Plant Up a Garden with a New Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile

If the thought of growing a lovely vegetable garden is appealing but you're overwhelmed and intimidated by the thought of starting your own garden, set your fears aside and get on the gardening bandwagon.

Recent studies show an influx of new gardeners. The Garden Writers Association Foundation researched trends in edibles gardening and found over 41 million households in the United States grew a vegetable garden in 2009. A trend has to be hot when the White House gets in on the action.

Mrs. Obama's vegetable garden is getting a lot of attention in 2010. It has starred in a couple of popular television shows (Iron Chef and Biggest Loser), supplied produce for the White House kitchen and yielded surplus vegetables for donation to a local food shelter.

Growing your own produce makes a lot of sense. Much of the produce in local supermarkets grows hundreds -- sometimes thousands -- of miles away before coming to your counter. Travel takes a toll on freshness. The veggies and fruits may look fine, but they won't be as flavorful as something you grow in your own yard.

Growing a garden is easier than you might think.

First, select a location. If you want to grow vegetables, your garden needs to be in a sunny spot. Trees or buildings cast shadows so take them into account when choosing the garden plot.

Next, decide on your garden's size and shape. If this is your first foray into gardening, a pre-packaged gardening kit would be easy and helpful.

Barb Westbrook, a Texas gardener, planted a new vegetable garden using a Raised Garden Kit from Easy Gardener. "It was so easy to put together," said Westbrook. "It took less than 30 minutes. We put down a layer of WeedBlock(R), added three bags of soil and put in the plants." The kits come with pre-formed borders -- 48" round or 42.5" square -- made from eco-friendly recycled wood flour. All gardeners have to do is add soil, plants and fertilizer. (Visit www.easygardener.com for more information.)

Now comes the best part: choose the things you want to grow. If it is your first garden, don't be overly ambitious. Stick with two or three reliable growers. You can't go wrong with tomatoes or herbs. If you like squash, plant zucchini and you will have bounty galore for sharing with family and friends. Your local county extension agent and Master Gardener organization offer advice and assistance. Don't hesitate to turn to them if you need help.

Follow the planting instructions that come with the plants you purchase, and be sure to follow spacing recommendations.

It won't take long for planting time to turn into harvest time. One bite into your first homegrown produce, you'll be smiling to beat the band and planning what to grow next year.

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