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Happy Plant a Vegetable Garden Day!

N.Y. author hopes to inspire more food gardeners

Pumpkins on vine
Celebrate World Plant a Vegetable Garden Day. After all, May is the perfect time in our region to plant pumpkins -- and have a crop like this by midsummer. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)

Here’s a holiday worth celebrating: World Plant a Vegetable Garden Day!

May 19 marks this relatively new commemoration, created by garden author Bob Matthews in 2019. Matthews, author of the Gardener’s Network ( ) and the Pumpkin Nook ( ), lives in Rochester, N.Y. He chose May 19 because its the last frost date for upstate New York and is past the last possible frost date for most of the Northern Hemisphere.

(Sacramento, by the way, had its last frost date two months ago.)

Matthews came up with the idea of World Plant a Vegetable Garden Day as a way to help others. As he says, give a man vegetables, he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to grow veggies, and he’ll never go hungry again. (At least, as long as he eats his broccoli.)

According to his Gardener’s Network website, his goal is to inspire people to grow more food and help feed a hungry planet.

Matthews has one particular favorite in his edible garden: Pumpkins. He grows all kinds, all sizes (not just the giants), and wrote a pumpkin cookbook, too. He also admits that his favorite holiday isn’t the one he made up.

“I have been growing pumpkins since I was a wee little lad,” he says on his Pumpkin Nook site. “Which, by the way, was a long, long time ago. Friends and family members will attest that Halloween is my favorite holiday. (The Pumpkin Nook) website is the direct result of two hobbies running amok, as I am both an avid gardener and an internet fanatic.

“I do not profess to know everything there is to know about gardening,” he adds. “I continue to read, experiment, listen and learn as much as I can about gardening, especially growing pumpkins.”

Many people caught the gardening bug during the pandemic. Stuck at home and worried about food supply chain issues, one in four Americans planted a vegetable garden last year for the first time, according to multiple surveys.

That’s on top of the millions of backyard farmers that already knew the joy of home-grown tomatoes. According to the National Gardening Association, one in three American families already grew food (vegetables and fruit) before the pandemic.

Now, more than half of our nation’s households have something edible growing in their landscapes.

Newfound interest in veggies continues to grow. Several seed companies sold out of stock again this spring. Baker Creek Seeds, the organic seed giant, reports that it saw a six-fold increase in demand for seeds this spring compared to 2019. Nursery experts expect demand to continue to be strong at least through 2024.

Of course, it helps the celebration of World Plant a Vegetable Garden Day to have perfect weather for planting. (That’s what Sacramento will see this week.)

So, go ahead and plant another tomato or other warm-weather favorite, and encourage others to plant something, too. And with luck, you’ll have something else to celebrate this summer: A home-grown harvest.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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