Catherine StewartGardening trends for 2014

growing edible plants

Predictions for gardening in 2014 – we will continue growing and then eating our way through the most food-obsessed decade EVER. And I’m not sure that’s A Good Thing.

Edible or kitchen gardens are a key trendI’ve been trawling through lots of pundit’s predictions for gardening in 2014. Growing more edibles features strongly. Then there’s growing more herbs. And don’t forget more backyard fruit growing. As well as growing more food indoors using hydroponics.

I’m happy for people to grow their own food. I’m happy for them to enjoy talking about it, and wanting to share that knowledge. After all, any gardening is good gardening, isn’t it? And I hope that GardenDrum presents a balance of information for those who like to grow food, and those who do not.

But edible gardening has become such a crusade in parts of the garden media, and so all-pervasive among the rest that you start to wonder if beginner gardeners know that it’s possible to grow something you don’t eat. Has growing edibles hijacked 21st century gardening?

My mother use to annoy me with her saying:

Goodness me, do you eat to live, or live to eat?!

I thought that saying was a kill-joy, puritanical ignoring of the pleasure of sharing food among friends and family, and the delight of tasting the many wonderful and delicious foods now available to us. I thought I’d NEVER sound like my mother. [Ha! I know. Oscar Wilde tells us otherwise].

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But then the decade of cooking shows started. And the decade of TV gardening shows with story after story after story about how to grow fruit and vegetables. And the decade of seeing the gardening shelves in book shops become entirely devoted to books about growing edibles. (When the gardening section hadn’t been completely taken over by cooking books that is).

[Disclaimer – I have ONE tomato plant (a bit manky-looking and none yet ripe), and several herbs mixed into my garden beds. I have 3 strawberry plants because I like the flowers.]

My observations on edible gardening are that:

1. New gardeners, and even those with some experience will find that growing edibles is NOT the easy, ‘let’s walk lightly on the world‘ and idealistic gardening heaven they imagine. It takes time, water and fertiliser, and perhaps even resorting to pesticides to produce any quantity of truly edible food, let alone a bounteous harvest. Their probable failure will turn them off gardening for life.

Great White Butterfly pest in Nelson, NZ2. Constant and unrelieved talk about growing edibles makes gardeners who can’t or don’t (OK maybe this is just me) feel like we are the ‘also-rans’ of the gardening world. I grow trees, and drought-hardy shrubs, and pretty flowers and colourful foliage. I think about people-friendly design, and grow plants to make my world and I hope ‘our world’ a more beautiful and habitat friendly place. I do not covet my plants’ stored starches.

But now I feel like a gardening failure when I admit to never having grown a really successful vegetable crop. A few tomatoes saved from the possums, the odd strawberry saved from the skinks and some very odd-looking snow peas that should not have been saved from the snails are my big success stories. I hang my head in shame.

My strawberries

3. I worry that people’s intense interest in growing food is not driven so much by pro-community, utopian ideals, but is rather evidence of an obsession with food in general. And I worry that that obsession is symptomatic of a self-indulgent, self-absorbed lifestyle and society that does not augur well for future communities and humanitarian ideals.

[The need for a perfect cup of coffee every day is, of course, exempt]

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Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Creator, curator and editor of GardenDrum. Sydney, NSW.

8 thoughts on “Gardening trends for 2014

  1. Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

    I’d like to wave a flag for the Flanders poppy as the flower for 2014. It is the 100 year centenary of the start of WWII and this is the flower we all associate with the Great War. Would be nice to see some homegrown poppy fields in gardens and these flowers of course are seen through Europe growing in the fields amid wheat (although they are not as plentiful now as they were in years gone by). Just add a sprinkle to the vegie patch.
    Plant poppy seeds on Anzac Day for flowers in spring.
    Jennifefr

  2. Alison on said:

    I totally agree with you Catherine about this ‘food’ obsession.
    The only positive vegie-growing experience that I have had with many years of gardening – to the point where abundance was the appropriate word, was when I used pigeon manure in the vegie beds. It was fantastic. But my husband David and I had to collect the manure ourselves which was a hunched, ammonia-stinking job so we opted not to collect this again. No vegie patch has ever performed as well. I now dont bother.

  3. I always laugh when I remember a ABC 702 announcer last year doing a segment on the growing trend in backyard edible gardening and admitting that he’d tried growing cucumbers. Very tasty they were too, and he calculated that the three he’d grown cost him $75. I have a mandarin tree (very pretty), some herbs and a radicchio patch – which I keep because it’s a variety from my P.O.B. in north-east Italy not found in F&V shops. I grow it from seed and once it’s sprouted, there’s very little maintenance as it’s pest-free. Just water twice a day and Roberto’s your uncle!

  4. Judi New on said:

    I’m with you too, Catherine!
    In my opinion, the last twenty years or so have dragged us through a series of “passions”: garden makeovers; house makeovers; cooking; veggie growing, and wait for it….my bizarre prediction for 2014: making magic (noticed how many magicians are starring everywhere, including the Sydney Festival)….
    Ok, ok, maybe I’m kidding a little. But Aussies seem to be easily captivated by trends so who knows where we’ll go next.

  5. Helen on said:

    Oh Catherine. Thank you for making me feel better. I am a passionate “front of house” gardener. I’m even happy messing with the compost, but lately I have had to help my husband with the vegies because his health is not good, and it’s torture.
    I no longer enjoy TV garden shows. Who was it said. “Man cannot live on
    bread alone”? Helen.

  6. Hi Catherine, You and previous fellow commentators have said it all. AMEN to that. I love growing vegies but find the work/ pleasure ratio far higher than the ornamentals and pretty stuff I play with. This year, a plague of grasshoppers has lessened the fun even more. No doubt there’s much pleasure in fresh greens and herbs for the table, but food talk, watching, planning, testing, arranging, comparing, filming, entertainment is all pervasive and I believe it’s a sign of a society craving for some meaning – filling a big spiritual and emotional void that some other life dissatisfaction has left.
    I gave a young friend some persimmon flavoured tea for Christmas and she straight away went into a diatribe about the persimmon flavoured pannacotta she was going to make with it. D’uh, I thought. Just drink it!
    Down off my soap box now!

  7. Morris on said:

    I grow edibles and ornamentals. Whilst I think the hype about growing edibles is a bit ridiculous I also think it would be great if everyone could grow at least some of their own food. Pesticide free food is important for health and growing your own or shopping at local farmer’s markets is important for reducing our negative impact on the planet (just as growing ornamentals is). Aaand if you grow your own edibles, you can often grow food that you can’t buy at the supermarket (we have tayberries, loganberries and marionberries in our garden and love them – not to mention the money we save growing our own raspberries and blueberries).
    There’s also a great benefit to being able to teach your children how to grow their own food – everyone should be capable of growing their own food if they choose to – it’s very sad that many people, particularly those of the younger generations, wouldn’t know where to start and thus don’t have the ability to grow any of their own food without having to buy books or attend courses. Worse, many people don’t even know where their food comes from!
    Whilst the media has gone overboard with growing edibles, I firmly believe that growing (some) of your own food is important and the media’s focus shouldn’t deter people.

    • Many thanks, Morris, for that very sensible and well-reasoned comment. I have read that the ‘teach your kids to garden’ rot set in with the so-called ‘Silent Generation’ who, once they’d discovered the no-work joy of frozen and canned vegetables in the late 1950s, vowed that they’d never pull a carrot or stake a tomato ever again. So they didn’t teach their baby boomer children – and that ignorance continues to be passed down through the generations. And now I must go and look up what a marionberry is!

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