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My Garden Journal
Jan. 28 - Filled the bird feeders and shoveled snow. Lots and lots of snow.
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Posts Tagged ‘vegetable garden’

Building a String Trellis For Peas and Beans

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Support for Sugar Snap Peas to grow on.

I’ve tried all kinds of ways to provide support for climbers, like sugar snap peas and green beans. Most of them have their drawbacks. Last year I created a framework of long bamboo poles. That worked pretty well except that even though I made it very tall (about 6 1/2 feet) the peas grew even taller. It became a balancing act trying to keep the whole thing from toppling over. I had re-bar stakes to support it but it just wasn’t enough. Besides, until the peas got tall enough to hide some of the bamboo, it seemed a bit of an eyesore.

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Sugar Snap Pea Vines reach 6 feet

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Detail of support for peas.

This year I decided to try and make something a little more permanent. I got some of those heavy metal fence post that have little nubs on them. I had to get up on a tall ladder to pound them into the ground deep enough (about 18″-24″).  The little nubs all along the length of the posts let me decide where I would tie the twine. I strung heavy twine horizontally in several places, both high and low. Then I strung string vertically between them. I left a tail on the string at the bottom for the peas to attach to and begin their climb. I almost strung wire for the horizontal support but thought I’d try the twine for this year. It seems like it would be easier to clear out at the end of the season instead of pulling all the dead vines off the wire. I guess I’ll soon see if the twine is going to be enough support for the heavy vines.

 

 

 

Spring Gardening – Getting Started

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Raised beds with vegetables beginning to grow.

Do you want to have a garden?

Do you have a plot of land that needs clearing off so that you can either put in a little garden or raised bed boxes for a garden? Whether this plot of land is covered in grass or nothing but weeds, you probably don’t want to have to saturate the whole area with an herbicide and then wait till everything is dead to clear it off so you can actually plant a garden.

An easy way to get started is to till the area, either with a tiller (which you can borrow or rent) or with a shovel. A shovel takes longer but is still very effective. After the area has been turned over and tilled, take a garden rake (a leaf rake might work but not very well) and pull the weeds and grass out of the dirt. As you rake them out, just discard them in the trash and not the compost.

If the area is covered in good grass lawn, then it might be better to lift the sod and transplant it somewhere else in your yard or share it with someone else who might be able to use it.

After you’ve gotten out as many grass and weed strands and roots as possible (the more the better since it cuts down on so much work later) then it’s time to either:

Prepare the soil for the garden by turning in some composted cow or steer manure, which you can buy pretty cheap at WalMart or Lowe’s etc. If you heavy clay soil or very sandy soil, you can add some peat moss (also available at WalMart and Lowe’s). Also, it is a good idea to add a balanced fertilizer at this time. Mix all of t

OR

Build raised beds for your garden. After getting the raised beds in place and making sure they are pretty level, it’s easy to put a layer of newspaper in the bed to discourage weeds from coming up from below. The newspaper will break down and become part of the soil. It’s possible to fill the raised bed with garden soil, but much better to use a combination of other things to create a soil that is light, drains well and won’t pack down.

Some of the things you can use to create a “soil” for you raised beds is: sawdust (no, it won’t hurt the plants), washed sand, perlite, peat moss, compost, composted manure, straw (but it may have seeds), shredded newspaper, and a balanced fertilizer, (see previous post for more information on fertilizers). We also add the polymers from gently used baby diapers (wetnot dirty) as they keep moisture in the soil really well.

Raised vegetable bed with tomatoes and corn

To keep weeds from growing in the pathways between the raised bed boxes or the garden rows, it’s a good idea to lay down some layers of newspapers and then cover that with wood chips.

All done. Now you’re ready to plant. Wasn’t that easy?

Dreaming of Spring and Summer

After being inundated with a couple of feet of snow (which has been on the ground now about 2 weeks), and being house bound

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Delphiniums, Asian lillies, Yarrow,Hollyhocks and Centranthus

because of the ice storm yesterday that left a quarter inch of solid ice on driveways, sidewalks and roads (the interstate was closed, as well as all the runways at the airport) I am SO ready for spring and summer.

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Sweet smelling Phlox and Roses

It’s times like this that I’m so glad that I’ve taken lots and lots of pictures of our garden so I can, not only enjoy looking at them during the cold days of cabin fever, but to also evaluate the garden to see what’s working and what might need some tweaking.

Here are a few shots of warmer times in our garden.

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Queen Elizabeth roses reaching about 8'

 

 

 

 

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Fresh flowers from the garden

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Grape vines covering the arbor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Clematis on gate and Phlox

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Fruit tree and flowers,garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hollyhocks

Purple Cone flower and Day Lilies,garden,flower garden,gardening,growing flowers

Purple Cone flower and Day Lilies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iris, the perfect flower,garden,gardening,flower garden,growing flowers,

Iris, the perfect flower

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Sugar Snap Peas beginning to grow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Asian Lilly

Grapes ripening on the arbor,grape arbor,garden,gardening,growing grapes,

Grapes ripening on the arbor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Heaven on Earth roses

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Yarrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, I Didn’t Build The Peas’ Support Too High

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Sugar Snap Pea Vines reach 6 feet

Last year I thought I’d built an adequate support for the Green Peas and the Sugar Snap Peas. After all, it was about 4′ high.

I was so wrong. I just put bamboo in the corners of the raised beds and then strung jute for the peas to climb on. The whole thing collapsed from the weight of the vines and peas. I spent all season trying to prop it back up and not very successfully. Picking the peas was made difficult because we had to hold up the heavy vines to get to the pods. I’m sure we missed a lot of peas last year.

This year I decided to get more creative. I built a scaffolding out of the bamboo poles (we have lots of bamboo, bought in bundles at a thrift store) and then strung twine back and forth. I made it about 6′ tall. I got a lot of comments about how tall it was and was convinced that I had gone overboard a little.

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Sugar Snap Peas forming

Not so. This week the vines reached the top rung, at least the Sugar Snap Peas have and the English Peas aren’t far behind. I am so glad now that I made it so tall. The vines are loaded with pods already and lots of blooms still coming. Looks like a good year for peas.

 

 

 

Sugar Snap Peas Are Blooming – Good Eating Ahead

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Sugar snap peas and English peas beginning to bloom

Yes, the peas (English peas and Sugar Snap peas) are blooming and the lettuce is growing so fast that we can’t eat it nor give it away fast enough. The rest of the garden is growing so fast too.

This is such a different year than last year, when the winter wouldn’t end and everything got such a slow start.

Absolutely loving this spring weather.

 

 

Growing Your Own Food Is Easy With a Vegetable Garden

 

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Raised vegetable bed ready for planting

Vegetable gardens are popping up all over the place. Next summer, notice how many people are carving out a little portion of their yard to start a garden to grow some of their own food. I remember back in the 40’s and 50’s small kitchen gardens were the norm, along with a few fruit trees.

It really doesn’t take much space to grow a few vegetables, vegetables that tastes so much better than anything you can buy in the store. The good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of know how either. A little research on the things you want to grow, and you will be a gardener before you know it. If you happen to live where there really is no room for a garden, then grow some things in containers. The containers don’t have to be fancy, they just have to be big enough that the roots will have plenty of room and big enough that there is plenty of soil so that it doesn’t need watering every hour. Good drainage is a must. Boards nailed together to make grow boxes, or barrels cut in half and holes drilled in the bottom will work. See this page for some ideas of some vegetables to grow in containers:  http://wp.me/P1OXDF-1bc

Growing your own vegetables can be a fun family project. Let the kids choose vegetables to plant and help them to learn how to take care of their own plants. I noticed that my children ate vegetables out of the garden so much better than ones from the freezer. I think it was because they had part in planting, weeding, watering and harvesting them.

Times are tough for a lot of families right  now and buying a few packets of seeds might be a really good investment. As the winter months drag on and we plan for the spring and summer, consider giving the vegetable garden a shot.

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Raised beds in in front of grape vines on fence in August

Even though I’ve been gardening for so many years, it still amazes me that we can take a little seed, put it in the dirt, and it will make food for us. Isn’t that just amazing?

 

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Fresh Grown Vegetables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Planting Time Is Finally Here

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Vegetable seeds for this years garden

I finally made it to the garden center to select the seeds for our raised bed vegetable garden. We have 3 beds that measure 16’x4′. One is located in the back yard by the peach trees, and two are in the side yard, on the other side of the driveway.

We usually grow the peas and lettuce in the side yard beds but this year I’m moving them to the raised bed in the back yard, mainly for convenience sake. It’s easier to dash out the back door and pick peas and lettuce, it’s much closer to my kitchen. The corn and tomatoes will go out in the beds in the side yard.

As you can see from the picture, I have quite a variety that I plan on growing this year. All have done well before, and I really look forward to having them much closer to the kitchen.

Almost all of the ones in the picture need to be planted soon and I’ll be trying to get them all planted today (March 16). We are in zone 6, so the time for planting early veggies in your zone may vary. Check the seed packet for that info.

The beans, squash and cucumber will go in later, when the soil warms up a little. I’m planting two kinds of peas, regular English peas and Sugar Snap Peas. Also, I’m planting 3 kinds of lettuce, for variety.

I did get a few packets of flower seeds, but I save so many seeds from my annuals each year that I don’t really need to buy many of those.

The timing is perfect for planting tomorrow because it’s suppose to rain over the weekend, which will water the seeds in really well and give them a good start. Also, I’ll be soaking the peas seeds overnight to give them a little head start.

If you want a really good selection of seeds, now’s the time to get to the garden center and make your selections.

So Many Seeds, So Little Space In The Garden…Don’t Be Intimidated By The Choices

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Seeds For Sale

If you’ve been going through the seed catalogs (like I have), or visited the seed racks at the stores (now fully stocked) trying to decide what your going to include in your garden this year, then you’re aware of the huge choices available to us.

Take vegetables for instance, once you decide which vegetables you want to grow, then you have to decide which variety. Say you want to grow green beans. The first choice that comes to mind for green beans is whether you want them to run (climb something) or to be bush beans (so you don’t have to provide something for them to climb on).

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Seed Racks Fully Stocked

The key is to do some homework, whether in the catalogs, gardening magazines and books or on the internet, learn as much as you can about the things you want to grow. Whether is vegetables, herbs or flowers, the information on the back of the seed packets will make a lot more sense if you know what you’re looking for. By the way, there is a lot of information on the seed packets so don’t ignore it. See post: http://wp.me/p1OXDF-1xE

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Flower Seeds For Sale

Some things grow great from seeds and some will grow from seeds but take way too much time (like Asparagus). Some things won’t grow from seeds (like Tarragon). Tomatoes will grow from seeds, but our growing season is so short that we have to set out seedlings in order to get tomatoes before the cold weather returns in the fall. Most gardener set out seedlings for tomatoes anyway, because everyone wants to get fresh, homegrown tomatoes as early as possible.

This is the best time to stock up on seeds, while the racks are well stocked (both garden centers and mail order seed stores). Before you know it, the racks will be almost bare and your choices will get more and more limited.

It’s time for us to plant the peas, lettuce and spinach, so I’ll be checking out the racks this week and making the crucial decisions…which English peas, and what kinds of lettuce to grow. So many choices….so little space.

Starting a Vegetable Garden…It’s Easy

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Very small vegetable garden

Many people, who have never gardened before, are considering growing their own food this year and backyard vegetable gardens are becoming quite popular. If you’re reading this, then likely you are already a gardener, but if not, and you want to start a garden, don’t be intimidated.

 

 

 

It’s easy, if you follow these simple steps:

  • Plan
  •  Prepare the Bed
  •  Layout the Plan and then Plant
  • Water and Keep Moist Till Germination
  • Watch Garden Grow

For information about each of these steps, check out this article:  http://ezinearticles.com/?How-To-Start-a-Garden-In-5-Easy-Steps&id=6559034

Gardening should come with a warning, because it is very addicting.

 

Don’t Forget To Plant The Peas

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English peas

Yes, it’s still very much winter here in zone 6, but even here, English peas go in the ground pretty early. We grow ours in raised beds so maybe we can get them in a little earlier because the soil (planting mixture) heats up a little faster. But they do like it chilly and usually, as soon as the soil can be worked, you can get them in the ground.

If you do plant them a little too early, they’ll wait until the right time, and then they’ll pop up and start growing. It’s easy to forget to plant them and before you know it…it’s too late. They like it cool and will bear until it gets too warm.

English peas are great fresh from the garden, raw or cooked.

Have you tried Sugar Snap peas? They look and taste like English peas (maybe a little sweeter), except the shell can be eaten as well. The shell is plump, like a green bean. They are also great raw or cooked (best if not over cooked). They freeze really well too. Just steam them briefly, then seal them in zip bags and toss in the freezer. The seeds are available near the packets of English pea seeds.

As you plan your garden…don’t forget to plant the peas.

Using Versatile Bambbo Canes In The Garden

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Bamboo stakes in the vegetable garden

Some plants in the garden can’t ‘stand alone’, and they need to be staked. This is true of Delphiniums, Peonies, Dahlias and some others that have tall stems that are unable to hold up in a wind. The flowers then flop over and are ruined.

Some vegetables grow vertically with support, such as beans, peas and cucumbers. Tomatoes need support to grow on as well.

There are all types of supports and stakes you can buy in the store, from metal to plastic, and most of them can get pretty pricey if you need a lot of them, like I do.

I really like using Bamboo canes to stake my flowers and vegetables with. They can be shoved into the ground and then cut off at the length needed. I like to make teepees with them to grow my cucumbers and beans on. They can even be used to create cages for supporting tomatoes. Also can be driven into the ground around the wire tomato cages for more support. You can really do a lot with Bamboo and twine in the garden.

Bamboo comes in a variety of diameters, the wider the stronger, of course. Bamboo is strong, even strong enough to use to prop up branches heavy with fruit. It should last several seasons, and in the right climates may last much longer.

Using Bamboo is easy.

Because of the natural joints along the canes, it is easy to ties plant stems to it without them slipping down. Just drive the Bamboo into the ground near the plant (trying not to injure the roots)  and tie the stem to it in a figure 8 with a piece of hemp or twine. It’s important not to tie it to the plant too tightly. That’s why the figure 8 helps. Tie the twine to the pole tightly, then to the stem loosely.

Another way of supporting flower stems is to drive Bamboo canes into the ground throughout the bed of flowers and make a grid of twine, going back and forth between the canes. The flower stems can grow up through this grid and be supported.

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Cubumbers growing on teepee

To make a teepee for cucumbers or beans, I drive 4 to 6 bamboo poles into the ground in a circle (you can use as few as 3), before I plant the seeds. Then I pull them together at the top and secure them with twine.  From the top down to about a foot from the ground, I go around the teepee 4 to 6 times with twine (wrapping the twine around each pole as you come to it).   Then I plant the seeds near each pole. As the plants get big enough, I begin to train them up on the teepee. Pretty soon, they get the hang of it and just cover it all the way to the top. Make sure you know the approximate height the plant will grow in order to know how tall to make the teepee.

Bamboo is a natural in the garden.

 

 

 

Winter In The Garden – What’s Going On?

The quick answer to that is…not much. Or so it seems.

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Peach trees, roses, raised bed and snow

Many plants, especially fruit trees and some perennials, need these cold temperatures. They have a cycle they must go through, that’s why refrigerating bulbs can force them to bloom early. Some fruits trees need a minimum of 1,000 hours of freezing temperatures to bear fruit. So a lot is going on with the plants, just not in the leafy, green, growing sort of way.

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Peach trees, corn, roses and feverfew, lemon balm

 

 

 

 

 

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Queen Elizabeth roses in summer

 

 

The rose bushes look so pitiful and almost dead. They will be pruned back just as the buds begin to swell in early spring.

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Queen Elizabeth rose bushes in winter

 

 

 

 

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Raspberry, rhubard bed in winter

The raspberry bed looks so empty without all that lush foliage. They will be back bigger, thicker and better than last year. The rhubarb plants that share that bed seem to have

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Raspberries and rhubarb in July,

disappeared, but they will also be back, bigger than before.

 

 

 

 

The raised vegetable bed is empty, the corn, green beans and squash long gone. Next year we will add more compost to rejuvenate the soil for the next vegetables to grow there.

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Asparagus Bed mid July, 2011

 

 

 

The asparagus has gone to sleep, with the plants all collapsed down with a covering of snow to insulate them. They will be some of the first to make their appearance next spring. Can’t wait.

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Asparagus bed in winter (What looks like boulders is plants collapsed down)

 

 

 

 

 

So much to look forward to in the spring. The dormant time in the garden is a really good time to learn about some of the things that need to be done when spring finally gets here…like pruning fruit trees and rose bushes, dividing and transplanting perennials that have outgrown their space, starting and maintaining a compost pile, deciding on what vegetables to grow this year…..and on and on.

That’s why gardening is so interesting and so much fun. There is always more to learn, always something to do and always so much to enjoy in a garden.

Garden Design Tip – Walk On Pathways, Not In Garden Beds

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2011 - Path beside grape arbor with herb bed on right.

A great garden design will have permanent pathways, and stepping stones…for walking and stepping. If garden beds, flower and vegetable, are kept narrow enough,  then there is less temptation to walk on the soil of the bed. If the area is too wide, it’s best to place stepping stones.

Most plants like well drained soil. Walking on the soil compacts it and has an effect on the drainage. Compacted soil also has less oxygen and makes it more difficult for plants to grow.

Just sayin’…

 

For more garden design ideas, check out http://wp.me/p1OXDF-Z9

Finding Room To Grow Vegetables

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Rhubarb, chives and bell peppers growing in flower bed. Corn in raised beds with squash and pole beans. Peach trees beyond.

Would you really like to grow vegetables but you just don’t have the space?

Guess what? You can grow a lot of vegetables in a very small amount of space. They don’t even all have to be in the same area. You can tuck vegetable plants in among your flowers or shrubs. Just make sure it is a place that will get lots of sunshine. Most vegetables can be grown in a space as small as a square foot. Some, like lettuce, can be grown in a narrow strip 6″ wide. Vegetables that take more than just a few plants, such as beans and peas, can be grown in a little larger areas. Even then, you’d be amazed at how many peas and beans a 2′ x 6′ bed can produce. Vegetables such as squash can be planted in a 1′ x 1′ square, if they can be allowed to spread out a bit.

 

 

Vegetables suggestions for small spaces:

Cucumber – bush or pole type, which can be grown vertically if given support

Beans – bush or pole type, which can be grown vertically if given support

English peas – can be grown in rows and kept very vertical with support

Lettuce – can be grown in narrow strips or small square areas (Romain grows sort of vertical while Bibb grows low)

Kale – grows well among other plants or in a row

Swiss Chard – can be grown tucked into flower beds, in small square areas or in rows.

Spinach – very beautiful foliage that can be grown with herbs or flowers

Cilantro – does well grown in flower beds

Beets – beautiful leaves with red veining and you can eat tops and roots

Basil – beautiful plant that fits in well with flowers or shrubs

Parsley – beautiful foliage that works great in flower beds or with shrubs

Summer squash – beautiful plant, large leaves can take up lots of room

Peppers – bell peppers or hot peppers, very ornamental plants that look great in flower beds

Eggplant – beautiful plant that will look great mixed in with the herbs or flowers

Radishes – low growing and very easy to grow, (let the kids help)

Tomatoes – can be grown vertically with support and can fit into a relatively small space

Green onions – always useful to have on hand and they don’t take up much room

Also see Page: Container Gardening > Grow Vegetables in Pots : http://wp.me/P1OXDF-1bc

How do you find the room in your yard for a few more plants? Walk around your yard, paying attention to empty areas that might be 1′ x 1′ or how about a 3″ – 6″  strip that you could put in a row of lettuce, radishes or green onions, which are very ornamental with beautiful foliage. If you’re planting lettuce, don’t plant it all at once. Stagger planting every couple of weeks to prolong your harvest time. Also, one way to harvest lettuce, don’t pull up the whole plant, just cut outer leaves off each plant

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Tomatoes and Petunias share a bed

and the plant will continue to grow and produce.

What about along a sidewalk or pathway? If you can squeeze a plant in here and there, you will be amazed at how much food can be produced. Is it possible to extend an existing flower bed out 6 – 12″ to plant some low growing plants like lettuce or beets?

Do you have lawn growing right up to a fence? How about clearing a 2′ – 3′ strip along the fence and planting vegetables. The fence would provide a convenient support for the taller vegetables, such as tomatoes or beans and cucumbers, at the back of the garden and then you could plant many different kinds of vegetables in front of those.

No yard? No problem. You can grow quite  a lot of vegetables in containers, whether on a patio or deck, along the sunny side of your house or just out your back door.

Don’t plant and forget. Make sure the plants don’t have to compete with weeds for nutrients or moisture. Be sure to keep your vegetables picked so that they will continue to produce. If you’re going to be away when they are producing, ask a neighbor to pick for you to keep them in production.

As you assess your yard and garden,  decide on what you want to grow and where in your yard would be the best place to grow it. Now is the time to make all those gardening plans so when the warm weather comes, you will be all ready to get stated.

Get creative and have fun!

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