Eat your vegetables!


And support your local farmers. 

At least in the Northeast, it looks like a nasty
cold/(regular)flu season has started. I’ve already had one cold and I’ve been
packing away as many antioxidant-rich carrots and other products of the earth
as I can (I’m assuming these are still good for you). But I’m not growing them,
and it looks as though that will not be happening for many seasons to come.

This summer, I stuck a few heirloom tomato seedlings into
the ground just for fun and one of them turned into a 8-9 foot high monster,
sprawling all over its neighboring ornamentals (buddleia and rose bushes) and requiring at
least 2 tall stakes. Finally, I pulled the whole thing out and composted it;
the little yellow tomatoes were simply not worth the real estate it was
demanding. Aesthetically, it was less than pleasing.

So that’s that. On the other hand, I’ve been thoroughly
enjoying my trips to our many local farmers’ markets, where they have much
better tomatoes and excellent garden produce of every description, as well as
dairy products, free-range meats, honey, jams, flowers, and more. Much more fun
than growing it myself, and they need the business. In the 1940s, there were
over 2000 farms in Niagara County alone, by Extension records; now there are
around 200.

Farms and farm stands have been a prominent part of the
culture of Western New York for as long as I can remember. If they disappeared,
what would take their place? Not a hard question: subdivisions, industrial
office parks, strip malls, and big box stores. No thank you.

So I’ll be growing wicked flowers rather than virtuous
veggies for the foreseeable future. That’s not to say that I won’t continue to
scoff at those who say vegetable growing is difficult or faddish—the extremes
of any issue are always distasteful to me. (And my experience would seem to indicate the ease of growing tomatoes, anyway.) It’s just not for me. As we recently celebrated in the magazine I edit, I’m leaving it
to my local specialists

Photos by kc kratt.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I’ve concluded similarly, at least up against the apartment I’d rather have flowering plants. There is no conflict. We have local farmer’s markets and we support those. Growing veg is relatively simple, but the results are not to my expectation given the time put in. I will keep herbs close to the apartment however, nice to have snips of those when cooking.

    As for western NY, I think there are more and more grass-fed meat producers, though no where near what it could be. In the southern tier, of course, natural gas drilling (fracking) is threatening to take over many farms as farmers seek additional income. I’d rather see them feeding the large cities in the area. When farms turn to gas/oil rigs, it truly reveals where are priorities are.

  2. Yep, me too. I re-purposed mOST of my back garden to veggies, and half the front this summer. The amount of soil amending, compost I would need to buy (until mine cooked down enough), the sacrifice of flowers, etc. was not worth it to me unless I really HAVE to, or I have kids.

    I have a FANTASTIC local farm market that runs March-December, so I can get away with buying local, organic or sustainably grown fruits and veggies from the “pros”

    I decided I want to look at flowers out my writing desk window, while I can.

    I grew those little yellow pears, too. ONE PLANT took up one entire bed and just about strangled a shrub to death.

    If I need to, I can. But, right now I don’t have to and I don’t want to.

    I focus on flowers that don’t need a bunch of inputs.

    Cheers to flowers!

  3. Yep, if you can’t grow them yourselves buy your vegs from the local farmers. I do a bit of both.

    Personally I love my vegs, so much in fact that I’ve written a musical about them and it’s on my blog today.

  4. Hmmm….commented, said it took it, but not. In any case, I will continue to use our farmer’s market, but there are some things I can’t get there: young carrots and not “horse” carrots, odd varieties of brussels sprouts or melons. Even leeks are hard to come by for pity’s sake and they’re not exactly exotic. Not to mention that a fair amount of the fruits on offer at our farmer’s market are coming from Eastern Washington and are being trucked 161 to 188 miles one way–not exactly a small carbon footprint.

    In any case, I’ll not chide you for choosing flowers over veggies as long as you don’t chide me. We could always barter!

  5. Thanks for speaking up for farm stands! I grow a lot of edibles and lots of ornamentals in my own gardens. I grow enough food that I share the bounty weekly with the local foodbank. But, I don’t grow everything we eat, so I support local farmers each week at the farmer’s market (yay! Year-round here). And, I buy into a seasonal CSA program, which I wrote about here: . (This post has details on finding your own local CSA as well as a great blueberry cocktail recipe!)

    Really, I rarely find myself shopping at the grocery store since so much fantastic local food is available. And, if I really feel like splurging, I can even buy locally grown decorative bouquets.

    Now to go find Yolanda’s musical…

  6. I live in a rural area and one of my biggest frustrations is the lack of good farmers’ markets. Here in northwest Ohio where family farms are falling by the wayside and unemployment has reached 15% plus you’d think people would consider growing vegetables to sell, but it doesn’t seem the case. Cities have far better farmers’ markets than rural areas. Go figure.

  7. Its the money, Teresa O. In NYC anyhow, most farmer’s markets follow the money. When I visit farmer’s markets upstate NY, in the same region that farmers selling here are growing, much lower prices than say at our Grand Army Plaza market in Brooklyn (all additional costs of shipping/selling aside…).

    With the money comes the education, the social conscience (sometimes), the middle class desire- these days locally grown produce among other things, the social pressure (and extra income) to follow new trends.

    I find limited items at rural roadside farm stands. Cob corn, zucchini, you know- the basics. Often these are on travel routes for the car-bound tourist.

    Hmmm. The city cannot have risen without the work of the plough. Over at golden gecko, Trey is talking about high-rise city farms. What will happen to those rural farmers and farms then?


  8. I am a horticulturist which means I studied pretty plants. And I like them. In fact I am unfairly biased towards them. However, I refuse to be put off by vegetables and fruits. I’m sure I can have the best of both worlds a pretty and productive garden. That artichoke in the image above, beautiful and structural! It’s all about knowing what your planting. Sometimes it takes growing the yellow pear heirloom tomatoes to know they get huge. Next year do it differently. Isn’t that the montra of the gardener? Next year I’ll find a way to do it better. Well next year I’ll find a better way to grow my vegetables prettily.

  9. I have .09 acres and I have my own little garden that keeps me eating fresh vegetables. Even though it takes up 90% of my yard I will continue to keep working the ground.

  10. My property is on a slice of land that was basically a ditch when we bought the place. I grow veg among my ornamentals as I don’t really have the space to devote specific areas to specific plants. Lettuce becomes a border plant. Butternut squash vines make a great “mulch”, shading the soil and preventing weed growth among my shrubs. Tomatoes, pruned to control growth and produce more fruit, grow on pillars to provide architectural interest. All examples of adaptations I have made to create a beautiful and bountiful garden.

    And no, I didn’t learn this in one season. Trial and error was the process, and the end result literally has passersby stop their cars to comment on my “stunning” garden. Worth it!

    BTW, I live in a rural area and suffer from the lack of variety at our farmer’s markets (even grocery stores) that frank@nyc noted. I really have no choice but to grow veg to get what I want.

  11. I just don’t *want* to grow veggies right now and I don’t *have to* I might change my mind a month from now. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with NOT growing them or WITH growing them.

    Also, they CAN co-exist together, if you want them to. I just don’t. Not right now.

    One of the most beautiful gardens around is Ros Creasy’s at least according to pics. And, it is all a mix of ornamentals and edibles.

  12. I’ve designed my garden around California natives to attract wildlife and so enjoy the birds, bees, butterflies. I firmly believe it’s important to support wildlife, and most vegetable gardeners might like a pollinator or two but no other critters (hey, I feel the same way about my fruit trees).

    I’m fortunate to have several excellent farmer’s markets close by and get my veggies there every week. No gas, either, I ride my bike there.

  13. I should add here that anyone who has seen my garden is probably surprised I ever tried to grow vegetables at all: lots of hardscaping and small, shady plots, for the most part. But I have to agree that I really just don’t want to. If I wanted to, I would find a way.

  14. Elizabeth – Having visited your garden during the Buffalo Garden Walk I was wondering just what pocket of sun you found to plant that tomato. Kudos to you for even trying.

  15. I think everyone should grow anything they want – isn’t that part of why we garden?

    I love the magic and wonder of growing veggies. That you can put in a tiny seed and then eat the tomato, carrot or pea that grows out of it, still knocks my socks off. In a perfect world, I would grow mostly flowers, but I would always have a few pots of tomato and pea plants for the joy and satisfaction of eating something just off the vine.

  16. Man I’d have done anything to have an 8′ tomato plant!!! It’s a testament to whatever you were doing because even if it wasn’t ‘pretty’ it was food…consider it in pots next year if you like the food but want more structure…

  17. We must have grown the same tomato!! In the spirit of tapestry gardening, I planted a single ‘Sungold’ cherry tomato in the semi-shade flower bed last year. It grew so tall, it started creeping around the rose arbour. Eight feet, easily. And made small, golden tomatoes faster than we could eat them. This year, I had a slew of volunteers springing up in the garden, and transfered some to a sunny allotment plot we snagged late in the season. I think I got three ripe tomatoes off it. Go figure.

  18. Let’s hear it for Farmers Markets.In my Garden Asparagus and Leeks and two Rhubarb Plants are the extent of veggie gardening.Of course I grow Lettuce,even Corn Salad (for the first time this year)but my Heirloom Tomatoes were a disaster,also the Cucumbers.Our local Farmers Market can supply me with loads of Zucchini and those beautiful Butternut Squash that my family cannot get enough of.And 10 different varieties of Tomatoes.Hmmm,and Parsnips.The perennial Herb Bed is not a lot of work,neither are the annual Herbs in pots on the patio.Maybe we are learning to grow smarter,not harder.

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