published Saturday, April 7th, 2012

5 tips for starting a garden plot

Do you love the taste of homegrown vegetables and herbs? Join the crowd.

Doug Jimerson, Better Homes and Gardens garden director, said growing fruits, veggies and herbs is something Americans are doing in record numbers this season.

"Vegetable and herb gardening is easier than you think. If you plant at the right time, shape up your soil, weed, feed and water your plants responsibly, you'll be successful," said Joan Casanova, a spokeswoman for Bonnie Plants.

"It's cheaper to grow your own produce than buy it," Jimerson said in a news release, noting that one $3 tomato plant will yield pounds of produce all season long.

Additionally, the produce you grow tastes better than what you buy at the grocery store, he said.

And there are added benefits.

"Gardening is rapidly gaining popularity as a great way to get some exercise, relieve stress and spend healthful family bonding time," he said.

Casanova said to keep it simple if you're just starting.

"Planting a vegetable plot and keeping it productive isn't that hard if you start small, keep the basics in mind and plant reliable varieties," she said.

FIVE TIPS

1. Sunshine is sustenance. Vegetables need at least six hours of full sun per day. Check the last frost date in your region and wait until threat of frost is past before you begin planting.

2. No yard necessary. Gardening doesn't require a lot of room. Many popular vegetables and herbs grow just fine in containers, making them a great option for those with limited space. For smaller yards, raised beds are an easy option. If your garden is going right into the ground, just turn the earth with a shovel, toss out roots and rocks, mix in a soil amendment for healthy soil, and plant.

3. Water relief. Water regularly, but avoid doing so during the heat of the day when evaporation will diminish the effectiveness of irrigation. Water to wet the soil about 8 inches deep, but don't overwater.

4. Feed your food. All edible plants draw nutrients from the ground and can quickly exhaust the soil without the help of a fertilizer.

5. Pick your plants. Start with transplants -- seedlings are easier to get growing than seeds. Some favorites to plant are tomatoes, basil, bell peppers, eggplant and mint. For more gardening tips, visit www.bonnieplants.com.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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