According to all reports, folks are gardening more than ever. From the 2009 Edibles Gardening Trends Research Report conducted by the Garden Writers Association Foundation in November, we learned that more than 41 million U.S. households (38 percent) grew a vegetable garden in 2009. More than 19.5 million households (18 percent) grew an herb garden and 16.5 million households (15 percent) grew fruits during the same period.

For the past couple of years I’ve been hearing from seed suppliers that demand for vegetable seeds has been growing by leaps and bounds (up 30 to 75 percent). There was definitely a growth in edibles gardening in 2009 from both experienced gardeners and an influx of new gardeners. Among those that grew edibles gardens last year, 92 percent had previous experience and 7 percent (7.7 million households) were new to edibles gardening. One-third of the experienced gardeners reported growing more edibles in 2009 than in the previous year, while 46 percent reported they grew about the same as 2008.

When asked in the GWAF survey if they planned to continue their garden for 2010, 37 percent of households reported plans to increase their edible gardens, 29 percent reported they planned to plant about the same as in 2009 and only 1 percent reported they would plant less than this year.

The main reason given for increasing or maintaining edibles gardening for next year was to supplement household food supply. The most common reasons given for planting less next year were: lack of success in 2009 (14 percent), cost (13 percent), loss of interest (8 percent) and time involved (4 percent).

With more than 7 million households becoming new edibles gardening participants in 2009, the GWAF investigated where consumers were getting their gardening information. The top response was friends, which has been the leading response in almost every past survey. Having magazines, books, retailers and newspapers in the third through sixth positions was also not a surprise. However, Web sites are now listed as the No. 2 information resource but were No. 5 as recently as March 2009.

Vegetable gardening was also highest with the 25 to 44 age group and lowest with the 18 to 24 age group. First-time edibles gardeners came mostly from the South and least from the Northeast; however, the more experienced edibles gardeners came mostly from the South and least from the West.

Something that has not escaped our attention are those millions of novice gardeners, and those who are learning what works are looking for information they can use. Using the Internet for gardening information was most popular in the South and least popular in the Northeast. We’re hoping that maybe this column is way up there on your resource list.

The votes are in and growing from seeds is a winning strategy. According to the Home Garden Seed Association, seeds are nature’s miracles, little packets of energy just waiting for you to plant them. So here are some basics. If you have any doubts about growing from seed, here are some good reasons to give seeds a try:

• Save money — a seed packet costing a few dollars typically contains dozens or hundreds of seeds.

• Enjoy unusual plants — the range of plants and varieties available in seed form dwarfs the limited selection of plants at most garden centers.

• Some plants grow best from seed — you’re unlikely to find bean, carrot, pea, radish or sunflower transplants for sale, because these plants are best sown directly in the garden.

• Grow your own food — it’s so easy to grow your own pesticide-free lettuce, squash and other tasty, nutritious foods for a fraction of supermarket prices.

• Have fun — ask any gardener; there’s something special and rewarding about planting a seed and watching it grow.

Once seeds are planted, they quickly transform from rock-hard little nuggets into lush green plants, exploding with life. A seed contains a tiny plant embryo and food to help the plant start growing. You, the gardener, simply plant it and water it, and then watch it grow. Want to know more? Visit the EZfromSEED Web site: http://www.EZfromSEED.org to learn all you need to know about growing plants from seed.

Learn your seed-starting secrets to success:

• Prepare the soil first. Like all plants, seeds grow best in loose, weed-free soil.

• Plant at the proper depth. Seed packets tell exactly how deep to plant seeds. All but the biggest of seeds start best in flats of good-quality commercial seed-starting mix. Divide and transplant individual seedlings into six-packs or small pots when true leaves have formed to allow the plants’ root systems to develop before transplanting into the garden.

• Grow plants by keeping the soil moist. Seeds need water to start growing and younger seedlings need a consistent supply to grow healthy and strong.

• Enjoy! In no time you’ll harvest an abundant supply of fresh vegetables and armfuls of beautiful flowers.



Top 10 easiest plants to grow from seed

The Home Garden Seed Association has created a list of the top 10 easiest plants to grow from seed. All can be sown directly in the garden and need not be started indoors. These surefire favorites germinate easily and grow quickly.

• Beans — bush or pole, with varieties for all seasons available.

• Cosmos — try new doubles like “Rose BonBon” or “Double Click” from Renee’s Garden Seeds.

• Cucumber — new compact bush varieties can be container-grown.

• Lettuce — leaf or head with new container varieties for small gardens.

• Peas — green or snow peas for cooler months.

• Pumpkin — give this one plenty of room and regular moisture for best results.

• Radish — harvest these just a few weeks from planting.

• Squash — tender summer varieties grow quickly.

• Sunflower — try new mini varieties such as “Junior” or “Musicbox” from Renee’s Garden Seeds.

• Zinnia — “Persian Carpet” heirlooms are disease resistant, from Renee’s Garden Seeds.


Look for this

How sweet! From Twisted Gardens comes a molded, snap-on form to create little hearts from cherry tomatoes or cherry peppers as they grow. The reusable, vegetable-safe forms come in sets of five or 10 for a flutter of hearts galore. Seek them out at your favorite independent nursery.

Lynette L. Walther is the recipient of the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award and the Florida Magazine Association’s Silver Award of Writing Excellence. She is a member of the Garden Writers Association. She gardens in Camden.