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Grow it! Healthy Eating is in Your Backyard

The White House did it. The Joneses started doing it last year. Even your sister-in-law who lives in a fifth floor walk-up in the city did it. You can do it too! Grow Your Own Garden, that is. It’s a near phenomenon that’s enjoying a surge in popularity. The world of GYOG promises to explode in 2010. Almost half of garden owners, according to industry research, said they intend to grow their own fruits and vegetables this year, and they predict that the time they spend gardening their edibles will spike.

Growing your own fruits and veggies is abloom with benefits. Foods we grow ourselves are as fresh as it gets, they taste good, and they are free from additives and pesticides. As spring approaches, it’s time to get GYOG on your radar. It’s healthy, it’s satisfying and it’s green – literally.

“Go for it” Gardening: What You Need to Know

It’s genuine family fun.

The act of growing things from scratch is tailor-made for kids, as is mucking around in dirt. Through gardening, children learn healthy eating habits that stick with them forever. Some families have even established their own “snacking gardens” that designate an area just for kiddos to pull and pluck at will when the spirit hits. It goes without saying that it’s a great way for more fresh veggies to make it into their mouths.

Grow stuff you like.

Love cooking with lemongrass? Try growing some. Want to rediscover and oldie but a goodie? Grow your own zingy radishes for salads. (They are hearty and can be planted throughout the season for multiple harvests.) Thinking outside the box? Try your hand at horseradish.

You need a plot of land.

You don’t need acres of flowing meadowland to have a household veggie garden. Choose a plot of land that gets the best sun, and fortify it if it has bad soil. Sprinkle seeds, buy veggies that already have a start, or sprout seedlings inside. (Don’t forget to mark what you’ve got.)

You don’t need a plot of land, silly.

Urban gardeners the world over have the answer for the plot-impaired: container gardening. It’s economical, space-efficient, and works just as well on a patio as it does on a driveway, deck, balcony, door step, or window sill. No excuses – you can even use the floor in a sunny room. You can also get familiar with kitchen gardening. (You don’t even have to take up space in your kitchen.)

Tap your green-thumbed neighbors.

Those who run local veggie and fruit stands will be forthcoming about where to buy and not buy starter plants, and they’ll give you a little advice about what works and doesn’t in your region. Or, head to a chain store with a garden department and chat it up with someone buying bulk seed cartons and wearing a “Got Milkweed?” t-shirt. They’ll direct you to the best local offerings.

Think herbs.

Herbs are easy to grow, and they are incredibly useful when you are striving to cook healthy dishes – they can even motivate you to cook more often. Plus, there are many perennials that can serve as the basis of your herb garden. Plant some chives, ask a friend for a sprig of their extravagantly oversize sage bush, and start experimenting with rosemary and mint.

PYO: Pick Your Own

Supplement your earthly take by visiting “pick your own” farms. Farms offer great weekend trips for families, and PYOs are sometimes available at hotels, inns and cabins, often free for the picking. Even wild blueberries, a summer favorite for cake and pies, are known for their late summer harvest season on the barrens, but smaller wild blueberry fields are often available starting in June. They are the perfect “pick your own” fruit. Here’s some blueberry picking tips to take along with you.

Backyard Gardening Tips, How-to’s and Moral Support:

Find a selection of books on grow-your-own gardening.

Read a Backyard Gardening Blog.

Get Veggie Garden Tips from Epicurious.

Visit Gardener’s Supply for videos, basics for composting and watering, and the tools to do it with.

Read about local guys and gals with a global mission that do Kitchen Gardening up right.

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