If you've noticed more garden space devoted to vegetables in your neighborhood, you aren't alone. The National Gardening Association tells us that between 2008 and 2009, the number of Americans growing a home vegetable patch increased from 36 million (31% of the population) to 43 million (37%)... and that of those 7 million additional gardens, one out of every five was grown by a first-time gardener!
Of course, the financial market crisis in autumn of 2008 probably contributed to this increase in interest in growing our own food, as well as the "local food" movement and escalating grocery-store prices. But isn't it encouraging that more than one-third of households now grow at least some of their own vegetables?
And just what are they growing? Well, the #1 crop won't surprise you. Tomatoes were grown in a whopping 86% of the vegetable gardens across the country - and with today's compact container varieties, even urban gardeners can join in the fun!
While virtually everyone who grows veggies tries their hand at tomatoes, many other varieties are also popular. Cucumbers and sweet peppers are grown by nearly half of the vegetable gardeners in this study, while more than a third tried their hand at beans and carrots. Just under a third also put in some squash, onions, and/or hot peppers. And about a quarter of all American vegetable gardens included lettuce and peas. Sweet corn, one of the easiest of all vegetables to grow, was tried in only 23% of gardens, perhaps because it is such a towering presence in a small suburban garden.
What are you growing this year? Will it be the traditional favorites, or will you add a few exotic newcomers into the mix? Are you going to expand your vegetable patch, supplement it with container varieties, or add flowers and herbs into the garden among your edibles? Get creative with your design, and you just may discover some delicious new treats!
Just a reminder that we maintain an online Glossary of Gardening Terms you can access any time to refresh your memory about the vocabulary of gardening. Here at Park Seed, sometimes we speak in gardeners' short-hand (or, as our grandparents would say, "throw around our education"!), so every now and again we revisit the Glossary and add a few new terms we've gotten questions about. Here are the latest entries:
Planting on Center - When reading a plant label, you may have been given the baffling instruction to "plant on center" a certain distance apart. What this means is that the distance between plants should be measured from one central stem to the next central stem, NOT from the end of the branches. So if you are planting a row of Petunias 10 inches apart, that's 10 inches from the middle of each plant, not the edge of the furthermost stems. This is especially important if you are planting groundcovers and want them to fill in evenly.
Long Day/Short Day - Onions are traditionally classified as either long-day or
short-day, though new varieties called "mid days" are here to complicate things. The "day" part of this term refers to the hours of sunlight. In the north, summer days are very long, giving your onions 14 to 16 hours of sunlight in which to ripen, so long-day varieties are the ones to grow. In the south, the day length tends to be shorter - there is less seasonal variation, with the average length staying around 10 hours. So short-day varieties are best grown in the south.
Long-day onions are typically planted in the spring. Short-day onions are typically planted in the fall.
But what if you live in the south and want to plant your onions this spring? Aha - that's where new mid-day onions enter the picture! No matter where you live, you can plant mid-days in spring and harvest them in summer. So when in doubt, or when the season isn't cooperating with your taste buds, rely on mid-days!
Overwinter - You may have seen instructions for "overwintering" a particular plant, ignored them, and done just fine. Or you may have lost a certain plant that should have been hardy in your garden because a particularly harsh winter storm carried it off, or temperatures plummeted below expected levels.
Overwintering is the process of preparing a plant to survive challenging conditions during winter, whether it is a tropical that must be brought indoors before first frost to a young tree that may need to be tied to a support and mulched in well with pine boughs its first winter. Overwintering instructions are usually given for plants that are to be grown north of their hardiness range, but even if you are within the hardiness zones, you might want to pamper your plant (especially the first winter) with a little extra care.
Want more glossary definitions? Visit our online Glossary of Gardening Terms.
We've added a few new features to the parkseed.com website that you might be interested in. When you have a moment, check these out:
FAQs - In response to many requests, we now have a Frequently-asked Questions page. It's a great "first stop" to make if you're new to gardening or have a specific question about any aspect of Park Seed products.
More Growing Info -
Many items on the site now have a tab below the product description that gives you more information about the plant. As you can see from the example below, this info can include anything from botanical vs. common name to detailed seed-sowing instructions! Please be patient as we continue to add this information for all products offered on our site, and as always, let us know any questions or comments
you have. We love hearing from you!