Gardening Newbie Returns for Second Season

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Last season was my first foray into gardening. From taking control of my front garden area (with my sister’s help) to container gardening on my back porch, I actually enjoyed getting my hands dirty.

Two recent press releases brought home the fact that I’m not the only new gardener out there. According to the National Gardening Association, one out of five gardeners are new to the hobby. So it seems I’m in good company!

Those of us who started our first gardens last year did so for better-tasting food (58 percent of the respondents to the association’s survey), to save money on food bills (54 percent), for better quality food (51 percent), and to grow food we know is safe (48 percent).

The association expects 43 million households in the United States to grow their own vegetables, herbs and berries this year. That’s an increase of 19 percent from last year, according the association’s survey of January 2009.

The Garden Writers Association Foundation conducted a survey, too. (Popular pastime for organizations, eh?!) Their numbers show 7.7 million households planted a vegetable garden for the first time in 2009, increasing the number of such households to 41 million. For 2010, 37 percent of gardeners said they would increase their edible gardens, 29 percent plan to plant the same amount as in 2009, and a mere 1 percent plan to plant less.

The GWAF survey also found that the reason people gave for growing a garden was to supplement the household food supply.

The GWAF results resonate with me. I’m planning on adding another tomato plant or two. I planted one Brandywine last year -it produced late in the summer and was good while it lasted. Then the blight took it away. So I’d like to add a variety that produces a bit earlier in the summer.

I’ll continue with one pepper plant, being a bit more protective of it this year. Last year, wind blew off a lot of blooms, so it produced late and not as many as I would have liked. I also planted basil and oregano, which I’ll do again this year, although they’ll go in separate pots. I discovered the plants had conflicting ideas as to how much water was preferable.

For me, I’ll go along with the variety of reasons given for growing a garden. My main reason was and is taste – I refuse to buy tomatoes in the store. I may break down and buy grape or cherry tomatoes, but only in a pinch.

Since I am container gardening, I’m not doing much early planning. Those of you with plots (large and small) probably have already figured out what’s being planted this year. If you haven’t, may I make a suggestion?

Check out GRIT’s garden articles, read our bloggers’ takes on gardening, or visit the websites of our sister publications THE HERB COMPANION or MOTHER EARTH NEWS. THE HERB COMPANION’s May issue contains “Grow a Garden from Seed,” which focuses on an herb garden, and “Save Water, Plant Wisely: Xeriscape,” which takes a closer look at planting a garden to use less water. MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ website contains a number of articles on organic gardening.

And if I need any further help with my gardening, a few other websites may have the answers. Here are a few for information, seeds, equipment and more. Visit and pick your favorites.

National Garden Bureau

National Gardening Association

Mailorder Gardening Association

Garden Writers Association

All-America Selections

Seed Savers Exchange

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Burpee Seeds

Willhite Seeds

Duluth Trading Co.

Tomato Growers

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply

Territorial Seeds

Abundant Life Seeds

Nichols Garden Nursery

J.W. Jung Seed Co.

Dixondale Farms Inc.

Brown’s Omaha Plant Farms

Stokes Seeds

Flame Engineering (Weed Dragon)

Lee Valley Tools

Photo credits: vegetable garden plot, Prince; garden bounty, Cole