Thursday, February 19, 2009

Grow your own again looks big

Last year the nation’s largest seed company, W. Atlee Burpee & Co., reported sales of vegetable seeds up 37 percent. Half of that increase was in sales attributed to new customers (Washington Post, Sep 4, 2008).

This month the big Maine vegetable seed company, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, reports the strongest growth year in their history, 30 to 50 percent. They say their discussions with other seed companies reveal they are up just as much (New England Cable News, February 16, 2009).

The rise in seed sales and it is assumed planting of home and small scale vegetable gardens is variously attributed to desires to:

  • economize in bad economic times
  • cope with the high cost of food
  • produce something to eat from a home that is difficult to sell
  • deal with food safety worries
  • seek control in the face of a prolonged recession and job layoffs
  • engage in horticultural therapy during worrisome times
  • get back to basics
  • plant community roots gardening with others as people travel less
  • use the increased time spent at home in food gardening
  • reduce their carbon footprint by growing food locally

  • What can be recommended to these many new gardeners? Front Range Colorado is certainly not their mother’s or grandmother’s gardening circumstances on the East Coast or in the Midwest. In those humid climates growing conditions are more predictable.

    Our Front Range area features a short spring for growing cool season vegetables, hot summers with cool nights problematic for heat loving vegetables, and a short growing season. Actual frosts may be a month earlier or later than the average last spring frost and first fall frost. Intense sunlight and dry air both tax plants. Then there are the predominant heavy clay soils discussed in the last post.

    Don’t assume that advice given for growing in other climate areas is going to work here. Know the Front Range soil and climatic challenges you are up against. Prepare the soil with amendments, observe narrow planting times and use climate modification measures for a big payoff. Future posts will discuss many of these techniques for success.

    [Seed packet photo credit Carl Wilson]


    1. I live Downtown, where would you suggest buying seeds? I'm particularly looking for herbs.
      When is the best time to plant seeds?

    2. Hopefully my friends at Abbondanza get their seeds ready for ordering soon!. is going to be hot because Abbo's co-onwer is Rich, the former co-founder of Seeds of Change. Abbo will be selling regionally adapted seeds!

    3. Try
      The Rocky Mountain Seed Company
      6541 North Washington Street
      Denver, Colorado 80229
      (303) 623-6223 Phone
      (303) 623-6254 Fax

      Denver Store Hours:
      Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
      Saturday 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. (2/28/09 - 5/16/09)
      Also online

      In the past, Vitamin Cottage (grocery store) has offered a more "unusual" variety of organic herbs, culinary and medicinal.