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Plant A Vegetable Garden — Spring 2009 | Out Here Magazine

Benefit your health and pocketbook by growing your own

By Carol Davis

Rising grocery prices, tainted food, and pesticides can make a trip to your supermarket's produce department unsettling.

The solution? Grow your own. For the price of a few seeds or seedlings and some time and effort on your part, you can produce vegetables that are tasty, safe, economical, nutritious, and fresher than you'll ever get at a store. After all, there's nothing like a home-grown tomato.

Whether you have the room and time for a large garden or simply a corner of your yard or patio for a few plants, you can reduce your grocery bill and increase your family's nutrition.

How Do I Start?

Decide where your garden will go and then get a soil test through your local extension office. You're going to invest time, work, and money in your garden, so you might as well make sure that your soil is fertile. This simple, inexpensive test can determine that.

To find out more about soil tests and collecting soil samples, read a story Out Here published last spring (Spring 2008) at theOut Here Archives.

What Should I Grow?

Simply put, plant the vegetables that your family likes.

If your family eats a lot of salad, then plant lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and, of course, tomatoes.

Think about meals. Do you stir-fry? Grow bell peppers, onions, peas, and broccoli. Do you make Mexican food? Consider various hot peppers. Do you create main dishes from vegetables? Potatoes, squash, eggplant, and spinach might be options.

In planning your garden vegetables, consider adding a variety or two that your household considers tolerable, but not great.

You may find that homegrown freshness increases the taste, and that vegetable just may turn out to be a family favorite.

Plant an unfamiliar vegetable or two, just for kicks. If it's not to your taste, give the harvest to neighbors or your local food bank.

How Large Should My Garden Be?

A beginner's garden should measure about 10x18 feet, which easily will feed a family of four to six. This is just a guideline, however. Adjust your garden spot to fit your family size, available space, amount of time you can spend in it, and the amount of work you're willing to do.

Keep in mind that a too-large garden can easily overwhelm you and become a discouraging chore. Keep it manageable. You'll be amazed at your success — and the good food you put on your table.

Out Here editor Carol Davis is a master gardener who is still learning.