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Backyard Gardens Can Yield Savings, More Nutritious Produce

The first installment from Evanston Patch's newest blogger, the CEO of Smart Gardener Inc., shares home gardening tips.

Like a ripple caused by throwing a stone into a pond, a garden can have far reaching benefits beyond just getting tastier vegetables.

For instance, did you know that tomatoes grown organically in your yard can have up to 55 percent more calcium* than the same tomato grown commercially? Or consider the distance a tomato grown in California must travel to reach your dinner table and it is an easy to see the environmental savings in fossil fuels, air quality, and the cost of travel when you only have to step out your backdoor instead.

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Another benefit is the learning opportunity for the kids as they participate firsthand in how their food is grown and prepared. You need only see kids eagerly gobbling up fresh sugar snap peas in the yard that are somehow far less appealing on the dinner plate!

But, maybe the easiest answer is the dramatic cost saving that come with growing your own food. A packet of carrot seeds for $1.99 can yield up to 3 to 4 pounds of nutrient rich deliciousness! An average sized family can realize over $2,000 in food value from a small backyard garden.**

Getting Started

Some helpful local garden tips remind us that now is the time to dig out your garden tools and plan a family garden. The library has lots of “getting started” books and the National Gardeners Association (www.gardener.org) has hundreds of helpful videos for planning your bed, amending the soil, choosing the right plants and how to care for them throughout the season.

In our local garden, we sow spinach, radish, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and more in early April and harvest frost tolerate greens (like kale and collards), and brussel sprouts well into October and November.  Our small plastic greenhouse extends the season all the way to Christmas!

In our Northern Illinois area, our hard clay soils can make gardening a challenge. Raised beds with a good mix of compost, rich top soil and sand can make a plant friendly mix for seeds and plant starts practically jump out of the ground!  Your local garden centers tend to offer plant varieties that perform well in our climate conditions and can be a great source of information and education.

A healthy garden will be naturally resistant to pests and diseases but if these conditions do appear, many natural solutions can come to your aid. SAFER brand organic plant care products have worked well for us in a variety of situations.

Avoid Feeling Daunted

Many people think they cannot successfully grow a garden due to shade or orientation of their yard space. This is a common misconception that can be overcome by proper plant section. For example, many lettuces, herbs, and cool loving plants can do quite well even in heavy shade, if good soil nutrients are available. Critters such as rabbits and deer can also be a factor easily solved by minimal fencing, netting or simple barriers and enclosures.

For some, the idea of a home garden is delightful but daunting. There is help out there for you as well! Many services are available that can help you to the extent necessary. Some services provide planning and education while others offer to build and fill raised garden beds for you.

Or let Smart Gardener Backyard provide end to end services from planning, planting, maintenance, pest control, through to harvest in a weekly service much like lawn care. Smart Gardener Backyard and Smart Gardener.com are fast becoming the new go to tools families are relying on to feed their families with the highest quality food possible.

Busy families can now get the help they need and still provide the education experience and excellent food quality they seek regardless of limited skills or time starved schedules.

This summer why not make a difference for your family’s health, the quality of our environment, and reap the benefit of reducing your food budget by planting a fresh vegetable garden.

Your kids will eat more fresh raw food, you can spend less time at the grocery store, and your neighbors are likely to become a lot more neighborly when fresh tomatoes are ripening on the vine!

*Donald Davis, University of Texas at Austin

**Roger Doiron-Founder of Kitchen Garden International

Carl Alguire is the CEO of Smart Gardener Inc. (www.Smartgardener.com) and Smart Gardener Backyard. He holds a degree in Landscape Horticulture from Ohio State University. He and his wife Sandi are avid gardeners and produce much of their own food in a 60 x 40 garden in Lake Barrington, Ill. They share this garden with one extremely wily bunny rabbit that is much smarter than they are.

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Gary Oppenheimer May 04, 2012 at 04:33 AM
If you are growing more food than you need,visit www.AmpleHarvest.org - a non-profit that helps diminish hunger (and help the environment too!) by enabling gardeners to share their garden produce/herbs with neighborhood food pantries. The site is free both for the food pantries and the gardeners using it. Created by a CNN Hero and backed by Google.com and the USDA, more than 5,000 food pantries nationwide are already on it and more are signing up daily. It includes preferred delivery times, driving instructions to the pantry as well as (in many cases) information about store bought items also needed by the pantry (for after the growing season). Free AmpleHarvest iPhone & Android apps are also available. See www.AmpleHarvest.org/waystohelp to see how you can help (without spending a dime) in your own community.
Emily Stone May 05, 2012 at 01:02 AM
A great tip. Thanks, Gary!

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