Nursery Notes: More home gardeners turning from annual flowers to vegetables

Web Lead

Running any sort of retail business should make you interested in the latest trends, if only out of simple curiosity.

The Garden Writers Association (of which I am no part) has a series of surveys performed throughout the year to look at developing trends. For 2013, it found that while households in the U.S. were planning to spend considerably less than in 2012 on lawn and garden stuff before spring started, they ended up spending slightly more by the end of summer. As it turns out, the number one expenditure was on lawns and grass. This makes sense as you need to top-dress, overseed, fertilize, control weeds, aerate and de-thatch, cut the grass and irrigate it to keep a lawn looking good. You need the supplies as well as machinery and fuel. Lawn maintenance also takes a certain amount of time every week through the growing season.

Fruits and vegetables came in second place, a developing trend, with perennials in third place and trees and shrubs fourth. Lastly come annual flowers. As a flower grower this is not good news, but we have been growing more and more vegetable starts every year. Many large flower growers south of the border have switched completely to vegetable production.

A few years ago, the seed racks at the nursery sold out of kale a few weeks after we opened. I’d grown ornamental kale on the Coast as a fall crop to go with pansies, dusty miller and fall mums but it was hard to believe people were eating it. I guess it is super healthy and tastes OK if harvested when grown cool. Last spring, the seed sold out early again but I’d ordered bulk seed and had plants to sell, fortunately.

Kale takes about seven to 10 days to germinate. Like broccoli and other cole crops, including cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard and kohlrabi, cool (10-15 degrees Celsius) and moist conditions let them grow well. We have the seed for dinosaur kale (lacinato) and dwarf blue curled kale.

Perusing the seed rack for other new and unusual varieties, I noted the rainbow blend of carrot seed — sweet crunchy carrots in a variety of colours like red, purple, yellow and white. It reminds me of the multicoloured Swiss chard. There is also an Oriental blend of greens. Four kinds are in the mix including mitsuba, tsoi-sim, garland round leaf and komatsuna. For many of these hardy plants, you could probably let them go to seed in your own garden and then save it for the following season. If this idea appeals to you take a close look at the Organic Seed Rack. These open-pollinated and often heirloom varieties have been grown this way for generations. Hope you have an enjoyable early March!

Evan Davies owns Beltane Nursery at 2915 Highway 3 in Erickson.