This article appeared in the City of Dayton Annual Report for 1943
By Edward V. Stoecklein
Director of Public Welfare
The planting of a victory garden last year was considered prudent; doing so this year was vital to the welfare of the nation.
In the plans made for victory gardens in Dayton for the productions of vital foods, it was determined that home vegetable gardens would fill an important place in the plan. It was believed that vegetables would be especially needed for the home food supply to supplement diminishing vegetable products and to replace other kinds of food products, which due to the war must be supplied in large quantities to the Army and Navy and to lend-lease shipments.
Early in the year, the Montgomery County Victory Garden Committee was formed, with Mr. O. L. Cunningham, County Agricultural Agent, as chairman. Numerous meetings of this committee were held for the purpose of assisting prospective gardeners in the answering of three questions – What vegetables should they grow? How many feet of row of each vegetable should they plant? How much seed will they need?
With this in mind there was suggested by the City a plan for a victory garden 30’ x 50’ in size, listing recommended vegetable varieties. This vegetable garden plan was worked out by the Horticultural Department of Ohio State University. The plan that had been developed was one that would supply a family of four with fresh vegetables and give them a sufficient quantity for canning and storage. The plan also included succession plans intended to utilize every square foot of space throughout the season and the Dayton Defense Council heartily endorsed the plan.
Under the general supervision of the Montgomery County committee, the Department of Welfare with the cooperation of its Division of Parks, the Division of Engineering, and the Division of Correction, worked out its plan. First, a survey was made of large tracts of land in and adjacent to the city. The owners of these tracts were ascertained at the Court House and permission for the use of the land for gardens was sought. The owners were very cooperative and as a result twenty-six different plots in different sections of the city were obtained. This represented a total of more than one hundred acres.
The Division of Correction cooperated by furnishing the Workhouse tractor, a farm guard, and three prisoners who plowed and disked these various plots. This required much overtime to complete.
These various plots were next staked out by City Engineers to a standard size of 30’ by 50’ with three foot paths. From the blueprints made by the City Engineers, the lots were consecutively numbered and these lots were then assigned from the office of the Division of Parks upon application and the payment of a fee of fifty cents.
The application signed by each prospective gardener provided for eight conditions as follows:
“1. I will begin cultivation of the garden within seven (7) days from the date of application, provided such application is made after March 15, 1943.
2. I will continue cultivation of the garden during the entire season, keeping it free from weeds and rubbish at all times; and I further agree to preserve or can all surplus.
3. I will be considerate of the rights of others, and protect my neighbor’s garden as well as my own.
4. I agree to follow such other regulations as may be established during the season.
5. The maximum size garden shall not exceed approximately 50 x 50 feet.
6. I understand that the 50c registration fee paid at the time of application entitles me to the garden site only as long as I comply with the above terms of the agreement. Under no circumstances is this 50c registration fee refundable.
7. If, after making application for a garden site, I am unable for personal reasons to proceed with its cultivation, I agree to notify the office of the Division of Parks, Basement, Municipal Building, immediately.
8. If in the judgment of representatives of the Division of Parks I fail to comply with any part of the above agreement, and fail to start cultivation or continue cultivation of the garden during the season, I understand that I shall forfeit all rights and privileges to said garden. A communication from the Division of Parks notifying me of such failure shall be considered good and sufficient notice of the termination of this agreement, and I agree to relinquish all rights to said garden upon receipt of such notice.”
A total of 2,748 gardens were thus assigned on the twenty-six different plots. A total estimated value of $150,000 was raised on these gardens.
The newspapers were very kind in publicizing. This was also a means of stimulating interest in gardening hundreds of vacant lots and backyard gardens not included in the above total. Many of the group gardeners entered the newspaper garden contests and many of them won prizes.
A survey of all group gardens was made in September in order to obtain a list of gardeners who had utilized their gardens to the fullest extent and who had continuously kept their tract free of weeds. As a result, a list of approximately 300 best gardeners was obtained. These gardeners are being appointed to act as garden leader of their respective plots for next year in order that the value of the crops raised may be increased. The duties of these garden leaders will be to answer questions and advise fellow gardeners on good garden practices.