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Kitchen Gardening

Vegetables Can Break Your Heart

Survey results of 1300 new vegetable gardeners show that despite the hard work and environmental challenges, 91 percent plan to keep on gardening.

People garden for many reasons, but the results of a new survey show most gardeners plant a vegetable garden because it’s fun and rewarding.
Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

In November I invited new vegetable gardeners to participate in a survey conducted by George Weigel, a garden writer for the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Penn State University Extension specialist Steve Bogash. Because it was such a challenging year for gardeners, George thought many new gardeners would give up gardening and he wanted to test his theory.

Of 1300 new vegetable gardeners surveyed, 91 percent said they plan to keep on gardening and 42 percent said they’re going to expand their gardens this season. Only 1 percent reported they’re giving up.

The survey also showed people weren’t growing vegetables just to save money.

“I was surprised that saving money didn’t rank higher as a reason for all the new veggie gardeners,” George observed. “It was actually the least of the eight reasons picked. That tells me this might be more than a faddish reaction to a bad economy.”

Gardeners said their top reason for growing vegetables is because it’s “fun and rewarding in spite of the effort.”

Other survey findings showed the following:

  • New gardeners turned to the Internet first to look for information and second to their Cooperative Extension.
  • Tomatoes and peppers were the most popular crops, herbs second, followed by greens, beans, squash, and cucumbers.
  • Only 20 percent of new gardeners planted traditional row gardens. More than 25 percent grew in raised beds only, 44 percent used a combination of rows and raised beds, and the remaining 11 percent grew in containers or mixed their edibles into the landscape.
  • Organic gardening was extremely popular with new gardeners; 89 percent avoided synthetic chemicals or tried to grow as organically as possible.

Of all the survey questions, this one drew the most interesting comments: “What do you wish you had known about vegetable gardening before you got started?”

Some new gardeners wished they had known they’d like it so much…and others said if they knew how much work it was they wouldn’t have started. There were comments about how important it is to get the soil ready for planting, that it’s best to start small, and complaints about slugs, chipmunks, and birds.

But my favorite comment—and the one that I relate to the most—came from someone who said, “I wish I’d known that vegetables will break your heart.”

Welcome to the wonderful world of gardening.

Do you wish you would’ve known more about gardening before you started? Please share your comments here.

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