Berks History for Victory

Berks History for Victory

About #BerksHistoryforVictory

The Berks History Center invites you to help build and promote local food security during the COVID-19 pandemic by learning about the history of victory gardens and growing your own gardens at home, wherever possible. 

Launched on April 13, 2020, “Berks History for Victory” is an educational campaign and community story-telling project to promote home gardening for food security in Berks County and beyond. The initiative focuses on the revitalization of historic victory gardens, providing both the historical context and practical information for home-scale food production.

Homeowners and renters alike are encouraged to participate and share stories about their victory gardening efforts on social media using the hashtag #BerksHistoryforVictory or join our online community of Berks Victory Gardeners on facebook. 

Taking Root

Thanks to generous support from The Friends of Reading Hospital, the Berks History Center will install a demonstration victory garden at the Berks History Center this spring!

Kick-Start Kits

Funds from The Friends of Reading Hospital supplied 250 city residents with Victory Garden “Kick-Start Kits,” which included vegetable starts and bilingual educational pamphlets. 

Victory Gardens in America

The idea of the American “Victory Garden” was pioneered by forestry expert and third-generation businessman, Charles Lathrop Pack, a multi-millionaire and one of the five wealthiest men in America.

As the United States entered the first World War in 1917, Pack organized the US National War Garden Commission and launched the war garden campaign. His pamphlet, Victory Gardens Feed the Hungry: The Needs of Peace Demand the Increased Production of Food in America’s Victory Gardens” is one of the leading monographs in the campaign for the Victory Garden program. 

War gardening, or victory gardens, provided American citizens an opportunity to assist with the war effort. Americans were encouraged to produce their own food by planting vegetable gardens in their backyards, churchyards, city parks, and playgrounds.

The City of Reading offered residents several areas around town to start war gardens, encouraging citizens to raise their own vegetables for consumption and conserve farm produce for the war effort. Gardens sprung up all over Reading, from the Hampden and Buttonwood reservoir plots, to the grounds near Sternbergh’s Stirling and Spring and Weiser Streets. Open city blocks, city parks with reservoirs or open land on private property were all made available to Reading residents for rent or free of charge.

Victory Gardens were again promoted by the U.S. government during World War II complementing a country-wide Food Rationing Program in 1942. Rationing provided an incentive for people to dig out their flower boxes and backyards, replacing their mums with tomato plants. Additionally, many American families learned and adopted canning methods into their daily lives.

Victory Gardens at Home

Gardening Resources

Resources from the Penn State Cooperative Extension and Berks Master Gardeners

For gardening help from a certified master gardener contact the Berks Master Gardener Hotline:

Victory Garden Reinvented! Webinar Series – April 14th Join Master Gardeners to learn up-to-date, research-based information on best practices for growing vegetables.

The National Garden Bureau’s Victory Garden 2.00: 10 Steps for planning your own  is a step-by-step guide based on the book  Victory Garden Manual by James H. Burdett written in 1943.

Green America’s Climate Victory Gardening Toolkit reminds us that while growing vegetables good for our bodies, it’s also good for our planet.  Think about losing some of the lawn to produce food!

Reading List

Reading Public Library has dug into their collections to increase accessibility to information about home food production and the history of victory gardening in America. Through its Overdrive platform, the Reading Public Library has compiled a unique selection of digital books that can be accessed online by digital library card holders:

To request a digital library card visit

Build Your Own Victory Garden Bed

Muhlenberg Greene Architects, Ltd. have joined the victory gardening movement! Build your own raised bed using Muhlenberg Greene’s simple Victory Garden Bed designs.