How Do You Define Victory? 2021 Victory Gardens

By Marcus McCartney, OSU Extension Educator, Washington County

How do you define “Victory” as a gardener?

Whether you are new or an experienced gardener, how do you personally define success as it relates to your garden?  New gardeners may define success as simply starting a garden for the very first time.  The initial effort and time invested defines success for them. Maybe it’s eating the very first fruit or vegetable you grew entirely by yourself (self-fulfillment).  For our experienced gardeners, maybe victory or success is defined as successfully growing a new variety or species, or reaching a certain poundage of potatoes or tomatoes, or canning 15 dozen jars of green beans or salsa.  However, you define victory, it’s important set goals and try to reach those goals.  If you met your 2021 gardening goals, kudos to you and I tip my hat!  If not, then it’s fun and important to troubleshoot and figure out why or what went wrong which lead to not meeting your goals.   For me, my personal gardening goals were different this year than years past.  I’ll explain how I defined victory shortly, but first, what is a victory garden?

ODA and OSU Victory Garden Program

Victory Gardens originated during World War I as an answer to a serious food shortage. The idea was very successful, resulting in an army of amateur gardeners and serving to boost morale and patriotism. Although there’s no food shortage today, ODA and OSU Extension revived this effort to encourage people to plant seeds, realize the fruits of their labor, and share with others if inspired.  Washington County was only one of 25 counties to receive vegetable seeds.  Over 1,500 seeds were distributed in Washington County and Wood County WV this past spring by the OSU Extension office.

My Victory Garden

For my victory garden, I wanted to do something different and creative.  I wanted to demonstrate that gardens can be a reflection of your imagination and do not have to be traditional squares or rectangles.  Gardening is a healthy activity, but it should also be fun!  Creating around gardening only encourages and empowers individuals to grow plants, tend to the Earth, and eat fresh tasty nutritious foods for themselves.  From the first moment I started running rope and spray-painting lines in my backyard, these gardens already started to gather attention from neighbors and eventually the community.  The effect of my effort encouraged others to try gardening using unique designs, and creating awareness about our OSU and ODA Victory Garden outreach effort.


Victory Garden design

For Scale – 55 properly spaced pepper plants were planted in the “H”

V in Victory Garden in Snow

Victory Garden in Snow

How I do I define Victory

This year, the single most important factor which determine success or victory for me, was not growing plants or producing a large yield; it was growing the next generation of gardeners by developing an interest and enthusiasm for fruits and vegetables, and the appreciation of the amount of hard work it requires to produce such fruits and vegetables.  My son, Allister, was involved from the start; from planning, to plowing, to planting, to watering, to harvesting, and to cooking.  He wanted to be victorious just as much as I did.  I gave him complete ownership of the garden and constantly reinforced the concept these were his gardens.

My victory was seeing my son’s smiling face selling his produce at the Rivers City Farmers Market, and the time we spent together as a family.  We created lots of fun memories and hopefully these memories will grow into knowledge for my son, and just as important, spending time together with his dad.   And that’s how I defined victory in 2021.

Farmer's Market

Allister McCartney (6) at his River City Farmers Market Stand – Allister’s Tomatoes & More (ATM)

Get Involved

We would love to hear about your garden victories!  You can post your story and pictures in the comment section of this article on our OSU Extension Washington County Facebook page:

Be on the lookout in 2022 for free Victory Garden Seed samples in early spring.  To inquire about receiving seeds, you can contact the office at 740-376-7431 or sign up to receive our OSU Horticulture email listserv.  To sign up, please call the office or email Peggy Bolen at

About the Author:

Marcus McCartney is the OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator for Washington County.  He has been with extension since 2014.  Marcus received both his bachelor’s and Master’s degree from West Virginia University Agriculture Education

Seed Starting – The Very Basics – Let’s start with supplies

I have all my seeds on order and can’t wait to get some of them started indoors.

Starting seeds indoors requires light, water, a container and soil mix, and fertilizer.  In some cases, they need heat or warm soil to germinate – this depends on the seed variety.

Light is absolutely critical for success with seed starting.  Think about the plants that you are growing and their normal growing conditions.  Most of them thrive in full sun.

Now, think about the location in your house where you are going to start the seeds.  You may need to supply supplemental lighting in order to meet the needs of the seeds.  A bright west window is ok but still isn’t quite enough light for good growth.

Light needs to be available to the plant for at least 14-16 hours a day.  The light source needs to be close to the plants, no more than two inches above the top of the plant.  Light that is farther away leads to stretched plants.

You’ll see stretched plants if you are planting in a bright window without supplemental light.  The plant reaches for the light, therefore, stretches and become lanky.

Make sure the container has drainage holes

Containers are also critical for success.  No matter the container, make sure it has drainage holes to prevent accidental overwatering.

Gardeners use all types of containers, often recycling plastic take out and other containers.  Just be sure to poke holes in the bottom for good drainage.

The seed starting mix is also critical for success.  Garden soil is too heavy and usually leads to damping off or root rot because of poor drainage.

I purchase a soil mix that is labeled for seed starting.  It’s lightweight and well-drained.  I fill my flats and soak them with water to ensure that the soil is moist prior to seeding.

There are different methods to start the seeds.  I like to seed everything in one flat and then transplant them into their final container after they develop a few sets of true leaves.  Others like to directly sew them into their final container.

Watering is the most difficult task when it comes to plants.  Figure out the water requirements for the plants and the soil mix that you are using.  Pay close attention during the seedling stage to over- and underwatering.  Overwatering leads to almost certain death.  Err on the dry side, but don’t let the plants get to the wilting stage.

Fertilizer will be important a few weeks after seed starting and when the plants develop true leaves.  The first leaves that emerge are the cotyledon leaves and provide nutrients to the emerging plant.

Don’t forget to add labels to your seedlings

Once the true leaves develop, photosynthesis begins, and the plant needs additional nutrients.  Follow the directions on any liquid fertilizer for best success.

In terms of transplanting, as mentioned above, if you start the seeds with a seed starting mix, you may want to select a lightweight soilless mix for growing them on.  This mix will hold a little more moisture for the larger plant while providing good drainage to prevent overwatering.

Growing your plants indoors is fun and not all that expensive.  Give it a try!

Breaking News! Educational Opportunity – Learn about a plant-based diet

Ohio State University Extension’s Family and Consumer Science Educator, Shari Gallup will present a program about Nature and Nutrition on January 17, 2021 from3:00 – 4:00 p.m.   For more details, go to this link under the Cook ‘N Can It! tab.  [ ]


Sweet corn

Something Different – Try It!

Inside of watermelon radishes

Inside of watermelon radishes

I have been an avid vegetable gardener for many years and I love to try different vegetables along with the normal veggies in the garden.  This past season, for my fall Victory Garden, I planted watermelon radishes – I will be sure to plant them again next fall.  These are wonderful!

Turnip and watermelon radish

Turnip (left) and watermelon radish (right)

Watermelon radishes are much bigger than the normal red radishes that you find in seed packets.  I had some grow close to the size of a baseball.  The majority of them were about 2-3 inches in diameter.   The outside of the root has greenish colored shoulders and the interior flesh is a beautiful purple-rosy red.  It is an Asian heirloom and sometimes called Chinese red meat radish.  You can plant them in the very early spring, but keep in mind that they prefer cool weather.  I wait to plant them in September in central Ohio.

I harvested the last of them just before Thanksgiving and they are still in great shape, stored in my garage (cool temperatures).   They are beautiful when sliced and have a milder taste than most radishes.  Cooler temperatures and a frost actually gives them a sweeter flavor.

For Thanksgiving, I cut mine into smaller chunks and roasted them with garlic and sea salt.  They were absolutely incredible!  You can also slice them thinly or shred to add to salads.  Try them.

There are several seed companies who offer these:

Baker Heirloom Seed Co

Burpee Seeds

Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co.

Hudson Valley Seed Co

Renee’s Garden