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Can You Dig it? It’s Not Too Late for a Vegetable Garden

Why plant your own vegetables?

In previous posts we’ve discussed the viability of backyard gardening. While all that still rings true, having a home vegetable garden is actually hotter and hipper than ever. Home veggie gardens are no longer novelties. They help families save money, and provide chemical-free edibles that are guaranteed fresh and tasty, especially when getting your servings is a health and disease prevention imperative.

Tending a piece of your own earth also contributes to a feeling of self-sufficiency and provides an opportunity to be part of the burgeoning home farming movement. So choose your plot of land! It’s not too late.

While zealous gardeners are already up to their elbows in the dirt, in the northeast, even seeing bare ground in April is a luxury. That’s ok – rule of (green) thumb dictates that summer gardens can be put in until Memorial Day. Plus, if you aren’t starting from the seed, there’s added time for tomato transplants, eggplants and sowings of veggies like cucumbers and peppers. All you need is a few square feet of flat, sunny land with drainage. Even tough soil, a reality for many home gardens, can be coddled into use by compost, leaf mold, manure and soil conditioners.

If you are green behind the ears when it comes to veggie gardens, thank the digital age – not just for cute kitten photos, but also for plenty of resources when it comes to how-tos. Youtube videos coach even the sprout-impaired step-by-step through how to plant tomato seeds and any other gardening endeavour. Sites like Backyardgardener.com are abloom with raised bed primers and where to begin ideas, and blogs such as VeggieGardeningTips.com and GardeningTipsnIdeas.com will keep you informed and motivated along the way when your Victory Garden reference books seem too old school.

There’s even an app for that – check out Burpee Home Garden Coach for starters. It helps you get interactive about your edible gardening by using things like text messages meant to keep you horticulturally on track.

Grow Your Own Servings!

Fruits and Veggies – More Matters is doing its part to help you find your inner gardener. They show you how to Plan, Prepare, and Plant if for no other reason than to get nutritional servings on your plate. They also provide an easy-to-follow guide on when and what to plant, depending on your location. For those in the Northeast, April heralds spring onions and radishes, while lettuce goes in in May.
Incredible, Edible Greens

Don’t let veggie staples distract you from simply growing straight up greens. For one thing, greens fit the bill for health – that naturally deep pigment signifies a food that is nutrient-rich. And, greens have the versatility to accompany nearly any meal. The Times-Standard.com reminds us that greens can also serve as a flower alternative if you want to show off your commitment to edible gardening. They offer beautiful displays of color that go way beyond green, ranging from red to yellow to smoky blue. Consider Swiss chard, romaine, spinach, radicchio, arugula or decorative cabbage varieties. Geeky lettuce lovers can dig into plenty of new discoveries when it comes to greens that are not just flavorful but throw off a lush display that announces your green thumb. Real Simple offers a lettuce growing primer as well.

Of course, Northeast gardeners do have their challenges. Short summers and nonexistent springs are the Zone 4 and 5 cross to bear. But here in Maine, lands that range from coastal to mountainous can also provide many planting opportunities. Luckily, the state has the resources to help beginning gardeners and the permanently overalled alike. Here’s three of the best:

  • Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) provides technical assistance in organic farming and gardening, and they can connect you will a local CSA or community farm.
  • The Maine County Extension holds classes throughout the county on a variety of home gardening topics and is rich with resources and information.
  • Maine’s own Kitchen Gardener is a national phenomenon. Roger Doiron is on a mission to aid and promote the wonders of participatory food production.

Alternatives to the Vegetable Garden

If it’s just not your year for gardening, or if being away from home in the summer cramps your garden’s style of constant attention, there are other ways to partake of the season’s vegetable bounty.

Focus on Herbs. An herb garden is a chef’s necessity. It provides the perfect buffet of essences for the creative cook in you, and herbs are fairly easy to grow. You don’t need much room to get an ample supply of cilantro, varieties of thyme, basil, chives, rosemary and mint. Get the 411 on types of herbs, how to grow them, and most importantly, how to use them to dress up your dishes from the Culinary Herb Guide, or go big with the Ultimate Culinary Herb Garden courtesy of Martha.

Fill Containers. Container gardens – that is, plants in pots rather than in the ground – are a much relied upon alternative for urban and rural environments alike. You can grow just about any vegetable in a container garden, and HuffPost says you can do it easy with just 5 tools.

Grab a Plot. Community garden plots can be a great alternative for the space-challenged or for those who don’t keep gardening equipment. Support community efforts and get together with others who enjoy tending a spot of land. It’s still early, and in many regions plots are still available. Check with your local community center to start tending a plot of your own.

Support a Farmer. If you’re lucky enough to be in an area with community supported agriculture, you can support a farmer, enjoy fresh produce, and keep you manicure intact. What could be better? Our own state of Maine has 150 CSA farms, and many deliver to your door throughout the season. MOFGA has a directory of farms by county. If you are outside of the state of Maine, you can read about CSAs and find farms at LocalHarvest.org.

Sow, Reap:
Got a video how-to, gardening blog, or great tip for staking out a plot of land devoted to veggies? Tell us about it at [email protected].

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