How to Plant a Southern California Victory Garden

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With so many fundamental changes happening daily, we are all affected by our homes, our gardens, and our daily lives. So as we enter 2023, it’s a great time to re-evaluate old routines and update your lifestyle.

Southern California weather is becoming less and less predictable. The region, which has never experienced frequent rains, is drier than ever. The nights are getting warmer, while the days are increasingly sunny. Winds that tend to focus in late fall continue to gust and blow throughout the year. And with global unrest, disruptions to supply lines and labor shortages, we continue to lose our balance in a technological world where people don’t seem to work together.

As gardeners, we learn that everything has roots in the soil. Rain and sun nourish the earth’s source of all that feeds us. Gardening is a great way to empower yourself and make an impact—something that humanity hasn’t done before.

What is Victory Garden?

Although we can never go back, we can learn from the past. During World War II, communities were thrown into disequilibrium that made daily life a challenge. Even then, supply lines were unreliable, and basics like food were at risk. Victory Garden became a pride of place for homes around the world. It was a place where each family could help feed their neighbors and themselves while restoring a sense of freedom to the community. It was a place to root out a sense of purpose, power, and make a difference.

Let’s learn from the wisdom of 80 years ago and revive the Victory Garden. A time-tested solution in history, this simple solution is still viable today: anyone can grow a pot for food. A small garden, a balcony, and even a sunny window can be a source of fresh food or herbs for the home, while larger properties can grow produce to share with friends and communities.

Six Ways to Participate in Victory Gardening

We can help balance the planet; Eat fresh, healthy, and less expensive food; And use water wisely as we tap into our SoCal year-round growing conditions. No matter how big or small your garden, here are ways to participate in today’s “Victory Garden.”

1. Plant fruits and vegetables that grow in harmony.

Grow tall plants over smaller vegetables that need some shade. For example, the sun can scorch tomatoes in hot indoor gardens, so a little afternoon shade from a neighboring plant can benefit even those sun-lovers. Likewise, embrace companion planting and learn how some plants help others thrive, such as growing tomatoes and basil together.

2. Use water wisely.

Rainwater can be collected in decorative pots, barrels, cisterns or ponds. It can also be channeled to beneficial locations in lowlands, dry riverbanks, or by shrubs that irrigate food crops. Just remember that although gray water is safe to use for flower gardens, don’t water your food with it. Also, consider building and using raised beds to concentrate water use during restrictions. Using raised beds also helps protect some botanical treasures from pests and makes planting, maintenance and harvesting easier on backs and knees.

Growing vegetables in raised beds and containers
Photo: Jane Gates

3. Grow year-round.

While many gardeners focus on gardening during the warmer times of the year, there are plenty of cool-loving plants, such as lettuce, kale, cabbage and peas. When planning your garden, also leave room for some less common but more interesting vegetables like asparagus peas or fava beans that are decorative enough to blend happily into a flower garden.

4. Prepare your harvest for future use.

Canning, drying, or freezing are great ways to keep enjoying the fruits of your gardening labor long after harvest. Sharing edible riches with family, friends and community is also incredibly rewarding. Pickles, jams, jellies, or compotes also make great holiday gifts.

5. Plant SoCal-friendly, specialty foods.

Popular regional edibles like artichokes, goji berries, and a wide selection of herbs are also drought tolerant and love our heat, dry air, and lean soil—making them perfect plants for our region.

6. Grow your own garden.

Who doesn’t love delicious fruit? You don’t need acreage to enjoy fresh fruit from your garden. There are many semi-dwarf fruit trees to choose from that work well for growing in small areas or even large pots.

Picking lemons, grapes and figs on the kitchen counter
Photo: Jane Gates

Borrowing from the wisdom of Victory Gardens, Southern Californians have a great opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade and help be part of the solution when it comes to shortages, climate change, rising prices. , and even when it comes to dealing with chemotherapy. Very fresh, tasteless, imported food. We can even avoid fighting traffic with fewer trips to the grocery store.

Two baskets of vegetables in the garden
Harvesting your own food is healthy, inexpensive, sustainable, and just plain fun. Photo: Jane Gates

Despite all the negative effects of our drought and rising heat, one benefit is that our winter nights are less cold, making it a great time for each of us to start a winter victory garden. Another bonus: kids and seniors can all join in on the family fun!

-Jane Gates has over 35 years of professional design and gardening experience in Los Angeles and is the author of One Step for All Gardens: Choosing Best-Performing Plants for a Sustainable Garden

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