Fresher is better: Tips for growing your own vegetable garden

Stock image | Photo by Julia_Sudnitskaya/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

FEATURE — Have you tasted a tomato fresh off the vine? What about a cucumber picked straight from the garden or a peach plucked from a tree? Little compares to the taste of homegrown produce. 

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AlexRaths/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Having access to a garden lets you eat local and know where your food is coming from, and it helps you save money. tells us that children who have access to a garden eat significantly more veggies than those without access to a garden. Gardening can be intimidating if you have never done it before, but with a few easy steps you can be on your way to growing your own food.

Calculate your space. Before buying plants or seeds, calculate how much space you have (ground or container) that gets adequate sun. Most vegetable plants require at least six hours of light each day.

Know what grows. When buying your plants, ask what varieties will do best in the conditions you have to work with. For example, several compact tomato plants do particularly well in containers. If you have neighbors who garden, ask them what has grown well in their yard.

Check your soil quality. If you aren’t sure about the quality of soil in your backyard, use a testing kit to see if you need to reinforce it with any nutrients.

Start small. Remember, you don’t have to start with an extravagant space with vegetables to fill a farmers market. Your garden can be as simple as a few window boxes of herbs or a potted tomato plant.

If you don’t have room for a traditional garden – or your landlord doesn’t allow one – it is still possible to grow fresh fruits and veggies. Container gardening is great when you are limited on space. Barrels, buckets, hanging planters and clay pots are all great options. Read more about container gardening by clicking here.

You can also check with your local USU Extension office for a community garden in your area. You get access to a garden plot at a very low cost. Water and garden tools are usually provided. You may even have access to gardening experts in your community who will answer questions and give you tips.

Stock image | Photo courtesy of USU Extension Create Better Health blog, St. George News

If you aren’t ready to take on a garden right now, visit your local farmers market for fresh produce. Farmers markets are scattered across the state of Utah. They are a great way to support local agriculture and get great-tasting fresh produce at a good price. Click here to find a market in your area. 

Some markets even accept EBT cards and offer a program to receive free produce. Click here to find out more, and to read about being a savvy farmers market shopper.

No matter the type of gardening you try, use your local USU Extension office as a resource. Many counties offer gardening classes and have a gardening expert in their office available to ask questions.

When you have fresh produce ready, give farmers market quesadillas a try. Find the recipe here

If you don’t have zucchini or peppers on hand, turn it into a skillet meal with potatoes and carrots instead. Enjoy!

Written by CANDI MERRITT, Certified Nutrition Education Ambassador.

This article originally appeared June 7, 2019, on the USU Extension Create Better Health blog.

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