Or ask Sandra Young, who put two raised beds in the neatly kept frontyard of her Westside house.
Decades ago, the victory gardens planted at the behest of the federal government helped the United States cope with food shortages during World War II. (In World War I, they were liberty gardens.) By 1943, Americans planted more than 20 million victory gardens -- at homes and schools and in parks -- that were reported to produce 8 million tons of food that one old film called "America's hidden weapon."
Now, in community gardens and backyards, and of course on the Internet, a new victory garden movement has captured the attention of people who want to lessen their reliance on mass-produced or imported food, reduce their carbon footprint, foster a sense of community or save on their grocery bills in a fractured economic climate.
When the National Gardening Assn. compiles its annual data later this month, market research director Bruce Butterfield expects to see a 10% rise in food gardening for 2008. Based on anecdotal evidence and trends in past recessions, he expects even stronger growth this year.
"People want to have more connection with their own world," said Yvonne Savio, manager of the Common Ground Garden Program for the Los Angeles County UC Cooperative Extension, which includes a master gardener program that aims to help poor people grow food. Applications, she said, have doubled in the past three years.
Jimmy Williams, who runs Hayground Organic Gardening from his Los Angeles house, has 6,000 to 10,000 seedlings on the roof of his small garage alone. His business -- selling seedlings and designing gardens -- has quadrupled in the last year, he said. Why?
People find that food tastes better if they grow it themselves, he said. Plus, there's the economy. "They're worried," Williams said. "They don't know what's going to happen."
The desire to grow food, however, crosses economic lines. Some people are struggling financially, but others simply prefer lettuce over lawns. Do-it-yourself types are eager for delicious, healthful food close at hand.
"Even super-rich people who can afford to send people to any store anywhere -- they even want gardens," Williams said.
Christy Wilhelmi, who teaches gardening at Santa Monica College and in her Mar Vista backyard, notes that growing your own makes the shortest path possible from field to table, eliminating the need to transport crops, sometimes thousands of miles. Behind her house, she gardens in eight raised beds, growing heirloom varieties of asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes and more to do her part to increase biodiversity. She would like to add chickens. They would eat kitchen scraps and some garden pests, and they would provide eggs.
"It's very cyclical," said Charlie Nardozzi, senior horticulturist with the National Gardening Assn., which is based in South Burlington, Vt. After the second World War, gardening became mostly a hobby in the '50s and '60s. But then came the "back to the land" movement of the 1970s, when growing food again had serious purpose.
It petered out in the '80s and '90s but has surged again today, buoyed by philosophical issues as well as economic ones, Nardozzi said. Seed companies have reported running out of some vegetables, and demand is higher than it's been in years, he said.
At the W. Atlee Burpee & Co., sales of seeds for vegetables and herbs last year rose 40% compared with 2007, the company said. A spokeswoman cited spikes in food and gas prices, as well as worries about food safety and interest in organic food.
In the 1940s, Jean-Marie Putnam and Lloyd C. Cosper's book, "Gardens for Victory," emphasized the financial savings: "Those dollars can go into the bank account, or you may patriotically transform your beet, onion and cabbage savings directly into Defense Bonds."
Today there is a confluence of concerns -- a victory garden movement with a 21st century agenda, eager to involve people from the White House to your backyard.
"It's the new call to service," said Mary Tokita, who has a plot at a community garden in Eagle Rock and is active on the Los Angeles Community Garden Council. More community gardens are opening, and rooftops are being planted downtown, she said. "It's very, very heartening."