by CAROL O’MEARA Colorado State University Extension

Gardeners are good at sharing with others. We offer advice, give seeds and seedlings, or leave zucchini on doorsteps of neighbors. In good or difficult times, gardeners rise to help with small kindnesses. These everyday things make us happy; it’s how we sow community as well as gardens.

We know that big things can come from a single seed, that an individual flower, combined with dozens or hundreds of others can turn a vacant lot into a paradise. These things the garden teaches us, along with the importance of sharing resources so all can thrive.

Historically, gardeners have come together to help our nation weather critical food shortages and cope with a struggling society. We’ve done so since 1917 when America became embroiled in WWI which took our young farmers from fields to front lines, disrupting food production and supply. Citizens across the nation were encouraged to grow their own food as a means of easing shortages, boosting mental health, and providing exercise.

Charles Lathrop Pack organized the National War Garden Commission to encourage Americans to contribute to the war effort by planting, harvesting, and storing their own fruits and vegetables. This eased demand on food, which could then be sent to our war-torn European allies.

With the armistice in 1918 ending the war, Americans were encouraged to continue their gardening – now called Liberty Gardens – by the National War Garden Commission as a means for helping the country recover. Nationally, three million gardens were planted in 1917 and by the end of 1918, over 5.2 million gardens were cultivated as part of the Liberty Gardens effort.

Interest in Liberty Gardens waned after a few years but was revived during WWII when food supplies again were strained, and more extensive rationing was in place. In 1943, Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden on the White House’s South Lawn. Though largely symbolic, the Victory Garden on the White House lawn was the First Lady’s call to action for the national movement for home grown food to help alleviate shortages.

The movement for Victory Gardens in World War II resulted in over 20 million Americans participating, producing approximately 40 percent of our country’s produce.

Now, we face the probability of interrupted food supply again, so gardeners, its time. We are the seeds, the single flowers who, together, will grow and help our community. Plant extra and donate it to pantries, your neighbors who need it, or friends who have seen a decrease in income. Whether it’s a dozen carrots or a hundred tomatoes, it doesn’t matter. Grow, and give.

Check out Grow & Give,, the website devoted to helping you grow fruits and vegetables in your garden. You’ll find information and instructional videos for planting your vegetable garden added weekly.

If you’d like to learn to garden, sign up to take our free Vegetable Gardening class via CSU-Online. This course, one of the six-hour-long basics of the Colorado Master Gardener program, is normally $60; but to support the growing of modern Victory Gardens, is being offered for free in the month of May. Gardeners have access to it for up to six months following registration.

Our Grow & Give website link for the course goes live on May 1; use the promo code Garden2020 when registering to waive the cost of the class.

As you grow, Master Gardeners are here to answer your questions virtually, via our e-mail Help Desk or live online chats. Chat with a Colorado Master Gardener live on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Sunday, June 14, Or e-mail questions and photos to our help desk at [email protected].

By Carol A. O’Meara. Carol is an Extension Agent – Horticulture Entomology at Colorado State University Extension Boulder County. For more information contact CSU Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6377, e-mail [email protected] or visit