Monday, July 6, 2009

Backyard gardening - it's never too late to start

This spring we turned our front yard into a tomato garden. We had outgrown our backyard vegetable garden and since I have an obsession with tomatoes we decided that reducing the square footage of our lawn was hardly a sacrifice.

As it turns out people all over are getting back to vegetable gardening. It used to be that everyone had a “kitchen garden,” but sometime within the last generation the whole concept went to seed (so to speak) as most people got more dependent on easy access to fruits and vegetables in grocery stores.

Now all that is changing. Last year the number of American households that grew food gardens grew by 10% over the previous year and it’s expected to grow another 20% this year. Sales for seeds are on the rise too. Keep in mind that these projections for 2009 were made before Michelle Obama dug up the South Lawn of the White House to plant an herb and vegetable garden. She has helped to spawn a whole new generation of (well-dressed) gardeners.

I am not an accomplished vegetable gardener. Even so, my meager harvest makes me feel self-sufficient (with herbs and lettuce anyway) and provides me with a connection to the earth that I find very comforting and inspiring. I love that my children have planted our garden by my side and ask daily when they can pull the carrots. My daughter uses the word “harvest” when it’s time to cut salad greens and nibbles chives when she’s playing in the yard. My son finds the plump red radish heads poking out of the soil irresistible.

All of this backyard gardening is providing us with food that is better in many ways: it’s helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (food doesn’t have to be transported long distances), it’s chemical fee, and there is no packaging. Plus it’s reconnecting us with the true source of our food – which is the earth not the grocery store.

If you’d like to try your hand at vegetable gardening it’s not too late to plant your own, in the ground or in containers.

· If you want to sow your own seeds there are several vegetables with a relatively short time to harvest. Leaf lettuce and blends of different greens can take less than a month to go from seed to harvest. Swiss chard can take just a month to yield baby leaves and green beans can take less than two months to start producing.

· You can play catch up by buying mature tomato plants and other vegetable plants that are already growing well. Plant them in well prepared soil for and instant garden that takes less time to reach maturity.

· Plan for next year by getting an herb garden established this summer. Herbs like thyme, chives, sage, mint and oregano are perennial so you can plant them during the summer.

My son has just requested his own pot to grow his own sugar snap peas, which is in and of it’s self one of my greatest gardening successes yet.

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