Next Year’s Kitchen Garden

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

I know.  Thanksgiving Day is tomorrow, it’s hardly even snowed yet, and here I am talking about next year’s kitchen garden.  I have a reason.

When I wrote last July about planting a garden on the White House lawn I mentioned that a group of garden enthusiasts at Kitchen Gardeners International is trying to get people to turn unproductive lawns into vegetable gardens – starting with the White House. It was too late for you to start your own kitchen garden then (if you have one, you don’t need me to tell you how rewarding it is, and how wonderful veggies are when you pick them and eat them within a few hours) but I’ve just found a free booklet you can read now and start planning for next spring.

The booklet runs about 30 pages.  Its title is War Vegetable Gardening and Home Storage of Vegetables. It was published in 1918, during World War I, by the U.S. Government’s National War Garden Commission. It’s easy to get, easy to read, and has the added virtue of being free.

A few years ago, Google announced its intention to scan every book in existence and store the digital versions in a huge searchable library, open to the public. People like me, who write for our living, were less than thrilled that folks could read our work without ever having to pay for it. (If you want to know about the economics of writing books, buy me a Guinness some day and I’ll tell you all about it). Some writers’ organizations raised a red flag, one sued on behalf of its members. Google backed off, saying it would scan only books in the public domain — those that were never copyrighted or whose copyrights had run out. (One of my books is still in Google’s library, but that’s a story for another day.)

The book I’m here to tell you about has always been in the public domain because it was paid for with taxpayers’ money.  Everything the government publishes belongs to you and me and we don’t have to ask permission to use it, although we can’t publish and sell it ourselves because it’s not ours to sell.

So, in scanning War Vegetable Gardening, Google has done a Good Thing. To get a copy, click here. You’ll need Adobe’s Acrobat Reader to read the book.  You can also save it to your computer’s hard drive and print it. If you don’t have Acrobat Reader, you can get it here. Click on Get Adobe Reader in the righthand column. It’s free and doesn’t take long to download.

Somewhere between the two world wars, the US entered the Age of Euphemism.  Thus, the Department of War was renamed the Department of Defense (this may have something to do with the fact that the last Secretary of War ended his life by jumping out a window), and the War Garden became a Victory Garden.

Think of next summer’s kitchen garden as contributing to your personal victory over the world’s economic troubles. Plan now, plant when the weather permits. If you plant enough, not only will you eat well, but you may find a farmer’s market where you can sell your surplus, or barter for produce you didn’t grow. How bad could that be?

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