When it comes to vegetables, fresh is best. Canned, frozen or pickled, they can be eaten year-round. But when it comes to taste, there is nothing like picking your vegetables out of the garden and serving them at the next meal. And it’s not cheating if you pop a few cherry tomatoes or fresh peas into your mouth before you reach the kitchen.
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Nutritionists report that fresh vegetables contain more vitamins and minerals than those prepared for later use, which is another good reason to enjoy the bounty of the season. In the Sierra Nevada foothills, gardeners can harvest their vegetables into October.
Growing your own garden was out of favor for some years, but the interest is back.
“People growing their own food has become very popular. The trend took on a swift pace after the economy took a downturn in 2008,” said Kristie Lamb at The Front Yard Nursery in Placerville.
Many people are putting in vegetable gardens for the first time and some are planting them again after many years.
Kellie Frank Notoli at Green Acres in Folsom sees the same trend. “In the past few years, there has definitely been an increase in the number of people who want their own vegetable garden.”
Today’s gardeners may be planting in smaller areas. But no matter if the garden space is a patio or balcony, a small yard or acreage in the country, anyone can reap the benefits of home-grown vegetables.
A lot of good eating can be grown in small spaces. Raised beds can be purchased or hand-made. They can be wood or steel, narrow or wide, high or low. A walkway of river rock, decomposed granite or pavers around the planter beds makes gardening easier and keeps the garden tidier.
Raised beds are good for root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. Lettuces, cabbages, kale and Swiss chard also grow well in planter boxes. In a wide raised bed, basil can be planted between rows of tomatoes, peppers or eggplants. Vining plants, such as cucumbers and squash, produce well.
A large pot with a wire cage or trellis will provide a bounty of tomatoes or peppers. Smaller pots are good for herbs. A steel espalier can act as a fence and also a runner for beans. Arched trellises make a beautiful entry to the garden as well as providing a framework for plants.
The foundation of a healthy, bountiful garden is the soil. Lamb said at Front Yard they see a “huge trend in the demand for organic fertilizers, soils and remedies. People like knowing what is going into their food source.”
Many vegetables grow at different times of the season. As one variety goes out of season, gardeners can have another one growing. Notoli suggests amending the soil after every vegetable-growing season to replenish the nutrients in the soil.
Edible flowers such as lavender, calendula, nasturtiums, violas or carnations, make the garden even more colorful and add flavors to meals.
For a nontraditional garden, ornamental plants can be used in landscaping. Different colored cabbages and cauliflower can be used along a walkway or in a circular area mixed with ground cover and flowers.
Whether it is for better health, an enjoyable hobby or a way to de-stress, home gardening has come back. It’s something anyone can enjoy at any age — from preparing the soil, to planting, watering, tending, to harvesting and, best of all, eating.
Want to know more?
Check out Front Yard Nursery located at 5801 Mother Lode Drive in Placerville, call 530-626-3494 or visit frontyardnursery.com. Visit Green Acres at 205 Serpa Way in Folsom, call 916-358-9099 or visit idiggreenacres.com.