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    Make Vegetable Gardening a Family Activity

    Growing fresh vegetables with your family is fun and rewarding. Vegetables you grow yourself can taste much better then those bought from the supermarket, and they're certainly fresher. Best of all, growing vegetables isn't difficult and it's a great family activity. All you need is space for a garden, sun, soil and water.

    Getting Started

    First, locate your vegetable garden in an area that receives six to eight hours of daily sun and has access to water. Vegetable gardens need at least 1 in. of water weekly. Apply an all-purpose fertilizer when you plant and again when your vegetables are half-grown, following package instructions. The depth of your garden soil should be about 10 in.

    There are two groups of vegetables. Cool-season vegetables can handle short periods of frost and grow best when temperatures range from 60 to 80 degrees. They are planted in early spring and harvested before the summer heat arrives, which can make them taste bitter. In southern climates with mild winters, cool-season vegetables can also be planted in late summer for a fall or winter harvest. Some favorite cool-season vegetables include broccoli, carrots, lettuce, onions and potatoes.

    Warm-season vegetables enjoy warm soil, warm days and cool nights. They are planted after the last frost date in spring and harvested through summer and early fall. Beans, corn, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins, squash and tomatoes are warm-season vegetables that you and your family will enjoy.

    How Much to Plant?

    You don't need a large area for a vegetable garden. In fact, you can start out with a site that is only 4 x 4 ft. However, if you want to grow a substantial amount of your family's produce, then plan on 200 sq. ft. of garden per person.

    Let the Kids Pick the Veggies

    When deciding what vegetables to plant, don't waste time growing vegetables that your family doesn't like. Most kids aren't going to get excited about eating beets or Brussels sprouts. Instead, let your kids get excited about growing their own vegetables by giving them their own space in the vegetable garden. Let them pick out the vegetables they would like to grow. This is also a great way to get them to eat more vegetables.

    Most vegetables are grown from seed and/or transplants (young plants). When it's time to plant, look at the seed package for directions: how deeply to plant the seeds, how far apart to space them, how long until germination and how many days until harvest. To get a head start on the growing season, you can start your seeds indoors a few weeks early by using seed-starter trays. This is great fun for kids; let them plant the larger-sized seeds such as corn, cucumber, melon, squash and pumpkin. It can be a learning experience to watch the seeds sprout and grow.

    Growing vegetables for your family is easier than you think and provides delicious, nutritious food for your table. Get your whole family involved by planning and planting your vegetable garden together.