Americans seem to turn to gardening in tough economic times. During the Great Depression, relief gardens provided emergency food. During World War I and II, Americans created “Victory Gardens,” and during last year’s growing season, the gardening industry reported a spike in seed sales. Growing vegetables in your backyard can save you money over buying all of your produce at the grocery store. And, added money in your pocket is just one of many benefits of vegetable gardening.
Growing delicious veggies is easy and truly enjoyable. It just tastes better. It is very satisfying to see your work go from garden to table. My husband and I are relatively new gardeners—about to enter our third growing season. Last year, we were amazed by the bounty of our harvest.
In a backyard garden that consisted of one 4′ x 8′ raised bed, a few pots, and a narrow strip of land, we grew basil, blue berries, cilantro, cucumbers, garlic, tomatoes, onions, corn, zucchini and several varieties of lettuce. By August, we were eating entire salads grown from our garden, cooking with fresh herbs and grilling corn on the barbecue. We gave what we couldn’t eat to friends, family and neighbors.
February is a perfect time to plan your garden. Other than the basics—plenty of sun, water and good soil—here are a few things I’ve learned about growing delicious veggies:
– Give your plants room to grow. Pay attention to the growing dimensions listed on seed packets and plants because they will crowd each other out if you don’t give them room.
– One single plant can grow a lot of food. Wow! I had no idea how much fruit one single 4″ tomato plant could grow. One plant was more than enough for my family of three.
– Find a good nursery and ask a lot of questions. I have some terrific gardening books, but the best help I’ve received was from the staff at a neighborhood nursery. They literally told us when to plant what, how to prepare our soil and how to fertilize.
– Try something different. While you should certainly grow your favorite vegetables, part of the fun of having a garden is growing things you can’t readily get in the grocery store, or growing different varieties of your favorites.
To all you new and seasoned gardeners out there, happy growing!
### Erika Weisensee, a writer and native Oregonian, lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism and communication courses at the University of Portland.