By Joan Casanova, Bonnie Plants
Photographs courtesy of Bonnie Plants
Who would have thought getting dirt under your fingernails would ever be considered one of the hottest trends going? Growing your own fruits, veggies and herbs is something Americans are now doing in record numbers.
It's cheaper to grow your own produce than to buy it – one $3 tomato plant will yield pounds of produce all season long, plus the produce you grow just tastes better than even your grocer's best. And while it's healthy to eat and grow your own, gardening is rapidly gaining ground as a great way to get some exercise, relieve stress and spend healthful family bonding time.
Eating foods grown in your own backyard means you won't be contributing to the carbon footprint left behind by the "food miles" it takes to bring imported produce to your local grocers – so you're helping the environment, too.
Growing vegetables is easier than you think. Plan it properly and you can enjoy a healthy, homegrown harvest from the fruits of your labor – without having to spend hours tending it.
Sunshine is sustenance – Vegetables need at least six to eight hours of full sun per day. The easiest thing to do is to place your garden in full sunlight. Make sure it's easily accessible for watering… if the garden is too far from your house it could get neglected. Check your weather and make sure there's no threat of frost.
No yard necessary – Gardening doesn't require a lot of room – although if you have the space and time to go large, grow for it! Many popular vegetables and herbs grow just fine in containers, making them a great option for those with limited space. For smaller yards, raised beds are an easy, low-maintenance option. If your garden is going right into the ground, just turn the earth with a shovel, toss out roots and rocks, mix in soil amendments for healthy soil, and plant.
Water relief – Water regularly, but avoid doing so during the heat of the day when evaporation will diminish the effectiveness of irrigation. Most vegetables need an inch to an inch and half of water a week from either rainfall or irrigation.
Feed your food – All edible plants draw nutrients from the ground, and can quickly exhaust the soil without the help of a fertilizer. Always follow manufacturer's label directions for rates and intervals.
Growing for it
Now that you've got an idea of the basics, it's time to pick your plants.
Start with transplants – they're way easier to get growing than seeds, so you'll save loads of time and enjoy improved success. Fortunately, growers like Bonnie Plants make it easy to find hardy, high-quality plants at your local garden retailers. Bonnie offers more than 250 varieties of vegetable, herb and some fruit plants, time-tested vegetable and herb favorites, as well as new varieties, too. Be sure to pay close attention to plant tags packed with facts and details to help you successfully grow your plants.
Here are some favorites to consider for your garden:
* Tomatoes – The most popular, number-one vegetable, tomatoes are always a best bet. Disease-resistant 'Bonnie Original' is a hardy, flavorful addition to any backyard garden. For containers or small spots, try Patio tomatoes, a prolific producer bearing tasty 3 to 4 ounce tomatoes on strong, compact plants that grow only 2 feet tall.
* Basil – The perfect complement to tomatoes, basil works well in gardens and containers. Classic sweet basil is known around the world for its wonderful fragrance and flavor. Or try Thai basil and spice up recipes with this stronger-flavored basil that has a hint of licorice.
* Bell peppers – Versatile, flavorful and nutritious, bell peppers are great raw snacks and make an awesome ingredient for a variety of cuisines. Harvest peppers when they're green or red, when the vitamin levels are higher.
* Eggplant – 'Black Beauty' is the quintessential eggplant with a deep purple, glossy skin and meaty texture that thrives in hot weather. White eggplant offers a sweeter, bitter-free flesh.
* Mints – Easy-to-grow mints are available in traditional spearmint and peppermint and in more exotic flavors like chocolate mint, which has a flavor that echoes the classic Girl Scout cookie.
With many vegetables and herbs, the more you pick, the more the plant will produce. Enjoy the harvest!
For more information on varieties, all types of vegetable and herb gardening, tips, ideas and even recipes, please visit www.bonnieplants.com.
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