Create a Successful Vegetable Garden

Edible gardening will continue to be a popular trend this year, according to a recent survey by the Garden Writers Association. More than 41 million U.S. households grew a vegetable garden last year and 37 percent plan to do more edible gardening in 2010. (Only 1 percent planned to plant less this year.)

A combination of factors is driving the trend: The desire to consume locally grown foods and save money as well as Gen X and Y consumers embracing the idea of self-sufficiency. Add the year-old White House vegetable garden to the mix and seed companies tapping into reserves to keep up with demand and you've got a gardening boom.

"In this economy, everyone is looking for a way to make their money go farther," says Bayer Advance Garden Expert Lance Walheim, author of "Vegetable Gardening." "Growing your own healthy vegetables in your garden is a great way to reduce your grocery bill while creating a nutritious supply of food from your own backyard."

Here are a few tips on making the most of your backyard vegetable garden:

• Choose your veggies: Do your homework on seed, plant and variety options, and involve your family in the selection.

• Pick a sunny spot for your garden: Most vegetables need six to eight hours of direct sun each day. The area you choose should drain well, but will still benefit from the addition of lots of organic matter, so you have the best growing conditions.

• Mark your rows: Use string to mark off the individual rows of vegetables you'll plant and make plans for irrigation. Remember that rows running east to west will get the best sun exposure.

• Add mulch and fertilize: Mulch your rows to keep weeds from popping up and fertilize regularly.

• Protect against pests and diseases: Insecticidal soap protects your vegetable garden against pests such as aphids, thrips, spider mites and white- flies, as well as diseases such as blight and powdery mildew, among others. Be sure to read and follow all label directions.

Growing your own vegetables is a great way to reduce your grocery bill.

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