Fresh green beans taste very little like those from a can, with a flavor and texture that might make one wonder if they are truly the same crop. Spinach, asparagus, peas and peaches all contain a little more flavor and a little more oomph fresh from the garden.
You can grow some of your own vegetables. Forget about how small or large your yard is or how much free time you have for just a minute. Instead, think about all the wonderful flavors and the sense of satisfaction from making or growing something yourself. If you have yet to taste a homegrown tomato or cantaloupe, you certainly have a wonderful surprise waiting.
Apartment dwellers and those with small yards can start on the patio. My first garden after living on my own consisted of four 12-inch-diameter plastic flowerpots filled with tomatoes and hot peppers. I grew a variety of tomato called Patio, which is known for its compact plant size and a big messy cherry tomato plant that yielded bite-sized bits of goodness all season long.
Last spring I grew lettuce, spinach, radishes, onions, carrots and herbs in containers and am planning to expand the lineup this year. Extension Master Gardeners are growing many of the same things in 4-foot-by-12-foot raised beds in the Fairgrounds Demonstration Gardens.
You can also take advantage of the beauty of vegetable plants by incorporating them into flower and shrub beds around your house. Fruits and vegetables add blooms and splotches of color among the ornamental plants. My favorite addition to the landscape is pole-type green beans growing up a trellis.
If you have space for a bigger garden, take advantage of it to grow some fruits and vegetables of your own.
There are a few important things to keep in mind for your garden of any size:
• Plant in a sunny place. Almost all fruits and vegetables require several hours of direct sunlight each day for good production. Some leafy greens, peas, bush green beans and onions are okay with a little shade, but read the seed package or plant tag for details when purchasing.
• Start small! If things go well, you can expand next year.
• Learn the difference between cool-season crops and warm-season crops. Cool-season crops, such as lettuce, spinach and radishes, can be planted this month or next while temperatures are mild. Wait until very late April or May to plant warm-season crops like beans, tomatoes, peppers and squash.
• Grow things you like to eat. Tomatoes come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and the different varieties come with different flavors and acidity levels.
• Have confidence in your abilities. Even I have poor luck with bell peppers and eggplant, but I still try every year.
Learn to garden
If you don’t see your favorite garden center listed here, don’t be afraid to inquire if they are doing a class or if they can help you get started. You, and they, will be glad you asked.
• Sunrise Garden Center, March 14, call 843-2004 for more information.
• The Henrys’ Plant Farm, April 5, call (785) 887-6344 for more information.
• Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners, April 23, focusing on containers, pre-register through Lawrence Parks and Recreation.
— Jennifer Smith is the Douglas County Extension Agent–Horticulture for K-State Research and Extension. She can be reached at 843-7058.