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From Plump Tomatoes To Peanuts, Westport Gardeners Get Adventurous

Gilbertie's Herb and Garden Center in Westport
Gilbertie's Herb and Garden Center in Westport Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
A shopper strolls the aisles at Gilbertie's Herb and Garden Center in Westport.
A shopper strolls the aisles at Gilbertie's Herb and Garden Center in Westport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
The plants are primed for the picking at Gilbertie's Herb and Garden Center in Westport.
The plants are primed for the picking at Gilbertie's Herb and Garden Center in Westport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Customers snap up tomato plants at Gilbertie's Herb and Garden Center of Westport.
Customers snap up tomato plants at Gilbertie's Herb and Garden Center of Westport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

WESTPORT, Conn. — With April showers giving way to … May showers, green thumbs across Fairfield County are itching to begin digging in the dirt.

But what will they be snapping up at local garden centers this season?

“Vegetables are really popular,” said Carrie Gilbertie, general manager at Gilbertie’s Herb and Garden Center in Westport. “People are growing their own food. Last year it was big, but this year, it’s even bigger.”

Gilbertie and Lee Ganim of Ganim’s Garden Center and Florist in Fairfield both said they are seeing an uptick in first-time gardeners, spurred on by the country’s heightened interest in food and nutrition in recent years.

Many of those putting shovel to soil for the first time are interested in organically grown plants and dirt fortifiers. Ganim and Gilbertie said they’ve been giving out a lot of advice in recent weeks.

“They’re trying. They’re trying,” Ganim said, with a smile. “We’re always trying to guide them.”

Most vegetable gardeners are clamoring for tomatoes and grafted varieties have been very popular, Gilbertie said. Farmers take the root system of a tomato variety known for its vigorous growth and disease resistance and graft it to the scion, or top, from a more delicate heirloom variety, grown for color and taste, she said.

“So you get the strength and vigorous growth and the delicious flavor,” Gilbertie said.

Those looking to get a jumpstart on the season might try early-producing varieties, such as Mountain Pride, Mountain Fresh, Magic Mountain and Celebrity, Ganim said.

Kale is still king when it comes to greens.

“Kale this year is crazy,” Gilbertie said. “I can’t keep it in stock!”

But some are opting for other greens, such as mustard and arugula.

Some of Gilbertie’s customers are getting adventurous this year, buying up lime trees, planting purple potatoes and even trying their hand at that Southern delicacy, peanuts.

“They grow. They do,” she said. “They just grow later.”

Container gardening, raised beds and gardening in pallets are popular for those without a lot of space or time, Ganim said. They’re also good for educating children about food and nutrition, he said.

Customers who like outdoor grilling have shown interest in lettuce and herb bowls at Ganim’s. The containers are small enough to keep right next to the grill to easily add a flavor punch to warm meats, fish and vegetables.

“It’s a great gift for Father’s Day,” he said.

For more information as the season progresses, tune in to Ganim’s radio show, “That Garden Guy,” from 8:30 to 9 a.m. Sundays on WICC-AM in Bridgeport or visit www.wicc600.com and click on “Shows,” then “Specialty Programming.”

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