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Michelle Fern Michelle Fern
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There's still time to grow a garden

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We finally planted our vegetable garden this past weekend. I was getting anxious because I hear gardeners say Memorial Day is the "do or die" critical garden planting day as if it was written in stone. However, we've had some really chilly days and nights (mixed with some heat as well) and the month of May and first two weeks in June simply didn't pan out for us to plant it.

Well, it sounds like a good excuse.

My husband built the raised bed about a month ago and my son finally picked up the compost last week. It was becoming a 'do it now or don't do it at all' scenario, so I bought some really nice plants at a couple of local greenhouses. Incidentally, it was actually a great time to get some discounts - $10 got me 13 plants. Area greenhouses begin to shut down by the end of June, so they start to clear out their leftover stock by the second week of June.

We planted tomatoes (three varieties), spinach, lettuce (romaine and iceberg lettuce), egg plant, peppers (hot and green) and onions. I had purchased seeds but thought it's now too late to plant them. However, in talking with some fellow gardeners and doing some research, there's still time to plant warm season crops from seeds for cucumbers, beans, summer and winter squashes, pumpkins, melons, beets, carrots, chard and scallions. Additionally, you can start seeds in July and August for fall crops like all kinds of lettuces, spinach, radishes, kale, leeks, peas, broccoli Raab, carrots, and Asian delicacies like mild mustards, stirfry mix and pak choi.

I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Gardening is a perfect way to cut down on your grocery bill. Whether you have acres of land or live in a small apartment, you too can have a vegetable garden. You don't have to have a big garden to grow lots of food. Just fill your small garden space with high-yield crops, and you'll make a big dent in your budget.

  • Harvest lettuce leaves whenever you need them, and more will grow right back in their place.
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes will get you tons of tomatoes in compact clusters. They'll do well in the ground or in containers, so use any sunny spot that you have available.
  • Cucumber plants love to climb so they don't take up a lot of space, plus you'll end up with more than you can pick, pickle and give away.
  • Bell peppers grow up as well, so they're perfect for a small garden plot. Smaller pepper varieties also do well. Tuck them into your landscaping (where they'll look ornamental), or grow them in pots on your patio.
  • Squash can take over your garden, however if you grow it vertically, it will do nicely in a small garden, and still give you a bountiful at harvest time.
  • Herbs love to share space with other plants, both vegetable and flowering. Use them to fill in around your larger edibles, and get more food from every inch of your garden. No garden, then plant them in small pots and put them on your window sill.

I want to expand on herbs a bit, as I was not aware of the following in being a novice gardener. When it comes to herbs, they are a perfect addition to your garden since some such as oregano, sage, dill, basil, mint, garlic and chives help repel pests. However some herbs can harm the growth or flavor of its neighboring plants. Combinations to avoid include Anise and carrots, chives and beans/peas, dill and carrots/tomatoes, fennel and beans/peppers, sage and onions, and garlic and peas/beans.

Some great tips to remember a container vegetable garden can be planted indoors any time of the year to deliver fresh vegetables year round. A raised bed vegetable garden using vertical vegetable gardening will help save space with a garden plan. Planning a vegetable garden layout that works for you is key to your success as a beginner.

My hope is that with each successful season's harvest, a new adventure will begin, bringing its new beauty and challenges. So get started and enjoy the harvest!

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