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April 3, 2012 / amberwoodterracechiro

Let’s Talk Gardening

Let's Talk Gardening
This picture is quite an unconventional garden, but it does a good job of showing people just how easy and accessible gardening can be! There is nothing more rewarding than paying $1 for some seeds and harvesting tons of produce a couple months later. It teaches kids where food comes from, you can control chemical exposure, you can enjoy vine- ripened produce that is full of nutrients, and you can enjoy the taste of YOUR hard work! Summer is always rewarding for novice farmers in Northern Indiana because, let’s face it, winter isn’t exactly prime growing conditions.

Personally, I have staples that I grow every year, and I leave space to try my hand at new things, as well. I ask myself a couple questions when deciding what to grow:
What produce do I spend the most money on at the store every week?
Which of those plants can I grow in my area?
How many fruits or vegetables does one plant produce?

For me, I spend a lot of money on bell peppers, strawberries, fresh herbs, and avocados! We all know that I can’t grow avocados in Elkhart, IN, so I’ll have to give up the idea of pulling off my backyard tree! However, peppers are easy to grow, produce tons of peppers per plant, and don’t take up much space! Perfect….sold….pepper plants go straight into my garden (if you don’t have a garden, they grow well in pots). I grow red peppers, green peppers, and hot peppers. I get so much produce from these plants that I often have to freeze lbs of it at the end of the season.

Strawberries. Need I say more? Who doesn’t love strawberries?! Done deal. Strawberries go into my garden. The beauty of strawberry plants is that they come back every year bigger and more productive than the last, and they multiply on their own. The first year or two may give you little guys, but be patient. It will pay off. I hull all my strawberries and freeze the tops as a tasty treat for my dogs. They can’t get enough of them, and it serves as a healthy, cost-effective reward for them!

Herbs. Nobody should waste a penny on fresh herbs at the grocery store. It is the single largest waste of money, so listen up. I grow thyme, cilantro, sage, lemon balm, oregano, and rosemary that come back every year! No need to buy them ever again! Just plant them, enjoy them in your cooking all year, and wait for them to come back next spring. I even freeze them, and use them in stews and such through the winter. I do plant basil and parsley every year because they do not come back. I also plant mint…which comes back most of the time…but PUT IT IN A CONTAINER! It spreads like wild fire and you’ll never be able to get rid of it. The roots can literally reach across the entire lawn. I also enjoy planting fennel. I use fennel in my cooking, but the first year I planted fennel, I noticed something special about it: it attracts butterflies! Seeing the butterflies is worth planting this herb. 😉

Outside of these plants, I switch it up. I’ve done everything from broccoli, cauliflower, onions, brussel sprouts, zucchini, and much more. Zucchini tends to bea staple because it grows so easily and produces tons of produce! Be prepared to freeze it, give it away, and pick new ones daily! This year I am trying out carrots, radishes, and tomatoes. I would love to can some salsa! If anyone has an awesome recipe, please share!

This is not rocket science. Just try it. Get a pot, put some dirt in it, plant a seed, and watch what happens. Everybody’s soil conditions are different, everyone has different sun levels based on their surroundings, etc. The only way you will know what is manageable for you, what grows well for you, and what will save you the most money at the store is to simply get started. I have zero knowledge about gardening, but I have managed to learn a lot and have fun along the way. It’s that time in the season my friends….get those seeds planted this weekend!

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