Skip to comments.[MN] & Millions of Other Americans Expected to Raise Bumper Crop of Backyard Vegetables
Posted on 03/11/2009 9:47:53 AM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
A couple of weeks ago, local gardening editor Mary Lahr Schier thought she'd start sprouting vegetable seeds indoors to get a jump-start on the Minnesota growing season. But when she went to Menards to buy the grow light she needed, the store was sold out. An employee told her more folks seem to be starting vegetables from seeds.
You bet your butternut squash they are.
"The big trend we've identified this year is the 'GIY' trend the grow-it-yourself trend, as opposed to the DIY or do-it-yourself trend," said trendspotter Susan McCoy, president and owner of the Garden Media Group. "We've heard reports from seed companies that sales are up as much as 80 percent."
Is it rising grocery prices? The comfort that comes from digging in dirt? The keep-it-local movement? Whatever the reasons, Minnesotans already are gearing up for a backyard bumper crop.
"We offered one Urban Vegetable Gardening class last year, and it filled up completely, plus we had 10 more people waiting at the door," said Paige Pelini, co-owner of Mother Earth Gardens, an organic garden center in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. "So we decided we should do two classes this year. We still have people calling every day, asking us to do another class or wondering if there's some way they could sneak in the door."
(By the way, this week's "Chickens in the City!" class "Live Poultry Will Be Present!" is filled, too.)
Classes aren't the only way Minnesotans are seeking help growing their own veggies.
Schier, editor of Northern Gardener, the Minnesota State Horticultural Society's magazine, is noticing an uptick of traffic to the vegetable gardening posts on her My Northern Garden blog.
The magazine's publisher sees the growth from a different angle.
"When I talk to our commercial members and advertisers, they say they have noticed a significant increase in sales of herbs and vegetables," said Tom McKusick, publisher of Northern Gardener. "It's something I've been hearing from garden centers and nurseries since last fall, and I suspect it will only increase this year."
A National Gardening Association survey, conducted in January, backs up that prediction: 43 million U.S. households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs and berries this year, a 19 percent increase from 2008. Perhaps even more telling, 21 percent of those households are planning to start not continue a food garden in 2009.
Seed companies have noticed.
"I would say vegetable sales are up 20 percent from last year," said Renee Shepherd of Renee's Garden, a seed company specializing in gourmet vegetables, kitchen herbs and cottage garden flowers.
"In the past, we've sold more flowers than vegetables, but that has sharply reversed itself. It's the economy, simplifying lives, food safety, a healthy way to spend quality family time together."
George Ball, chairman of the W. Atlee Burpee & Co., said his company's vegetable seed sales are also up 20 percent as of January. He pins it all on the economy.
"Forget about the perfect storm this has created the perfect hurricane in terms of sales for our business," Ball said. "Trends like locavores (people who eat food grown or produced locally), that's what I call a fashion. But this recession is a structural trend. When you take away or reduce people's income, or reduce their nest egg by 40 or 50 percent, you have almost a depression mentality. People are quite anxious."
Ball said he noticed the cost of fruits and vegetables at grocery stores remained high even after fuel prices had dropped. So his company did a cost-analysis study, and concluded that people who invest $50 in the vegetable garden on seeds and fertilizer can harvest the equivalent of $1,250 worth of groceries from a store. As a result, the company introduced "Burpee's Money Garden," a $10 seed purchase that Burpee estimates will produce more than $650 worth of vegetables.
"People talk about replacing a light bulb, insulating their window sills or wearing a sweater these efforts save a few dollars here and there but for a family of four with a good-sized vegetable garden, we're talking about saving a couple of thousand dollars," Ball said.
It's sometimes called "survival gardening." In this economy, this mind-set has made media sensations out of people like Clara Cannucciari, a 93-year-old great-grandmother from New York who remembers her own Great Depression garden as she cooks meals from the era and whose work can be seen on YouTube. (Check out her Poorman's Meal of potatoes, onions and hot dogs via her Web site, greatdepressioncooking.com.)
A local green thumb sees that hunger for information.
"People increasingly are interested in the idea of being self-sufficient, of being able to grow their own food to increase their ability to really survive on their own," said Carrie Christensen, who teaches the Urban Vegetable Gardening classes at Mother Earth.
RECLAIMING DOMESTIC SKILLS
For Debbie Lang, 32, of Newport, a stay-at-home mom of five hungry boys, self-sufficiency is important, especially as the family struggles to recover financially from when her husband was out of work for 11 weeks. But cost savings is not the only reason the family will attempt to grow as many of their own vegetables as possible for the second year in a row.
"We absolutely love eating fresh vegetables there's nothing like it," Lang said. "And there's such a reward of being able to reap something from your own effort; if you want a tomato, you can go pick a tomato in your own garden."
Lang fits in with one of the root causes related to the increasing popularity of homegrown food, identified by Garden Media Group.
"The housewife is back," McCoy said. "Crafting, canning, sewing, gardening traditional hobbies that used to be 'women's hobbies' are hot with the younger generation."
Pelini, of Mother Earth Gardens, sees that interest blossoming in her own daughters, a 16-year-old and 14-year-old twins.
"I'm a single mom. For years, I barely had time to take the laundry out of the dryer, much less have a vegetable garden," Pelini said. "But now they can participate. So last year, we did grow a vegetable garden, and it was really great. ... We're foodies, so we enjoy it. ... My daughters knit, too. We've talked about how they're reclaiming domestic skills without the cultural baggage."
And, well, there's just something scrumptious about homemade anything, whether it's the handmade Christmas gifts the Pelinis give or the fresh vegetables they grow in their back yard.
"We derive great satisfaction," Pelini said, "out of standing in our garden and eating a hot, somewhat dirty Sun Gold tomato."
“I wish I could raise chickens, but I dont think were zoned for it.”
Raise quail, claim they’re songbirds.
That's the way I look at it as well. We farm in addition to gardening and lose a great deal of harvest to deer, hogs, racoons and bears every year. The squirrels don't do quite as much damage, but they are a problem.
We planted 5 acres of watermelons three or so years ago and discovered that melons are the best deer attractant in the world. They can smell which are ripe and then with a few swift kicks the melon is open. Lost probably half of the crop. Found watermelon vines all through the woods that autumn. LOL!
You simply have to plant more than you plan on harvesting. We also look at it as fattening program for the critters that we end up harvesting during hunting seasons. One way or another we get fed. ;-)
We aren't either, but I have seen people doing it.
I have a chicken wire fence 30 high, with 3 strands of electric fence on top. I have no problem with deer in the garden.
We often have deer in our yard, especially at night. Last year they really took a liking to the rose bushes right next to our house.
I want to put in a vegetable garden so I've been worried about this. Someone on FR gave me a recipe for deer repellant, but I haven't tried it out yet. I'm not sure I'd want to put in an electric fence 30" off the ground as I have a young child.
Couple of questions, m'dear:
What do you start the lettuce, radish, and spinach in? and do you then transplant them or keep them in the container you started them in?
Now, a greenhouse question (or 2 or 3). Mine is finally finished and I moved all of my stuff in there and filled a bunch of starter cells with growing mix. In the past, when doing them in the house, I've always covered the trays with plastic wrap, do I need to do the same in the greenhouse?
I'm curious about the proper depth for growing vegetables, as well as the best materials to use, lumber vs. blocks, etc. We have plenty of space available.
And canteloupe. The deer absolutely the baby canteloupes. My husband swears they must be like Sknickers' bars to the deer, but he insists he wants to ry them again this year........
I’m glad I kept reading before giving you a repeat reply :)
I see that others have given you the info I would have given you !!!
Thanks for the ping! I started a “layer garden” after reading about it on the survival thread. I laid down newpapers (wet)and straw, and today I went to the recycling center to their compost pile and loaded up a bunch of garbage bags. I hope to see a decent bed ready for planting in a month! Also, I remember my grandpap starting his plants in a small hot house made of a couple of windows and a box made of four planks. I have everything I need so guess what I’m doing this weekend! It’s still pretty cold in our neck of the woods, so I figure I can get tomatoes started.
Well, I live on a farm, but many City & Suburban Folk are raising laying hens these days. I have a flock of fifty and they really only take up about 30 minutes of my time each day.
They’re cheap to keep if it’s only a few. My fifty run me about $50 a month to feed, half of which is covered by egg sales. It’s not a money-making venture by a long shot. You need 200 or so to make any decent money at it.
Have you ever tried growing them on a trellis? I'm not sure if the deer kick them open the way that they do watermelons, but I was thinking it might help if they weren't on the ground. I grew some canteloupes on a cattle panel last year and they did fine -- also experimented to see if a Sugar Baby watermelon would grow off the ground too. They both did fine, but I see no way to grow larger melons that way due to weight.
A more detailed focus finds that Mexico's East Coast with normal rainfall, and the American Cornbelt with normal rainfall (except for Wisconsin).
That area is productive enough to produce enough food to provide the supplemental amounts needed for Europeans, Russians and Chinese upper classes to AVOID starvation ~ provided, of course, that they pay us $50 to $100 a bushel, which they can do if they don't wish to die.
You and I won't like prices like that unless we are farmers.
That's why I'm planting wall to wall garden around here this year.
BTW, South America's West Coast appears to be unaffected (so far). However, their climate is mediated by events in Antarctica. I'm just guessing the cool dry air is increasing the rate of evaporation all over South America and the Southern Circumpolar Vortex is sucking any wet air in over Antarctica where it will be converted to snow and ice for permanent storage.
That will eventually affect us.
The Global Warming people have been misleading everybody about these cycles and now millions of people are going to die because the Algore and his running dog lackeys thought it more important to advance their political agenda than tend to the science of studying the climate and watching out for devastating cool dry air masses.
Recent analysis has demonstrated that cold frames (like your grandpa made) aren’t that effective. They’re still in contact with the ground, and it’s dirt. You have to put the plants in pots on top of newspapers to insulate them, plus seal the frame up to keep out cold air (tape works).
I probably would keep them covered with plastic wrap for germination time only. As soon as you see some green, take it off. It helps keep in moisture and warmth for germination, but if you leave it on, you’re just asking for trouble. You don’t gain anything by it.
I started the lettuce, spinach and radishes in window-box sized, long plastic pots that are about 6” deep. They’re germinating right now (upstairs, where it’s warmer), but once sprouted, I’ll move them to the basement where it stays 55 degrees all the time and put them under lights for 16 hours on and 8 hours off. (I can’t use the enclosed porch; Husband has claimed it, but he did set up all of my stuff in the basement for me!)
They’ll stay in those containers until harvest. The (leaf and butter crunch mixed) lettuce and spinach I can cut and they’ll come again. The radishes will be a one-time thing, and then I’ll move the lettuce/spinach containers outside if the weather cooperates. they’re entirely portable and can go in and out with ease.
The main thing is to feed, feed, feed them. I’ll use a weak solution of fertilizer each time I water once they have a few leaves; all three things grow quickly and need a lot of nutrition. I like kelp fertilizer or compost tea best for food crops, though a chemical is a chemical, so Miracle Grow is fine, too. The plants don’t know or care. :)
Leave some newspapers in there for the chicken to make a nest. Presuming the chicken has ever seen a rooster, there are going to be eggs. If not, bring in a rooster for an overnighter. Then, get rid of him.
There will be eggs.
Once you're happy with the chicken's weight, snap it's neck, remove the feathers (hot water bath will do that), but it, clean it, put it in a pot to roast for about 3 hours.
Get a new chicken.
In my neighborhood your little quail would be seen on the porch in cages and at night the Vietnamese guys would slip in and get your birds. They like to pop a fresh killed bird in the Pho.
I would KILL for all raised beds. IMHO, it’s the way to go. Husband won’t relent because he just likes plowing it all up in the spring to be done with it.
The only thing to AVOID is those railroad ties soaked in creosote. That can leach into your food. Treated lunber is a no-no, too, to most people. Ick.
It’s really pretty easy. Here’s an idea using lumber:
You could use similar dimensions with stacked cinder blocks, too.
My wife wants me to plant some acorn squash. She handed me an envelope with seeds she had saved from a squash we bought last fall at the grocery store. I told her I did not think we would get much if any squash from them. Ok I am not sure about what I told her, am I right?
Diana, I looked at the seed site you posted above and am thinking of getting a few watermelon seeds among others. They did have a bunch of squash varieties I am not familiar with. Can you tell me if one or more of them are close to the acorn squash. And will the squash and watermelon cross pollinate?
Good for you!!!!
I think my husband spent a grand total of about 5 bucks on my greenhouse and I’m THRILLED. I was hoping for something like you described, but between saved old windows, assorted bits and pieces of lumber, some tarpaper roofing fabric, and some 6mil poly, I can stand up in it and I even put a table and chair (both temporary) in there today.
When my corn shoots disappear, it’s usually birds - crows or grackles. The squirrels don’t bother them until they have ears.
I was seriously thinking of the trellis for the canteloupe, but that will only work if I can get my husband to move it to the other side of the garden patch. I’m afraid that where it is would defeat the original purpose for it, to deter the deer. I’ll see how much sweet talking it will take :)
Thanks for all the details.
I’ll see what I can find as fertilizer. I don’t buy or use any Scott’s/Miracle Gro products. Not only do they refuse to hire smokers, they fired everyone who didn’t quit. I know, it’s petty, but I don’t care.
I’m like you, I have always direct sowed radishes, but I was thinking about planters right now for some lettuce and spinach.
Acorn squash is really easy to grow, so if that is the kind your wife wants I would just pick up a pack of them in WalMart or the dollar store or the supermarket. I’ve had the best luck with acorn squash from the 5 or 10 for a dollar seed packets that I have never bothered looking to buy them any other way.
A child will touch an electric fence one time and never again.
The neighbor kids never bothered the electric fence. I told them about it, with their father present. If they touched it, I never heard about it.
Above the chicken wire I have three strands of electric fence wire. Spaced at 2 inches 2 inches and 4 inches.
That is all that is electrified unless something gets into it. But then the fence grounds out and don’t work at all until I fix it.
If you work the garden with the child they will be more interested in plant lore and not worry about the fence.
My boys, when young, loved to watch the garden grow and produce. They even helped pull weeds. Pick green beans etc. A garden can truely be a family affair.
Have a gate set up so the electric wires can be unhooked with the insulated handles. I leave the gate open when working around the garden. Even my cat stays clear, but will follow me in if the gate is open.
I really don’t think you need much concern about a child around the electric fence. The voltage is not deadly, but will jolt. But the fresh veggies are awesome.
Ditto...I have some of their seeds left over from 2008; and 95% of them germinated. I saved some of their tomato seeds; and they came up; as well. Highly recommended.
Thanks for the site.......whew, chicken coops are not cheap!
Seed Savers is great. Here are a few others:
Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds:
Sand Hill Preservation - Their ordering process is a little more complicated and they don’t send seeds as fast, but they’re very affordable:
Grow lights have indeed been a beeotch to get this year. I went to three Walmart’s before I found a supply for mom so she could start seed.
Spent $400 in seed this year and just have potatoes to buy here in a couple of weeks. That’s in addition to the many hundreds worth from past years already in the freezer, saved and bought. Will be saving mountains of seed this year.
Greatly expanded on varieties and especially focused on grains while putting anything ornamental like gourds in the freezer to plant in better times. Converted my cover crop plot to peas and beans to get the same effect but get production from the space at the same time. Going to squeeze as much as I can into that quarter acre.
The main seed companies I order from in any given year:
Fedco - http://www.fedcoseeds.com
Comstock Ferre - http://www.comstockferre.com
Baker Creek - http://www.rareseeds.com
Gourmet Seed - http://www.gourmetseed.com
Johnny’s - http://www.johnnyseeds.com
Peaceful Valley - http://www.groworganic.com
Southern Exposure Seed - http://www.southernexposure.com
Seedsavers Exchange - http://www.seedsavers.org
Tomato Grower’s Supply - http://www.tomatogrowers.com
Nichol’s Nursery - http://www.nicholsgardennursery.com
Territorial - http://www.territorialseed.com
Shumway - http://www.rhshumway.com
Jung - http://www.jungseed.com
Totally Tomatoes - http://www.totallytomato.com
Vermont Bean Seed - http://www.vermontbean.com
I am pinging others on this ping. I am no climatologist (sp), and don’t claim to be one.
However, I have interviewed many fisheries biologists, and learned a lot about crappie population crashes experienced here many years ago, when the native white nosed crappie pops crashed and the state WL agency began the black nosed crappie stockings.
I remember all of them telling me droughts run in seven year cycles. I know we (Tennessee and many southern states) are at least two years into this cycle. It may be more, since I moved to my present location three years ago and began getting serious about my garden two summers ago.
I have been thinking about this recently, while planning my 2009 veggie garden. I have a sprinkler system planned, and to back it up I am catching rainwater (from gutters) and keeping them in gallon milk jugs, with seals (keeps out mosquitos) like a freeper suggested last summer on the gardening thread.
Like I said, I am not an expert on anything, but I did take to heart what the biologists told me about the drought cycles and the idea of catching rainwater when it is available.
Overwhelming all of them are the major North American droughts that occur on a roughly 21/22 year cycle, and each time in roughly a different quadrant of "flyover country" (Great Plains states, Midwest, Panhandle, and Centrla South). When those happen, the local things just get pushed aside and the drought happens even if it's supposed to be a rainy year.
China is known to have a similar cycle.
What we have this time is an "out of turn" situation. Back in the 1990s, the drought cycle skipped a beat and happened 11/12 years after the 1987 drought in the MidAtlantic and Lower Midwest.
Lots of folks got excited about it because it fit into a Global Warming theory they had.
Obviously it didn't mean anything more than the time-line was getting broken up, which always happens anyway ~ this stuff is more art than precise prediction.
What we do have, though, is a population of 5 billion peasants scattered rather evenly all over the world, and they know what they see, taste, touch and feel, and this year, building on their rememrance of $20 a bag rice last year, they KNOW we are in a drought!
I had this dream about a week ago — one of those freaky dreams that seem real, where one wakes up still dreaming.
I dreamed I planted the hill below my house with native grasses, and let it grow up unmowed (am convinced this doesn’t need mowing anyway). And it became populated with quail, a few grouse. I dreamed my English setter was in a perpetual pointing position, and I went down there and harvested some of the quail for the table.
I live on top of a huge ridge in Tennessee (high elevation). It is mostly limestone rock and has been logged over many times (although we still have some old trees).
It is not conducive to the native quail and grouse species that inhabited it orginally. And of course, the fescue long overtook any native grasses here.
Summer before last, my neighbor logged his 100 acres, and I was jumping with joy. I figure the successional growth will give me lots of rabbits, quail and other species that thrive in these conditions.
I see a lot of hawks and owls, so I figure there is something on the ground worth eating. It’s a good sign to me, and I really want to plant the native grasses. I have so many deer the grass might not make it past the seedling stage, and I can’t fence it, but I am going to try it. Plus, next year, I’ll help my brother thin out the deer.
I don’t know how you could raise quail in a suburban area. I am just glad I am in the country and nobody is around to tell me what I can/can’t do. I know you can order quail through the mail, and I’d hoard these if I lived in a city.
Order them and eat them, pickle their eggs. I love pickled quail eggs.
Square pegs and round holes separate reality from imagination; bullshit is the lubricant to combine them.
Bunny farm in the basement?
Bear in mind that the climate-control measures being played with by various governments have probably upset weather patterns more than global warming ever has.
In preparation for the 2008 Olympics China seeded clouds with a chemical that would prevent it from raining. They wanted even the weather to look good to the foreign press.
About a month or so ago I read that the drought in one of the regions in China was severe enough that people were dying of starvation, and the Chinese government was preparing to seed the clouds there with chemicals that would force it to rain.
Those couldn’t POSSIBLY be related though, could they?
“I dont know how you could raise quail in a suburban area.”
The latest issue of Backwoods Home had an article on just that. It doesn’t look like that article is available online, but here’s the link to the issue:
Excellent article, I will link to it on the survival thread.
Good news for the children and families.
Our ancestors knew them well ~
Bunny farm in the basement ~ lot of “sh|+” shoveling ~ you gotta’ take care of the pellets. Read up on this first.
TWRA tried a quail reintroduction but things have changed a lot since the days they used to fly free in Tennessee.
The fescue replacing the native grasses are a big factor but also modern “Clean Farming” had a large effect.
Back in the day farming equipment was not as efficient as today. Tractors cut more corners and plowed further away from tree lines and ditches. This left long strips of prime habitat for quail. Today batwing bushhogs and modern disk sets can turn earth right up to a field edge and the use of herbicides prevents the growth of grasses that used to reseed themselves each spring but at a loss of crops.
LIke Girlangler said, you can order eggs and raise quail. www.mcmurrayhatchery.com is one source. I buy my Chickens form them and can vouch for their reliability and service.
Now they will find a way to tax it.
I’m a BYC member :)
There’s a lot of good info there. I have a dozen eggs in my “Darth Bator” now. They are due on the 30th.
A person can quietly keep hens in a residential district without annoying the neighbors if they don’t try to house roosters. Hens are quiet and easy to maintain.
Also, for meat purposes, Rabbits have the most efficient feed conversion ratio of just about any animal and they multiply like crazy. Dollar for Dollar, rabbits are a great “Surviving socialism” solution and healthy meat source.
I have read up on it. For several years. A well-designed hutch should be easy to clean. Have a removable tray at the bottom lined with newspapers. To clean, pull out try, roll up old paper, lay out fresh paper, replace tray, repeat.
The poopy paper can be burned or composted.
Thanks, Granny! :)
Wish I liked rabbit. I have a zillion of them around here to hunt; the dogs scared up two on our walk this evening, and I just saw two more fat ones under the bird feeder. I could shoot ‘em out the window if I could acquire a taste for them.
Guess I haven’t been hungry enough, yet. :)
I have thought about keeping Angora Rabbits for the fur; they’d be more like pets, though they’d be penned in the pole barn. My young Yellow Lab would have a hard time understanding that she can chase the free rabbits, but not the ones Mom keeps caged up for her, LOL!
I also want a milk cow. If things keep on going my way, I’ll have one. Husband is dragging his feet. He says I can have goats, but I hate goats. (Childhood of raising goats; smelly, evil creatures!)
I vouch for McMurray Hatchery, too. I’ve raised up close to 300 hens in the past 10 years, and they have always given me healthy, sturdy, disease-free chicks. And they’re so CUTE! :)
Not adding any new ones this year; of the 50 I did last year, I only lost ONE this winter, and she was a really old hen.
Got three ‘accidental roosters’ that are finding their way into my stew pot in a few weeks, though. ;)
Nothing like her spaghetti that had wild mushrooms incorporated in the sauce.
I am so sorry I didn't listen to her, how to can, how to preserve, how to dry meat.
I leaned how to butcher animals(a good thing for survival)but disregarded the rest as "womans work". As you have probably figured out by now I am a male.
One of my biggest regrets of my life is that I did not pay attention to this woman who was a fountain of knowledge of how to survive without modern machines or government intervention!
However I am trying to relearn the things her and my aunts knew how to do without thinking about it!
Raised chickens when I was a child, raised beef also, along with goats(great tasting meat regardless of what you may have heard). Mainly though the goats were for milk, the hens were for eggs but we did raise a certain amount for food. The beef was always for food.
I was blessed with two wonderful Grandma’s. One was a Farm Gal and taught me all about growing food, butchering, baking bread, sewing, canning, making jelly & pies, etc. I spent a lot of time with her when I was growing up because Mom worked while Dad was in college and working his apprenticeships. I am from 100% Blue Collar stock. :)
My City Grandma taught me all about the arts; we’d go to movies and the theater, fancy restaurants, art exhibits, etc. I had a very well-rounded childhood. She also grew prize-winning flowers for the State Fair, so I learned that, too. My Gladiolus are without compare. :)
It’s never too late to learn new skills! Take a look at these books for starters:
Storey’s Basic Country Skills
The Encyclopedia of Country Living
The Foxfire books (if you can find them; they’re getting rare)
The other day, for $2, I found a Reader’s Digest book, ‘Back to Basics’ from the 1980’s. I don’t THINK I’ll do any blacksmithing or cobble any shoes in the near future, but it’s nice to know I can learn if I have to, LOL!
Learn to sew on a button and replace a zipper, while you’re at it. And why not try your hand at knitting? Lots of men knit. You can make your own socks, mittens, scarves and hats at the very least. And it’s relaxing. :) (I crochet; want to learn to knit.)
*SIGH* I love my job (I manage a Garden Center), but I miss being home and having the time to do all of that stuff. Not much longer before Husband makes his first million and I can work at home again for good! :)
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