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GARDEN FANATIC:Growing your greens and eating them, too

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.” -- Anthelme Brillatsavarin

“Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship.” -- Elsa Schiaparelli

Given enough time and space, I will try to grow anything and everything. Although the color from flowers is indeed rewarding, why eat frozen vegetables or market produce three days removed from real freshness?

Vegetables are easy to grow in your own garden, but before you ready your gardening implements, make a list of vegetables you really like and call your favorite nursery for their availability.

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I prefer starters to seeds (“early” tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant are a few of the vegetables I spotted this week) because they require less initial care.

Vegetables are generally classified as either cool season or warm season types. The warm season (spring and summer) vegetables are grown for their fruit, rather than the leaves, roots or stems. Cool season vegetables are generally leaf or root crops although peas, broad beans, artichokes, broccoli and cauliflower are exceptions.

Plan carefully, as it is easy to over-plant and produce a larger crop than you can consume. Some vegetables, such as corn and melons, occupy more space than their relative edible yield. Others, like tomatoes and zucchini, can overwhelm a family with just a few plants.

Vegetables require at least six hours of sunlight to prosper. Avoid shade and possible root competition by locating your vegetable plot away from trees and large shrubs. Select a spot that is protected from winds and avoid low-lying areas that can become “frost pockets” in the winter.

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Vegetables thrive in rich soil. The addition of Gro Power will ensure that your vegetables begin with the proper diet. Heavy clay soils should be made lighter by the addition of gypsite and humus-forming organic material like redwood compost or planter’s mix.

Once the plants are established, watering should be applied slowly and deeply to soak the soil to a depth of several inches. Withhold water until the plants require it again.

Drip irrigation is the most desirable irrigating method... water is applied deeply and evenly, sun scald of tender foliage and fruit is avoided, and runoff waste water is kept to a minimum. Steady watering and proper fertilization will allow a vegetable garden to flourish.

Vegetable plants cannot compete successfully with weeds, insects and diseases. The garden should be kept “clean” by removing weeds before they become well established.

Pests can be identified by visual sighting or by the damage they leave. Hand picking, spraying with water, or the application of soap and oil products are the first steps in combating insects and mites. Consult your local nursery person for proper selection and use of stronger pesticides... only if all else has failed.

The home vegetable garden has not one harvest time but many. Crops are harvested throughout the growing season as they reach edible maturity and are either consumed at once or can be canned and preserved (does anyone know how to do that anymore?).

Some crops, such as asparagus, peas and sweet corn must be harvested soon after they reach edible maturity or they deteriorate in quality.

It would never occur to Catharine that anything other than eating well is essential for a meal... she eagerly makes a meal of vegetables and rice whenever she can.

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However, I am not convinced that vegetables alone contribute to a tasty meal.

Sensing my skepticism, my wife has offered to add fish broth to the stir-fried veggies tonight. See you next time.


  • STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to award winning writer, Catharine Cooper, and has two cats and five dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-2438, or e-mail to plantman2@mac.com.

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