Home vegetable and fruit gardening can be serious business

Something we can expect with the increase of home vegetable gardening, is an increase in frustrated gardeners. Even experts have problems with their vegetable gardening. My friend, farmer Fred Hoffman found out he had Tomato late blight on his 'Giant Belgium' Tomato. His blog post has a great synopsis of the problem facing anybody staring down this disease. Since we are so dry here in the summer, the typical high humidity associated with the problem is not prevalent. He eventually traces the problem to..., well read his post to find out. As more, and more people attempt to grow more of their food, they are going to find out something our industry has been doing it's best hide. Gardening is hard work, punctuated with disaster. The industry in the past was simply trying to encourage more people to jump into gardening by making it seem all so simple. Install a large screen TV next to the outdoor grill, toss some throw pillows around, and don't forget to leave the gate unlocked for the garden maintenance crew. My, how things have changed in just a couple of years.

Imagine all the people starting vegetable gardens this year? Do you think most of them grow everything they eat? Not necessary, as we can always fall back on store bought if something goes wrong. Tomato blight? A bummer, but not life threatening. Of course, when problems in commercial fields show up it becomes even more serious. We can always count on food being at the grocery store, right?

So we have legions of families growing their own this year. Do they make sure to visit the garden every day to check on diseases and pests? Even when the temperatures are in the 100degreeF range? Do they perform weed control on a regular basis? How many people know the pH of their soil? How about nutrient deficiencies in the neighborhood? Do they have an expert in the wings to consult? How many have ever been to a real nursery, and talked to a real nursery person? How many are willing to stick to their "organic guns" when blight attacks, and their food supply is in peril?

Horticultural knowledge by the average person is much less these days, than when families actually had to grow their own for survival.  If your survival depended of what you grew, could you do it? Back in Grandpa and Grandmas time, or maybe earlier,  people we're well acquainted with their soil. They might not have known the science, but they knew you had to "sweeten" the soil with lime for the best results. They knew that in August, when most people are still harvesting the summer crops, was the time to start seed of the fall and winter crops. Get that broccoli seed planted too early or late, and there was no broccoli for fall and winter dishes. It could affect how skinny the family ended up by spring!

Puttering around the flower beds is not serious stuff. Important yes, but serious, no. Vegetable and fruit gardening to supplement or provide your food is a serious business. That's why towns use to have nurseries or feed stores that provided the knowledge, as well as the goods. There was the man or woman there that you could trust, since often the food you grew might be bartered with that very nursery later on. You both had a stake in your success. Now try and think about where you would go right now if you needed some advice that could affect what you eat this year, and next. The Internet? Home Depot? Wall Mart? Smith and Hawken?

After all these years of supplying people with plants for fun, it's a bit different to be supplying them with plants and goods that "just have to produce!" Makes guys like me and Farmer Fred realize just how important our jobs are. And just how far we have to go to re-educate the population in self-sufficiency. We are a couple of generations behind. Lot's to do.