Climate Victory Gardens Continue to Sprout Across the Country

The number of backyard vegetable gardens has doubled in the past year.

dad with kids in backyard vegetable garden

Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

Americans are planting more vegetable gardens than ever. What may have started as a pandemic hobby has continued to expand rapidly, with the number of registered "climate victory gardens" now pegged around 15,000. 

These gardens are tracked by an organization called Green America, which encourages people to grow their own food in order to fight climate change by drawing down carbon from the atmosphere to boost mental resilience, offset rising food costs, and spend more time outside. 

Green America provides resources to new gardeners who may be unsure of where to start. (There are options for experienced gardeners, too.) These resources cover everything from knowing when to grow and how to start seedlings indoors to details about soil testing, composting, container gardening, supporting pollinators, and more. It also has a new series on gardening for people with disabilities.

The name "climate victory garden" is inspired by the victory gardens planted during World Wars I and II. Twenty million families tended backyard gardens that provided 40% of the nation's fresh produce at their peak. It is an example of just how effective home-growing can be when practiced on a vast scale. There's no reason why we couldn't recreate that now—or at least in part—as we strive to reduce our carbon footprints.

It is important to note, however, that during World War II these gardens had a very different meaning for Japanese Americans imprisoned in internment camps. Many of the food shortages experienced in the U.S. stemmed from the incarceration of many of the nation's most productive farmers of Japanese heritage. Green America wrote, "In 1942, Japanese American-owned farms were expected to provide half of the canning tomatoes and 95% of all fresh snap beans for the war effort. They were also the primary growers of strawberries for civilian consumption."

Gardening did help many of the interned Japanese people to cope with their horribly unjust treatment, according to Green America. Tending gardens within the internment camps provided some degree of horticultural therapy, a sense of community, and nutritional supplementation. Nevertheless, it's crucial for those of us gardening today to be reminded of the fact that "victory gardens" would not have been needed so badly if the nation had treated its Japanese citizens with the dignity and respect they deserved.

Treehugger reported last year on Green America's campaign to get people planting Climate Victory Gardens. We have received a happy update that the number of gardens has nearly doubled since then. A press release says that the number of registered gardens went from 8,670 in 2021 to 14,632 so far this year, with a quantifiably positive impact: "By using climate-friendly, regenerative agriculture techniques, the gardens equate to 4,667 tons of annual carbon drawdown or offsetting the emissions of 39 million miles driven."

Emma Kriss, food campaigns manager at Green America, told Treehugger that the organization follows Project Drawdown's guidance for calculating saved emissions.

"According to Project Drawdown, farms that use regenerative practices see soil carbon levels rise from a baseline of 1 to 2% up to 5 to 8% over ten or more years, which can add up to 25 to 60 tons of carbon per acre. Green America uses the lower estimate (25 tons of carbon/acre). We then use the EPA's Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator to calculate the potential emissions saved and the equivalency in terms of miles driven."

She went on to explain that a climate victory garden is one that "follows regenerative practices, such as diverse cover-cropping and minimum to no-till practices; is free of pesticides and other harmful chemicals; and helps feed the gardener and pollinators." So you can't plant just anything, any which way, and call it a climate victory garden. The goal must always be to improve the earth and to nourish in the process. 

You, too, can join the Climate Victory Garden movement by signing up and adding yours to this searchable map.