Having been at this job for more than 30 years, I have seen gardening trends come and go. In the 1980s, there were numerous gardeners interested in food gardening, growing vegetables and tree fruit in their backyards. You could always find vegetable transplants available at big box stores, as well as at local nurseries.
In the 1990s, things started to change. Fewer gardeners were interested in growing their own produce. The big box stores changed to offering fewer vegetable transplants, instead focusing on colorful annual flowers. Maybe people realized that gardens and fruit trees were a lot of work, they had easy access to fresh produce from local farmers markets, their busy lives did not allow time for gardening, or a combination of all these.
I am happy to say that we have come full circle, and gardeners, especially people under age 50, are interested in food gardening again. The focus is on veggies and herbs. A survey by Today’s Garden Center shows that these “youngsters” say gardening gives them a sense of accomplishment, allows them to become more self-sufficient and have more control over the safety of their food, and provides a way to get children outside and teach them about nature.
Another point to remember about younger gardeners is their interest in food and cooking. There is a proliferation of TV cooking shows that are enjoyed by young adults and older folks like me. Because the All-America Selections (AAS) organization has noticed that cooking fresh foods is trending, they plan to market their 2016 winning herb and vegetable selections with five videos that demonstrate cooking techniques.
With the home garden focus back on vegetables, many of the big seed companies are strongly marketing their new vegetable varieties, especially ones with more compact growth habits that are easier to fit into the smaller gardens of today’s gardeners. These are a few that have already hit the market or will be arriving next year:
• Basil Docle Fresca (parkseed.com
) is an AAS 2015 winner that is a “new and better” compact Genovese basil plant with sweet tender leaves and grows only 10 to 14 inches tall. It is drought tolerant and a good container plant.
• Pea ‘Masterpiece’ (burpee.com
) is a pea that Burpee calls a triple treat with edible tendrils, pods and peas. Growing up to 30 inches tall and 32 inches wide, these pretty pea plants work well in containers and limited-space gardens.
• Kale ‘Simply Salad Kale Storm’ (burpee.com
) is a mix of salad kales that are slow to bolt. The seed combined into single pellets is a mix of leaf textures and colors. Not only will this work well as a cool-season crop for container growing, it will also serve as an attractive ornamental during the fall.
• Tomato Heirloom Marriage Series (PanAmerican Seed) is a series of tomato hybrids that are the result of crosses between two heirloom varieties to create an F1 hybrid variety, marrying the best characteristics of each parent for improved performance in the garden. One already available (along with others) is Big Brandy, whose parents are Big Dwarf and Brandywine. Coming in 2016 is Marzinera, a cross between San Marzano (my new favorite tomato) and Cream Sausage.
• Zucchini Brice is a zucchini that produces 3- to 4-inch light green round fruit on compact plants with attractive mottled leaves. It is more manageable than many zucchini and is great for container or limited-space gardening. The fruit can be hollowed out for stuffing.