Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

A little time, devotion can have you growing vegetables


Traditionally, spring is a time for planting the vegetable garden. A recent incident made me remember that not all young people these days have a home garden and learn about things that are natural and real.

Two 8- or 9-year-old boys are at the seed rack where one is helping Mom pick out some seeds for the garden. The friend along for the excursion curiously asks how big the tree has to grow before you start getting carrots.

An argument follows with the young man from the gardening family explaining to his friend that carrots grow in the ground; that when they get big enough you pull them up and eat them. His friend, disbelieving, throws in a few “no ways” and similar remarks.

It was when the gardening youth attempted to settle the discussion by telling his friend that you pull the plant up and it is the carrot – that it is “made of carrot” – that I realized too many kids today have no clue how plants grow and where food comes from.

There are too few teachers in middle school and beyond who have the support in their schools to teach the basic skills of growing food. Now more than ever it is becoming so important for families to have that at home.

I hear the questions every day. Too many people think they are going to have to toil and labor to have any kind of garden. And if you want to have a huge garden to supply all the vegetables your family will eat, perhaps it will be a giant undertaking.

I like to encourage folks to start within the means of their time. How much time do they have to devote to a garden? Starting with the most modest assessment of two hours a week, I do believe there is hope

Probably the easiest way to dive into a small garden – one to feed two to four people and that takes the least amount of labor – is with a raised bed garden. You can start small and add more beds as success and time and desire come together, and the physically hardest part – digging the ground – can be avoided. Most vegetables have relatively shallow root systems, and if the soil is nutritious, it doesn’t have to be deep to do a good job.

One of the important things for a beginner is to learn the lingo. There is a huge difference between compost and fertilizer; a garden planted in fertilizer is a dead garden – so ask questions. Real gardeners love to share their knowledge – all you have to do is ask.

Over the next few weeks, I will do my best in this short column to give out the basic information. Anyone with more questions is encouraged and invited to ask. I am available seven days a week by e-mail.

So get ready for a crash course in vegetable gardening! You can have your garden going and be planting your first plants in two short weekends if you have a couple of hours to devote once a week.

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at familyplus@tucsoncitizen.com.


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