14 April 2013

Unlikely Garden Resources

I planned to write an update for the following article this spring, so I went to Wal-Mart and Lowe's earlier this year looking for cool-season vegetables and I never found the abundance that I did a few years ago.  With the bad economy, people had started vegetable gardens, and they were growing more than just tomatoes in the summer.  A few big box stores were capitalizing on this and sold a larger selection of vegetables.

I looked at Wal-Mart in February when I planted potatoes and onions and they didn't have any.  And while I didn't look specifically for them at Lowe's, I was in and out of there a number throughout the spring and I didn't see any.  I went back the other day and I found their display. They had a huge variety of onions, garlic, shallots, and potatoes.  It's the absolutely wrong time to plant now, but I was looking at them and wondering if I could store them until fall (or spring, in the case of potatoes) and plant them at that time.  Maybe they will be deeply discounted.  Maybe they just threw them away.  I'll have to find out.

Red potato plant in bloom
Over the past couple of years, there has been a large increase in the amount of people trying to grow their own food.  It used to be people grew tomatoes or squash in the summer, but it has expanded to include other vegetables.  Excluding traditional feed and seed sources, Lowe's started selling onion sets in the spring a couple of years ago.  Last year they had these garden packs - asparagus, strawberries, potatoes, onions, leeks and shallots in small amounts, in various combinations, for the home gardener.

I made a discovery Wednesday at Wal-Mart.  I was leaving through the garden are and noticed a display that looked like it had a few winter vegetables.  I was expecting a few veggies mixed in with flower bulbs.  I was surprised to find that it was all vegetables.  They had asparagus crowns, strawberries, garlic, two types of shallots, two types of onions, and five types of potatoes.

Feed and seed stores are usually good for a couple of varieties of a couple of vegetables, in large quantities, at reasonable prices.  The vegetables at Wal-Mart are packaged in smaller quantities for the home gardener and they are more expensive.  Most home gardener don't have the need for five pounds of one variety of potato or two pounds of onion sets.  What Wal-Mart does right is it offers more specialty vegetables.

Asparagus is a perennial, which means that it lives for more than a year.  Most people probably don't have enough room in their garden to commit to asparagus for a number of years - I know I don't.

Most people grow strawberries here and there.  They can be perennials, but some experts suggest replanting fresh plants every year.  I've never grown them, but I know Robin would like me to.  I think I have issues with plants that need a certain amount of daylight to produce fruit or flowers, etc.  I think I will try growing them before long.

Any reader of this blog knows that I have had no real success with onions.  Wal-Mart offers two varieties in small quantities.  I may continue to try growing them, but I won't devote as much space to them as I have been.  And, on second thought, I may not buy them there either - a lot of them had already sprouted and had fairly long green shoots poking out of the bags.

I tried growing garlic almost a year and half ago.  The only place you can reliably find garlic is in a catalog or the grocery store.  The catalog can get expensive when you figure in shipping, so I decided to try planting garlic from the grocery store.  I wasn't expecting great results, but I thought I would give it a shot.  I waited a little late to pull them up - they had been sitting in soil that was a little waterlogged.  I put them on a shelf in the garage to dry and forgot about them.  They're still there and I noticed that started sprouting recently.   I suppose they would be fine plants, but they would not produce very good bulbs.  Wal-Mart is selling  garlic bulbs and I'm sure it's in small amounts and affordable.  I'd rather have found them in the fall, when you're supposed to plant them.  Maybe I can buy them and keep them around until October.  We'll see.

I've never grown shallots, but I'd like to.  If Robin will use them, I'll grow them.  I just don't think we've ever eaten them around here before.  I also think it's great that Wal-Mart has potatoes.  Although I'll buy the bulk of my seed potatoes, I may buy the blue potatoes that they are selling.  I like growing a few odd things.

That's it for vegetables at Wal-Mart.  I blogged about more traditional sources for some of these here.  Go out and try to grow some of these this spring!

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