The Current

This author says growing your own 'victory garden' could help to ease the anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic

Looking for something practical to do during the pandemic? Debi Goodwin says there are benefits to growing your own vegetables, like the victory gardens of the Second World War.

War-time vegetable gardens could offer a much needed distraction and food source, says Debi Goodwin

Debi Goodwin is the author of A Victory Garden for Trying Times, a memoir that details the final year of her husband's life, grief and how a victory garden got her through. She believes the idea could help people struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jane Goodwin, Debi Goodwin)

Read Story Transcript

Canadians worried about the COVID-19 pandemic could find a welcome distraction — and a reliable food source — in growing their own 'victory garden,' according to one author.

"When you work in the garden, you kind of have to have patience," said Debi Goodwin, author of the memoir A Victory Garden for Trying Times.

"You get back into the rhythm of nature and we have to remember that's still going on, even though our whole world is changed." 

The idea of a victory garden first sprouted during the First World War, when the British government encouraged citizens to plant and tend gardens at home in an effort to ease food shortages.

Debi Goodwin began her victory garden, left, when her late husband began treatment of cancer. A 'victory carrot,' right, that came from her backyard vegetable plot. (Debi Goodwin)

In recent weeks, there's been a surge of interest in home gardening as Canadians adopt working from home and physical distancing measures to slow the spread of the virus. Goodwin said that surge is putting a strain on seed producers.

Stokes Seeds, a supplier of plant seeds for both commercial and consumer use, has temporarily closed its online store to home gardeners and will focus on fulfilling existing orders.

"I think people are looking for something they can do," Goodwin told The Current's Matt Galloway.

"But also, I think people are worried about the safety of the food they touch in grocery stores and whether food will get through at all."

While the challenge Canadians face from the coronavirus pandemic is very different from that of a global war, Goodwin believes that victory gardens can offer relief for both individuals and communities.

"The world is probably not going to come back as we knew it, so I think going out and doing something for your family, you can do it for your community... it can be part of our personal survival," she said.

"Being out there for hours can ease that anxiety," she added.

Victory gardens were popularized during the First World War in the United States by Charles Lathrop Pack. (Debi Goodwin)

'A wonderful solace'

The concept of victory gardens didn't catch on in the U.K. at first — "I think the British liked their roses too much," Goodwin said — American businessman and philanthropist Charles Lathrop Pack was a major proponent for victory gardens on this side of the Atlantic.

The multi-millionaire was behind ads that featured slogans including "The Garden Victorious," Goodwin told Galloway.

"He managed to get five million war gardens, as they were first called, into American gardens," she said.

After the war ended, the gardens all but disappeared until World War II once again caused global chaos, and led to a resurgence of growing vegetables for victory.

Goodwin started her first victory garden when her husband was being treated for cancer, which she details in her memoir. 

"I needed something to get me distracted … but also to remind me that life goes on, and I've always found being in the garden a wonderful solace."

Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Howard Goldenthal.


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Stokes Seeds' only store has closed. In fact, they have temporarily stopped accepting orders on their website.
    Mar 31, 2020 10:34 AM ET

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