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Sun, Dec. 15

Get the most from your garden

If you are reading this, you are a gardener who is seeking new ideas for a better return for your effort. Here are some tips that I think will help you.

Grow high-value crops

Doesn't it make sense to grow vegetables that would be costly to buy? The secret here is to grow crops that are well-suited to our area. It isn't cost-effective to attempt to grow vegetables that can't take our heat, wind or intense sun. Value can also include flavor, which may mean using space for your favorite tomato varieties and fresh herbs. Having fresh-picked produce for your table is a great reward.

Plant perennials

Edible plants that come back year after year save planting time, and maintenance is usually limited to annual weeding, fertilizing and mulching. Asparagus comes to mind. It is quite expensive in the grocery store but easy to grow. You save time and money.

Grow high-yield crops

Have you spent a large amount of time nurturing a tomato plant only to harvest three tomatoes? Don't fall into this habit! Consider peppers, beans, lettuce, etc., and have a true harvest.

Don't grow too much of one thing

Planting more than you can eat and can or freeze is wasteful. It is a waste of time, space, and precious resources. Unless you plan on selling your crop, grow only as much as you can use.

Try something new every year

Gardening is part science, part magic. Try growing something new to you, and keep a journal to help you review your experience. You know which crops are your tried-and-true ones. Try something that may delight and amaze you!

Include essential kitchen herbs

Check how much basil, dill, mint and parsley cost in the grocery store. These are easy to grow, costly to buy and add terrific flavor to your dishes.

Try vertical gardening

It is easy on the back, and makes the most of limited space. Trellised tomatoes, pole beans and cucumbers are some of the plants that you can grow in a small space.

Pick things at their peak

Try to harvest in the morning. This is when plants are plumped with nutrients and moisture. Preserve the flavor and nutrition of leafy greens - root crops, for example - by refrigerating them. Don't refrigerate onions, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.

Trade for what you don't have

If you have an abundance, and it is way too much for you and your family, trade with someone. Tomatoes for cucumbers, squash for potatoes - you get the idea. Once you have a buddy who welcomes your surplus, it is a win-win situation.

Water efficiently

Water is precious, but especially here in the desert. No gardener should waste water. Think mulches and soaker hoses. Capture rain water. Be aware of how long and how much water is used.

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