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Herbs & Vegetables

Herbs and vegetables that you grow in your own garden are fresher and cost less than those you purchase. These gardens can be planted in a single container, in a small plot next to a doorway or patio, or in a small to large garden in your yard. You can grow only what your own family plans to eat, or you can plant enough to share with the neighborhood. If you want home grown vegetables all year, plan ahead for canning and freezing.

Most herb and vegetable gardeners grow their crops from seeds they either start ahead indoors or sow directly into the ground. Seeds allow you to choose from a wide range of varieties that are often not locally available. It is best to buy fresh seeds each year so that you know the seeds are clean, disease free, and viable. Seeds can be purchased from garden centers, seed catalogs, or online sites. Seed packets are inexpensive and easy to ship.

Locate your garden on a site that is well drained and gets 8 to 10 hours of sunlight a day. You want a loose fertile soil, so add organic matter to lighten heavy clay soils. Raised beds make the best herb and vegetable gardens. Depending on what you are growing, you may want to add lime, compost, and/or fertilizer.

Time the planting of your seeds depending on what you are growing. Very hardy crops such as spinach or lettuce can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked. Frost tolerant vegetables usually like the cooler temperatures of early spring and fall. They can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of the last frost. These cool season vegetables include carrots, radishes, beets, and many herbs. Vegetables that need warmer weather and soil temperatures are beans, melons, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

Plant the seeds in either straight rows or small mounds of earth. Space the seeds evenly, and make sure you plant them at the proper depth. Gently water them in. When the seeds have germinated and produced small seedlings, thin the plants so that they do not crowd each other out. Give the vegetable plants adequate water. It is best to thoroughly soak the soil down to about 6 inches rather than lightly sprinkling them. Watch out for harmful insects. Apply pesticides only when necessary, and be sure to read the accompanying directions carefully so you know you are using them correctly.

It is important to weed your garden because the weeds will compete with your plants for nutrients and water. Mulching between your plants will help reduce weed growth and moisture loss. Although some gardeners used black or clear plastic to mulch, organic materials such as compost, straw, hay, leaves, grass clippings, peat, wood chips or manures are often more beneficial to the soil.

Remember that it is best to rotate the positions of various vegetables in your garden from year to year to prevent them from getting soil born diseases.

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