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To garden or not to garden, that is the question

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By Maryellen Garrison

It’s SPRING and warm weather makes many of us start planning for flower and vegetable gardens and with today’s tight economy, everyone is looking for ways to cut expenses. Growing a garden has the potential to reduce the amount of money spent on groceries. But this “potential” depends on the costs involved in growing the crops, types and amounts of vegetables grown, yields that are derived from the garden, and other factors.

It’s possible to spend a small fortune on a garden. The humorous book, “The $64 Tomato” by William Alexander, discusses one man’s quest for the perfect garden and how it ended up costing him $64 per tomato. This astonishing figure is the result of all of the input costs (tools and equipment, fertilizers, pesticides, water, etc.) associated with gardening. These costs can add up quickly, even for a small vegetable garden. The trick to saving money with a vegetable garden is limiting the costs while maximizing yield.

While saving money may be one of the benefits to growing a vegetable garden – let’s not forget that there are others as well. Gardens are a potential means to increase our confidence in food safety and security.

We know where the food is coming from and all the history of plants grown in our own gardens. We know what chemicals were used, we know what pests were problems and we essentially eliminated the whole resource-gobbling transportation chain to get the food to your plate. And all that gardening is good for you. It is a great form of physical exercise, and we all know that fresh produce is good for you too!

So, growing your own vegetables can be rewarding, regardless of the potential savings. But with a few tips, it can save you some money on a grocery bill or two. First – you have to know a couple of basics of growing vegetables to receive a copy of our UK Garden Publication stop by the Extension Office or go on-line at http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf

Top 10 Reasons to Garden
1. Health — Growing your own makes it easier to get the fruits and vegetables needed for good health. Kids involved in growing or preparing fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them.
2. Exercise — Gardening provides both cardio and aerobic exercise. Studies show that an hour of moderate gardening can burn up to 300 calories for women, almost 400 calories for men. Mowing the grass equals a vigorous walk, bending and stretching while planting compares to an exercise class, and hauling plants and soil is like weightlifting.
3. Taste – Nothing matches the taste of green beans, tomatoes, basil, zucchini, or peppers picked fresh from the garden.
4. Satisfaction — A weed less, mulched garden gives a sense of accomplishment.
5. Learning — The more you  learn about plants and gardening, the more you want to know. Problems with insects or spots on leaves make you want to find the cause and learn how to keep plants healthy.
6. Family time — Time spent planting, weeding, and harvesting with family is filled with talk and laughter.
7. Friendship — Gardening expands your social circle. Whether it’s someone who lives down the street or halfway around the world on the Internet, gardeners love to talk about plants. Surplus tomatoes, a bouquet, or an extra plant are gifts to share with friends and neighbors.
8. Creativity — Gardening provides an outlet for the artist in all of us, whether it’s planting a bed of perennials or arranging flowers in a vase.
9. Beauty and love of nature — We love the colors, shapes, textures and smells of flowers.  Having flowers in your home gives many  joy.
10. Links to the farm — Gardening takes time, effort and knowledge.  After lots of work, plants can be destroyed by hail, disease, or animals. It makes us have a great deal of respect for those who farm for a living.
And last of all you can have the best of both worlds, you can get all of the locally grown produce you need by stopping by the Henry County Farmers’ Market located at the Courthouse on Saturday mornings starting April 23 and not have to weed a single row!

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.