Starting A Vegetable Garden
Most vegetables are annuals, and many can be grown in containers. Look for heirloom varieties and try unusual colors and flavors.
Choose vegetables your family likes to eat. Some offer benefits like disease resistance, heat- and cold-tolerance, or easy harvesting. Water new seeds and transplants frequently until established. Water the soil deeply so it saturates, not just the surface.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of this gardening column in The Spokesman-Review. That means that you all have faithfully read more than 1000 weekly offerings and continue coming back for more of my ramblings. When the editors called me out of the blue in July 2003 to propose the idea for the column, I never expected to still be writing it in 2023. Its success rides on you, my readers, and your continuing interest and input has been an important part of its success. For that, I will always be grateful. Thank you.
So how has gardening changed in the last 20 years? Probably the biggest changes are around the effects of climate change, though 20 years ago we didn’t see it as that. Climate events back then were seen as apparitions in the normal weather patterns. My first memory of change was around 2000 when I realized that we had a fall gardening season. The frosts we normally got by mid-September weren’t happening as often. Since then, we have realized the drier and hotter summers are the new normal and we need to start planning for wildfire and water use impacts even in urban areas.
The early 2000s saw the beginning of the interest in ecological gardening. Reports of disappearing bee and pollinator populations encouraged people to learn how to plant gardens to support them. People began looking at lawns in new ways, realizing that protecting beneficial insects and planting for them was more important than a large expanse of water hungry lawn. Ecological gardening practices that were considered an oddity then are now mainstream, and the gardening industry has evolved to support the trend. Internet-based information opportunities were just emerging in the 2000s and now they are where most people go for their information. Conventional chemicals still dominated the garden market back then. Now we use multiple ways to control pests and use organic chemicals only when absolutely necessary.
As a component of the ecological gardening trend, interest in sustainable gardens that fit into nature has risen sharply. Native plants were often considered weeds back then. Today, gardeners are using them because they realized they were already adapted to our climate and needed fewer resources for maintenance.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, interest in food gardening began to rise as people began wanting to know where their food came from and how it was grown. Organic certification protocols and certifications came of age in the mid-2000s. Community gardens began appearing. Between 2008 and 2023, Spokane went from six community gardens to more than 60 and counting. Vegetables and fruits found their way into landscapes.
Lastly, our daily lives have changed since 2000. Expansive gardens have been replaced by smaller, more flexible gardens that provide beauty, food and serve as extensions of our homes. Urban lots have shrunk in size and smaller gardens are now the norm. Family activity schedules have prompted demand for easy to manage gardens and a rise in demand for garden maintenance services.