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New resource provides assistance to local vegetable gardeners

July 9, 2011

By GWEN SISSON
sdnlife@bellsouth.net

Vegetable gardening is not just a summertime project.
While most gardeners know early spring and fall crops can be had, it is usually the more experienced gardener who will attempt a full three season garden in Mississippi.
Two new resources created by a landscape architect from Mississippi State University can help vegetable gardeners learn more about maximizing the three growing seasons in Mississippi.
Landscape architect and vegetable gardener Pete Melby has developed a food gardening resource that shows how five vegetable and fruit servings a day for a family of four can be grown in their own home landscape.
The Home Food Production gardening resource features a poster and online food-servings calculator. The poster shows what will generally grow in the southeast U. S. and what to plant in the region’s spring, summer, and fall growing seasons. It also tells how far apart to space different plants and information about spacing between rows. Illustrations on how to incorporate the vegetable and fruit garden into the home landscape without interrupting traditional family outdoor use areas are also included.
“Gardening with raised beds, the cornerstone of vegetable production, is promoted through illustrations and a discussion of why they are so amazingly productive and easy-to-weed,” Melby said. “How to manage soil so it is fertile and easy to work in is illustrated and explained. Correct watering of the vegetable garden is clarified and includes when and how much to water. Photos and directions about alternative ways to control insects are offered. With raised bed gardening, the use of the garden tiller can be replaced with a garden hoe.”
According to Melby, the food-servings calculator determines the amount of food servings the garden should produce before it is planted.
“All you have to do is determine what to plant and the number of feet to be devoted to each vegetable,” Melby said. “Enter this information into the garden calculator and the food servings that can be produced are computed.”
The spring, summer and fall planting tables tells gardeners which vegetables produce the most servings. For example 10 feet of tomato plants will provide 66 food servings and 10 feet of cherry tomatoes will produce 94 servings. According to food nutritionists a serving is about as big as a baseball or 1/2 cup in size.
“The calculator provides the gardener the means of planting the right amount of crops to meet the family’s needs,” Melby said.
Russell Hamilton of the Starkville Co-Op recently said there has been a huge increase in the number of people creating raised vegetable gardens to grow their own produce.  
“The benefits are numerous,” Hamilton said. “Everyone knows how great fresh vegetables from garden taste over vegetables found in a grocery store.  Each year I run into more people who are growing vegetables for the first time.”  
In a recent visit to Paul and Wanda Cheek’s garden as part of the Art in the Garden tour, the couple have incorporated several raised bed gardening techniques into their home landscape. One particular bed featured tomatoes and roses in the same area of the landscape. The Cheeks said combining vegetables into the landscape is fun and interesting to see what works well together.
The Home Food Production Garden resource is offered in printed poster form and as an online document at http://www.energyusereduction.com. The resource also has a facebook site at http://www.facebook/homefoodgarden.com. A weekly gardening tip is posted every Monday throughout the year. The Book Mart in downtown Starkville also carries the Home Food Production Garden Poster.

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