Cultivating a Family-Friendly Vegetable Garden

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As prices on fresh vegetables and fruits continue to soar, the home-grown vegetable garden is going viral. Freshly cropped edibles are tastier and more nutritious than many store bought varieties. Plus, since you’re growing them yourself, they can be kept free of chemical-filled pesticides and other pollutants. In addition to all these benefits, growing edibles can be fun, fascinating and encourage young gardeners — and the whole family — to get exercise and vitamin D by working outdoors. Is it surprising that so many people are now starting to grow their own vegetable gardens? I don’t think so.

To grow vegetables and fruits successfully, you need to provide them with full sun, rich soil and ample water. The easiest and most convenient way to grow edibles is in a raised garden. Elevated planters allow you to fill a confined space with rich compost and save yourself the trouble of digging amendments into your soil. Raised veggie gardens are less prone to damage from ground-level pests and from your own pets. The extra height will require less demand on your back and knees, too. Raised gardens can be built from scratch or assembled with kits as a family do-it-yourself project. Or they can be as simple as planting your edibles in troughs or pots.

Another tip that can make vegetable gardening easier is to choose the right plants for the right location. In climates that have short summers, plant fast-growing vegetables or start growing your plants early indoors. Where it gets very hot in summer, don’t plant cool-growing veggies like cabbages, spinach or lettuce. If you don’t have full sun, stick to the few vegetables that can take a little shade like rhubarb, Swiss chard or beets.

Give support to tall or straggly-growers like tomatoes, berry vines and pole beans. Stakes or cages will save space and make growing and harvesting much easier.

Vegetable plants will not tolerate drying out, so putting a watering system on a timer can help avoid losing your whole crop in a dry spell — or if you forget to hand water. Just remember to turn off automated systems in rainy weather to avoid wasting water. Drip irrigation is ideal for raised beds.

Check your vegetables and fruits regularly for any sign of pests or diseases. Catching problems early often makes treatment quick and effective.

One last tip: If you don’t feel you have the space to grow a whole vegetable garden for your family, you can grow vegetables in containers or interspersed with flowers in regular garden beds. Many vegetables are colorful and decorative enough to add both food and beauty to gardens of all sizes.

Photo credits: Jane Gates

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