by David Salman

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There has been a tremendous interest in growing you own vegetables recently, and this year it's really taking off. And this is a really good trend. Why should we depend on corporate farming to grow most of our vegetables? Why should we truck all our vegetable across the country and back from huge vegetable growing states like CA, FL and AZ? Isn't this model of centralized farming the best way to do it? Absolutely not!

Home vegetable gardening and local truck farming is the best model for feeding ourselves healthy, fresh, organic, nutritious vegetables. But my focus here is to address the intense interest in home vegetable gardening that is attracting both novice and experienced gardeners to grow their own. I'd like to review some basics about vegetable gardening that hopefully will encourage readers to think and research the topics discussed as you begin your preparations for this year's garden.

I think I'm stating a fact that most people, given a choice and the knowledge of how to do it, would opt to garden organically. Organic produce is tastier, richer in nutrients, safer for us and our children and pets and is good for the environment. The key to successful organic gardening is that we understand how nature interacts with the vegetable garden, how we should select the vegetable we grow and what techniques we should use to get it done.

Prepare and maintain your soil fertility organically and naturally. Ample compost, organic fertilizers, and soil enriching mulches are all key ingredients to creating and maintaining a healthy, living soil. Living soil is full of beneficial micro-organisms, insects, arachnids and earthworms that create an ideal environment for plant roots to grow. Happy, healthy roots equal happy productive vegetable plants.

Choose non-hybridized or heirloom seeds when ever possible. Choose hybrid seed if you must, but stay away from GMO seed. The secret to long term success growing your own vegetables is harvesting and saving your own seeds. Hybrid seed won't come true to type and must be purchased every year from the seed companies that produce this hybrid seed. Saving your own seed allows you to select and improve your vegetable crops. By choosing to save seeds from your best and most productive plants (grown from open pollinated seed or heirloom seed), your future crops will quickly become more adapted to your local soil, weather and climate with each new generation. This is how gardeners in Siberia managed to produce tomatoes in one of the planets most rigorous climates!

Nothing in nature stands alone. Everything is interconnected. That's why a vegetable garden needs to be considered a piece in the larger horticultural picture. To help with the control of injurious insects, we need to provide habitat for beneficial insects that feed on and control the injurious ones. If we don't enlist the help of these incredibly hungry and efficient insects, it's the gardener that has to pick up the slack and undertake the responsibility of spraying to keep insect pests from damaging or destroying our vegetables. We also increase the risks of harming pollinators; even organic sprays can be lethal.

We need to provide food, habitat and nesting habitat for pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. No pollinators, no veggies! By growing both food plants and ornamental and herbal plants together in an integrated landscape we create a healthy ecosystem that supports all its components (plants and animals). A garden full of flowers blooming from early spring though the summer will build pollinator populations so that the native and European honeybees will be around when your vegetables need to be pollinated later in the summer.

This is one of the basic ideas behind the landscaping/gardening system known as permaculture. Look it up; it's a fascinating way to create beautiful, functional and productive landscapes.

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