Monday, February 8, 2010

Vegetable Gardens at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

I collected pamphlets, ideas and plenty of gardening inspiration this past weekend at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. What compelled me to pay a prime-time admission fee for Tom and I was Pacific Magazine's "Foot Print Issue," featuring the show this year. Also, last year this show had been in financial trouble. And so many people had proclaimed that it could be the last show unless someone bought it. Sometimes miracles happen. This year the focus was on vegetable gardening--perfect timing, and so worth talking about.

My favorite display garden was “Crops for Clunkers" (above). Just a simple vegetable garden in an old pick up truck, with a chicken coop on the side of it. It looked easy to do, but so does good writing. And like good writing, not all gardening is easy or as easy on the wallet as many gardening advocates like Michaelle Obama proclaim. If you’re a beginner like me, you can pump a lot of money into the garden with the plant starts, basic tools, soil and amendments.

At the Seattle Tilth booth I learned about their popular spring edible plant sales and picked up a flyer for some sustainable landscape classes. I also got information about what we can plant right now:
Fava beans Peas

The highlight of our day was a seminar called Vegetable Gardening for Dummies by Charlie Nardozzi also the author of the book. He talked about the types of gardens. I like the one called a Square Food Garden; I saw plenty of these at the Natural Gardener in Austin, Texas last fall. That's where this picture comes from.

I love history and Charlie started the seminar talking about the "Victory Gardens" during World War II. Forty percent of our national food supply came from these gardens. I'm always thinking about eating locally and I'm convinced gardening at least some of our own food is the way to go. We'll cultivate some skills, roll up our sleeves and get to work. Well, at least in theory.

Charlie also highlighted the three billion dollars spent on gardens each year and how in 2009 there was a 10-20 percent increase in vegetable gardening. I have a hunch that three billion garden dollars can help boost our local economy. Plus it's the green thing to do.

The hand-out contained a list of the varieties of vegetables that do well in the Northwest, and I was enthused when I spotted Stupice tomatoes and Fairy Tale Eggplant on that list. For a moment I was lost in a memory of the Gathering Together Farm store in Philomath, Oregon where I’d enjoyed farm-fresh Caramelized Eggplant Soup and a salad with Stupice Tomatoes. I purchased these two vegetables and drove them home. It was great to know, I can try growing my own this year.

Charlie’s talk focused on what he called the 5 S’s. Here they are:
Sun (how much for various plants)
Soil (compost, cover crops)
Selection (what types of crops; heirloom versus hybrid)
Site (location)

Vegetable Gardening for Dummies is a great resource on any garden bookshelf.

Cascade Harvest Coalition was also at the show passing out information about CSAs and local farms.

I came home from the show with lots of ideas, for making some food connections from my own front yard. I'm already tooking forward to next year's show.

I’m going to try some Fairy Tale eggplant and maybe even Stupice tomatoes in my garden. What's in your garden plan this year?

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