By Linda Ly
Once the soil starts to thaw and new seedlings emerge, we’re predicting a strong and steady move toward planting vegetables instead of lawns, cultivating and cooking from top to tail, saving and sharing heirloom seeds, embracing a cleaner way of life and protecting our native bees. These are the trends we see shaping the gardening world in 2017 and influencing the way we grow, eat and connect with the world around us.
Though some HOAs and municipalities still consider them taboo, front-yard vegetable gardens (and even edible gardens along sidewalks and in medians) are becoming a more common sight in neighborhoods. They’re also a smart way for people living in food deserts to build community and take back their food freedom. In place of lawns and xeriscapes, herbs and vegetables are turning up in raised beds or being interplanted with traditional ornamental flowers and shrubs to feed not only residents, but bees and butterflies as well.
The new school of food-conscious consumers and edible gardens means the growing popularity of “garden-to-table” menus and cooking from scratch with backyard (or front yard!) harvests. Driven by the “ugly produce” movement, gardeners all over—from urban rooftops to suburban homesteads—are less inclined to waste food and more interested in top-to-tail eating: using the unconventional parts of vegetables seldom seen in supermarket produce or mainstream recipes, such as pea shoots (great for salads or stir-fries), carrot tops (they add tasty flavor to soups) and kohlrabi greens (a close substitute for cabbage or chard).
Growing frustrations with Big Ag have spurred more gardeners to look past corporatized hybrid seeds and into old-fashioned heirloom varieties that celebrate seed saving and biodiversity in agriculture. The proliferation of community supported agriculture (CSAs) and online seed catalogs is contributing to an ever-increasing awareness of the thousands of unique old-world vegetable breeds that generations before us have grown, saved and shared.
“Clean” is a buzzword that’s gaining a lot of momentum these days, from clean energy to clean air, clean food to clean medicine. And with this rising awareness comes environmental activism, both in the community and in our own homes. This year, we expect even more people to make “clean living” one of their New Year resolutions: installing their own organic vegetable beds, growing medicinal herbs or adding air-purifying plants (such as peace lilies, ZZ plants and snake plants) to their homes.
After the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees on the endangered species list in 2016—the first time bees have ever made the list—there has been a renewed sense of urgency to protect our native bees. These pollinators have somewhat taken a backseat to European honeybees in recent campaigns to save the bees, but they do no less important work. With the possibility of more species becoming endangered, it’s crucial for gardeners to incorporate plantings that feed bumblebees, orchard mason bees, leaf-cutter bees and other natives.
When planting a bee-friendly garden, choose open-faced flowers with plenty of nectar, such as sunflowers and bee balm. Since most native bees (and even butterflies and other pollinating insects) feed on specific plant species, consult with your local nursery or cooperative extension on the most ideal mix of plants to grow in your area.
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