This Year’s Victory Garden

2009 promises to be a banner year for vegetable gardening. Many seed companies, nurseries and garden centers are reporting a surge in consumers looking for information to help them grow their own herbs and vegetables at home this season.

Planting a vegetable garden this year means victory over high produce prices at the supermarket. It also means fresher, more nutritious food, grown in your own back—or front yard.

You can grow and harvest a nice bunch of vegetables, even if you don’t think you have the space or the skill. The first step to starting your vegetable garden isn’t planting—it’s planning.

Planning includes finding the sunniest spot in your landscape. Backyard, front yard, patio or balcony, look for the spot that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day. Some plants can get by with less sun and some shade, like lettuce, radishes, carrots and cabbage. Use the sunniest spots for warm season crops like beans, tomatoes and peppers.

Even when I lived in a townhouse with a teeny-tiny back patio, I was able to grow basil, parsley, chives, tomatoes and peppers in containers lined up against the wooden fence. This patio garden just barely received 6 hours of sun each day, but the fence absorbed heat and helped keep the plants warm at night.

Growing vegetables in containers also made watering, fertilizing and weeding a lot easier.

Planning also includes deciding what herbs and vegetables you want to grow. Most gardeners agree: plant what you like to eat. Choose varieties of your favorites by the average length of your area’s growing season. Consider how long it takes vegetables to mature by carefully reading the seed catalog descriptions or the instructions on the plant stake in transplants.

Every January I place a catalog order for different varieties of heirloom tomato seeds for my garden. This year’s packets have arrived and are ready to be started inside around the middle of March. I ordered a good variety that includes Black Cherry (65 days), Paul Robeson (75 days), Marianna’s Peace (80 days) and Giant Belgium (90 days).

These are in addition to the Green Zebra, Black Krim and Celebrity tomato seeds I saved from last summer. By staggering the maturity dates, I’ll have tomatoes throughout the season and some ready to pick before the first hard freeze.

As you can see, I love to grow tomatoes. What are you planning to grow in your vegetable garden this year?


 

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