBEZ's, “Victory Gardens Are Making A Comeback During The Pandemic” both discuss parallels between WWI and WWII victory gardens and the movement to garden today. Victory gardens might be tied to specific moments in history, but gardening during difficult times is not new.

The idea of a corona victory garden isn’t just about growing some juicy tomatoes or peas, either. Gardening can also help people stay busy and reduce stress during difficult times.

New Trier Men's Garden Club

New Trier Men's Garden Club, 1980, Wilmette Historical Museum Collections Online.

If you’re thinking you’d like to start gardening and haven’t dug into the dirt yet, check out The Spruce or WBEZ for some beginner tips on how to grow a “victory garden” of your own. Or, if growing veggies isn’t your style, maybe you’ll think about planting a pollinator garden this year. Go Green Wilmette has great tips for Pocket Prairie Gardens. You may also consider joining a local garden club, like the Wilmette Garden Club, which has been around since 1922! Let us know if need their contact information.

As of May 1, garden centers were deemed essential in Illinois. Which means, if you so desire, get out there (safely) and start growing!