Great Depression Gardens (1930’s)

What is a Great Depression Garden?

Great Depression Gardens became recommended by the government and normalized during the 1930’s when the United States experienced many economic hardships. It became recommended to help families save money, and be able to provide for their own family instead of relying strictly on the government during these times. Families all over the country would transform their backyard into their very own home gardens in order to save money, so that they did not have to buy food. It did not matter if they lived in an urban or rural setting, most people struggled to buy food and make ends meet. Many families planted vegetable heavy gardens, since many vegetables can be used in various ways, as well as be stored during winter months. In urban areas such as Detroit, community gardens were even being planted so that people could take whatever they needed, or have plots available so that they could have a place to plant their own crops if they didn’t have a backyard. Sometimes these were also called thrift gardens. Because they needed to store some food for winter, canning fruits and vegetables became a very popular practice. Casseroles became very popular during this time because you could throw whatever you had together, as well as save it for later. This what lead to the creation of some of the casseroles we know and love today. Families also made what became known as Hoover Stew, frozen fruit salad, and prune pudding.


Plants Grown In Garden

  • Carrots: Carrots are a root vegetable that are often described as a perfect healthy vegetable. They are usually orange, but can also be found in purple, black, red, white, and yellow colors. They are a domesticated form of the wild carrot, daucus carota. Carrots are a good source of beta carotene, fiber, vitamin K1, potassium, and antioxidants. Carrots were used and grown during the Great Depression because they are a source of healthy food, can be used in soups and casseroles, and they also have the ability to be stored easily.
  • Onion: Onions are the most cultivated species of genus Allium. Onions are also a good source of vitamin C, sulphuric compounds, flavonoids, and phytochemicals. The sulfides that are contained in onions also contain necessary amino acids. They add flavoring to dishes without having to add salt or sugar. This is not only a healthier way to flavor dishes, but during the Great Depression era, it also saved lots of money that families didn’t have to spend.
  • Potatoes: Potatoes are also a root vegetable that is native to the Americas. It is a starchy tuber of the plant solanum tuberosum. They contain lots of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that will help fight off disease and benefit health. They have also been proven to reduce inflammation and constipation. Potatoes are currently the biggest vegetable crop in the United States. They were a staple food within most American households in the 1930’s. They could be made into a number of dishes, as well as having a long shelf life to be able to store for the barren winter months.
  • Cabbage: Cabbage can be green, red, or white, and is a white biennial plant which is known for its dense leafed- heads. It is from the wild cabbage, and belongs to the “cole crops” or brassicas. Cabbage has been shown to protect against radiation, prevent cancer, and reduce heart disease risk. It has vitamin K, magnesium, folate, vitamin B-6, calcium, potassium, and thiamin. During the 1930’s, cabbage was used in a numerous number of dishes. Without having money to afford doctors visits, families tried to keep themselves as healthy as possible without spending extra money.



  • Tomatoes: The tomato is the edible, often red, berry of the plant Solanum lycopersicum, which originated in South America and Central America. Even though a tomato is a fruit, it is often prepared and used like a vegetable. Tomatoes have a major source of antioxidant lycopene, as well as having a great source of vitamin C, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. The antioxidant lycopene has been proven to have many health benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.


  • Roses: The rose is a woody perennial flower flowering plant of the genus Rosa, in the family Rosaceae. There are well over 300 different species of roses, as well as thousands of cultivators. They often form a group of plants that can be found in shrubs, climbing, or trailing, with stems covered in shard prickles.
  • Hydrangeas: Hydrangea is a genus of 70–75 species of flowering plants native to Asia and the Americas. The hydrangeas blooms can be found in pink, blue, red, white, and green.


  • Dill: Dill is an annual herb in the celery family Apiaceae. It is also the only species in the genus Anethum. Dill has been around since the middle ages, and was even once believed to fight off witchcraft. While dill weed is used as an herb, dill seeds are used as a spice. Science suggests it might fight cancer and lower blood sugar.
  • Fennel: Fennel is a flowering plant species that is within the carrot family. It’s a perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves, with a pale bulb and green stalks. Near the top of the stalks, the leaves produce fennel seeds. It has the ability to be grown almost anywhere, which makes this herb ideal for at home gardening.
  • Parsley: Parsley is another flowering plant that is native to the Mediterranean. It is a species of flowering plant in the family Apiaceae. There are two types that are most common, which are French curly-leaf and Italian flat-leaf. Over time, parsley has been used to treat conditions like high blood pressure, allergies, and inflammatory diseases.
  • Disclaimer: During the Great Depression, not many families had enough money for herbs and spices. Along with that, many herbs and spices that families did use were imported and could not be grown within the United States. Dishes during this time were often very bland, and if you look at recipes used during this time, herbs and spices usually not on the ingredients list, but the families that could afford to get seeds and plant herbs would often select these.

Where to Find the Seeds & Cost

Carrots: pack of 800 seeds for $0.97, can be found at

Onions: pack of 250 seeds for $3.99, can be found at

Potatoes: 5 lbs per package for $13.46, can be found at

Cabbage: 1 ox makes 3,000 plants for $0.99, can be found at

Tomatoes: 30 seeds for $1.95, can be found at

Roses: 10 seeds for $3.00, can be found at

Hydrangeas: 20 seeds for $4.99, can be found at

Dill: 850 seeds for $1.79, can be found at

Fennel: 1/4 pound of seed for $1.32, can be found at

Parsley: 355 seeds for $1.79, can be found at

Ideal Garden Plot

This is an example of a garden that was set up during the 1930’s. People didn’t have money to improve their fencing, so they kept whatever they had before the hard times hit.


Country Potato Pancakes


  • 3 large potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Vegetable oil for frying


1. Finely grate potatoes. Drain any liquid. Add eggs, onion, flour, salt and baking powder. In a frying pan, add oil to the depth of 1/8 in.; heat over medium-high (375°).

2. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls in hot oil. Flatten into patties. Fry until golden brown, turning once. Serve immediately.

Other Websites to Check Out

About the Great Depression and what was going on during this time:

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum:

Great Depression Museum Tour:

Works Cited

“8 Curious Recipes From the Depression Era.” Mental Floss, 8 Sept. 2016,

Corrigan, Richard. “The Times to Plant and Harvest Yukon Gold Potatoes.” Home Guides | SF Gate, 21 Nov. 2017,

Depression Gardens,

Howell, Janelle. “Purple Top Turnip Seeds: Purple Top White Globe Turnips.”, 18 Nov. 2019,

Iannotti, Marie. “How to Grow Your Own Green Beans.” The Spruce, The Spruce, 28 Sept. 2019,

Katagi, Kellee. “All About Dill.” Live Naturally Magazine, April 26, 2018.

“Landscaping Trends from the 1920’s-to Today: A Look Back in Time.” Landscape Management Software, 27 Sept. 2019,

“Red Cored Chantenay Main Season Carrot.” Fedco Seeds,

Roland, Mic, et al. “10 Self Sufficiency Lessons From The Great Depression ⋆ BeSurvival.” BeSurvival, 17 Oct. 2019,

Skilling, Jean, and Eil. “How to Grow a Depression Garden.” Gardening Channel, 29 Feb. 2020,

“VeggieHarvest.” Cabbage Growing and Harvest Information | Growing Vegetables,

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