​Almanac: Sowing seeds of victory

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: April 5th, 1858, 157 years ago today ... the day Washington Atlee Burpee was born in the Canadian province of New Brunswick.

burpee-seed-packet-1886-244.jpg
A Burpee Seed packet from 1886. Burpee and Co.

His family moved to Philadelphia, where, at the age of 18, Burpee started a mail-order chicken business.

Before long he'd branched out into vegetable seeds, producing mail-order catalogs widely regarded as works of art.

Burpee's company pioneered many new vegetable varieties, including iceberg lettuce, which he introduced in the mid-1890s.

W. Atlee Burpee died in 1915 at the age of 57, but his seed company -- the largest in the world -- lived on.

And it took on new importance during World War II.

With many basic foods rationed by the government, the call went out to everyday Americans to plant Victory Gardens to boost supplies.

A 1942 Agriculture Department film offered practical advice to backyard gardeners, while also stressing the importance of helping the war effort:

"Bear that in mind, all you Victory Gardeners ... and work for victory!"

The appeals worked. Americans planted an estimated 20 million Victory Gardens, producing as many tons of fresh vegetables as commercial growers did.

GALLERY: Propaganda art for WWII Victory Gardens

Home gardening has never been so urgent since.

Even so, some 35 percent of U.S. households participate in food gardening, according to a report by the National Gardening Association ... which wants all of us to celebrate April as National Gardening Month.

For more info: