By Brian Minter
By Brian Minter
Food gardening has taken on a life of its own and offers quite a remarkable opportunity for continued growth.
Food gardening has taken on a life of its own and offers quite a remarkable opportunity for continued growth. As an industry, however, we need to truly understand where those opportunities lie. With high density living, containerization is the new way of gardening. We not only need to provide food plants that thrive in containers, but we also need to sell them in a size which will provide produce fairly quickly in a home garden.
Flora Nova in England has done a remarkable job of introducing many new edible plants developed to perform well in containers and to provide quality produce in a shorter timeframe, even under less than ideal conditions. Their chili peppers, like ‘Chenzo,’ ‘Loco’ and ‘Basket of Fire’ are easy to grow, quite attractive (like an ornamental) and their small fruits are equivalent in taste and quality to garden grown varieties. Flora Nova’s container tomatoes, ‘Tumbling Tom,’ ‘Tumbling Tiger,’ ‘Megabite’ and ‘Sweet ‘n’ Neat’ are some of the earliest and best tasting you’ll find. From basil to eggplant, squash and strawberries, Flora Nova has perfected fast, easy-to-grow, quality varieties to help less experienced gardeners have success. The beauty of these crops is their ability to grow in large containers for instant results.
PanAmerican’s ‘Simply Salad’ series, with its three salad blends, is another example of beauty, functionality and ease of growing. ‘Alfresco’ has Mediterranean flavours; ‘City Garden’ is a traditional salad; and ‘Global Gourmet’ is a mix with an Asian flair.
Along the theme of beauty, swiss chard has come such a long way, with some of the blends even being used in floral containers. ‘Bright Lights,’ ‘Peppermint’ and ‘Celebration’ are now being grown in six-inch or eight-inch pots as container focal points, as well as container or garden pop-ins.
Speaking of pop-ins, for years now we’ve been growing vegetables in four-inch and gallon containers, but there has been a distinct shift in these numbers. With limited space and time, today’s garden consumers are looking to minimize the time from planting to harvest. Growing one gallon sugar snap peas, bush and climbing beans, cherry tomatoes, bush cucumbers, lettuce, kale, peppers, summer squash, corn, brassicas and many greens is a huge bonus to gardeners in a hurry. Just think about it: while the vegetables they planted from seed or transplants are growing, these larger plants will allow them to enjoy an early harvest.
Kale is now known as the new superfood, and kale chips are standard fare in younger households. Do you have all the new varieties, especially the hardy and heat tolerant ones, like ‘Red Bor’ and ‘Winter Bor?’ How about the beautiful varieties, such as ‘Lacinato’ and ‘Black Tuscan?’
Herbs too have jumped to new prominence, mostly for adding flavour to salads, Asian cooking and drinks. ‘Mojito’ mint is popular because of its flavouring for mojitos, and horseradish and wasabi have a new role in Asian cuisine. We need to identify our herbs for specific purposes as most folks don’t know which varieties to use for what. Recipes should be a part of herb marketing.
Food gardening is not limited to vegetables and herbs; it also flows into perennial vegetables and small fruits. The new branded ‘Brazelberry’ series of raspberries and blueberries is an ideal fit for container growing. The plants themselves are attractive, and there’s the added bonus of being able to pick one’s own fruit – a huge feature for our new generation of gardeners. These plants do need a bit of proper care, such as larger pots, good soils, and nutrients, for the best success. We should have samples done up in our stores to show how great they can be.
Perennial vegetables are really growing in popularity. Rhubarb is perhaps the most recognized and easy to grow. For everyone’s success, make sure you sell well-established clumps growing in pots, as opposed to root chunks. Jerusalem artichokes are fun and also easy to grow, as is horseradish. In milder climates, the beauty of globe artichokes thriving in a garden is amazing, and even if grown in colder climates as an annual and harvested for only one season, they are stunning when you let them flower.
With our new season upon us, let’s attract and retain our customers with a food display that rocks! It’s our greatest connection to so many new and experienced gardeners!