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While there's a big push in our area to "buy local," including vegetables and fruits grown on nearby farms, there's also an increasing interest in backyard farming, said Tim Holcomb, owner of Holcomb Garden Center.

"More and more people are growing their own vegetables these days and for several reasons," he said. "By growing your own, you can save money over buying, you can know exactly what went in it, and your home-grown vegetables will have more vitamins and better taste than most store-bought vegetables."

It's not too late to start a garden. "Now is a great time to plant tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn, squash, okra, peas, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelons, egg plant and herbs," he said.

Once you planted a garden, maintaining it is equally as important. The following are Mr. Holcomb's five tips:

FIVE TIPS

1 Water as needed but not too much. It doesn't do any good to wet the leaves. Rather, soak the ground. Water in the mornings. A wet plant at night is more likely to get a disease. Use mulch to help maintain soil moisture.

2 Feed your plants. They will grow without food, but the production of a great crop is not likely without food. One of the most complete and natural foods is Espoma Plant-tone. This organic blend of natural plant foods provides the trace elements that generate a healthy plant and tasty vegetables. Plus, it won't burn if you tend to be heavy-handed.

3 Prevent weeds and grass from taking water and food from your vegetables. Apply Treflan herbicide to prevent weed seed and grass seed from sprouting in your garden. Weeds and grass can grow faster and take away food and water from your desirable plants, so stop them before they sprout with Treflan. Apply it to a clean garden to keep it clean.

4 Watch for insects. Keep in mind that many insects are beneficial, but if they are causing damage to the fruit or plant, a control measure needs to be taken. Holcomb's has several options for controlling insects in the garden depending on the insect involved. If you're not sure, bring in a bug and/or a damaged leaf or fruit for identification and recommendation.

5 Not often, but occasionally, fungus can be a problem for some plants. Be sure to water in the mornings and not at night. If a disease is present and/or spreading, spraying with Fertilome Landscape & Garden Fungicide is safe and effective for most diseases and blights. If tomatoes have rotten spots on the bottom (blossom end rot), you will need to spray them with Fertilome Yield Booster.

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