Vegetable and herb gardening is in and if you're not growing your own yet it's time to start. Some do it to save money. Others want to ensure their food is chemical-free. Still others grow their own vegetables because fresher is just better. Many do it because gardening is good for you and some because it's still fun to play in the dirt.
Avid gardener Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants, offers some time-saving tips to make the growing easy:
+ Survey your soil - Your first step is to decide where you'll put your vegetable and herb garden. Good soil is key. The best soil is loam, a soft, dark, crumbly dirt. Loamy soil holds water, allows for drainage and is easy to dig. If you encounter clay or sandy soil, add peat moss and bone meal so that these soils can also be productive gardening bases.
+ Size up your space - When plotting out the size of your garden, you'll want to be sure it's big enough to yield a good harvest to make your efforts worthwhile. But if you're limited on yard space - or have none at all - you can grow vegetables and herbs in containers on a deck, terrace, balcony or even on the windowsill.
+ Let the sunshine in - Your plants need plenty of sun - at least six hours a day. A sunny and open location is your best bet for producing a plentiful harvest.
+ Pick your plants for your plot - Grow vegetables that are expensive to buy in the grocery store or at the farmer's market, such as tomatoes and peppers.
+ Time-saving transplants - When you're ready to begin planting, opt for transplants - seedlings that have already been started - rather than starting from seed. Transplants will buy you lots of time because plants are six weeks or older when you put them in the ground, and you'll begin harvesting much sooner.
+ Feed your food - Your vegetable plants will need food and water to survive and grow. When feeding plants, try to avoid chemical fertilizers that could potentially seep into groundwater.
+ Give your garden a good watering once or twice a week, although some crops may need more water, especially if your climate is very hot. A thorough soaking, allowing the water to penetrate 4 to 6 inches into the soil, is better for plants than frequent shallow watering.