Seed sales, particularly of vegetables and herbs, are up very sharply this season. After years of declining veggie seed sales the whole cycle has reversed and we are experiencing tremendous interest from a new generation of gardeners who want to, for the first time, start a garden to grow food.
What I hear about from customers is a combination of factors:
-with layoffs, and worry about job loss being out of the individual's control, the positive act of making a garden gives you the sense of taking some positive action to manage economic uncertainty and control your own future.
-starting a food garden is a way of dealing with the high price of food and the need to watch spending carefully, given the bleak economic outlook and the reality of many having less cash to spend at the market.
-Many new gardeners have a real interest in eating more nutritious food and an interest in having organic produce without having to spend a lot of money to do it. I also think The Food Network has had influenced its viewers to be interested in where their food comes from; TV personalities like Jamie Oliver, "The Naked Chef", are very successful media advocates of cooking from the garden. What a treat!
-there is growing interest in knowing where your food comes from and not having to worry about if it is safe and healthy, especially given recent food safety scares about peanuts, spinach, salad etc.
-I see a trend for younger families wanting to become more self-reliant and to live simpler lives. I think young mothers have new interest in seeing nutritious food as an important part of raising healthy kids. My "30 to 40 something" customers view gardening at a healthy low-cost way to spend good quality family time together.
I'm thrilled to see a new generation of gardeners get involved and get their hands dirty! We are an online catalog which gives us the opportunity to provide updated and interactive help on how to grow from seed, which is another area where these new gardeners want assistance.
The Renee's Garden Monthly E-newsletter we sent out in February included a good how-to article I wrote on Container Gardening from Seed and I hope it will be helpful for those who aren't sure how to go about getting great harvests from containers and small space gardens. Container growing is another trend that has increased almost exponentially in popularity
For March I've decided to feature sweetpeas, since we have two new ones this season and flowers are, after all, food for the soul! I've given three talks on sweetpeas lately up in the Northwest -- I'm so pleased at the interest in my favorite flower. Nothing matches the scent of sweetpeas nor has their perfume ever been replicated. A bouquet of fragrant sweet peas really does perfume an entire room. My mission is to convince gardeners who think they can't grow them to try them again -- or for the first time. It's a hard sell in some parts of the country, mostly because people don't realize they are cool season flower and need to be started extra early. I've been corresponding recently with great pleasure with Richard Parsons, head the British Royal Sweet Pea Society and it is such fun to chat with such a knowledgeable and respected font of knowledge on all things Sweet Pea. At his request, I sent him some of our newest variety, Zinfandel, and will look forward to hearing if he liked it as much is we have here.