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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 Oct. 2

Plan to make the most of the mild weather in your garden.

* October is the best month to plant trees and shrubs.

* October also is the best time to plant perennials in our area. Add a little well-aged compost and bone meal to planting holes or beds, but hold off on other fertilizers until spring. Keep the transplants well-watered (but not wet) for the first month as they become settled.

* Now is the time to plant seeds for many flowers directly into the garden, including cornflower, nasturtium, nigella, poppy, portulaca, sweet pea and stock.

* Plant seeds for radishes, bok choy, mustard, spinach and peas.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Set out cool-weather bedding plants, including calendula, pansy, snapdragon, primrose and viola.

* Reseed and feed the lawn. Work on bare spots.

* Dig up corms and tubers of gladioluses, dahlias and tuberous begonias after the foliage dies. Clean and store in a cool, dry place.

* Treat azaleas, gardenias and camellias with chelated iron if leaves are yellowing between the veins.

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