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Fresh produce livens existing home gardens
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Gardeners can literally reap the fruits of their labor by planting fruits or vegetables in a small space in their landscapes.
Many gardeners tend to their landscapes as a hobby, which requires hours of manual labor and a big financial investment. But this does not have to be the case. Many existing home landscapes are well suited for growing fruits and vegetables.
Bob Brzuszek, associate professor of landscape architecture at Mississippi State University, said people do not need to build a farm to get fresh food from their yards.
“Your home vegetable garden doesn’t have to be in raised beds or in straight, raised rows. Traditionally these practices have been instituted to accommodate machines, which are not really necessary for a small home garden,” Brzuszek said. “Gardeners can simply tuck seasonal vegetables in between existing ornamental plants in the landscape.”
While they may not be as attractive as zinnias or daisies, vegetables can be just as appealing if people look beyond beauty to see true value.
Inexpensive seeds or starter plants for fruits and vegetables can be bought at local establishments across the state. Almost all commonly grown fruits and vegetables are easy to preserve, which provides cost saving and nutritious alternatives throughout the year.
“Research shows that storing fresh produce either through canning or freezing preserves almost all of the nutritional value of the produce. Freezing is the easier of the two options, but it does require more space,” said Brent Fountain, human nutrition specialist with MSU Extension. “Canning requires less space but needs specialized equipment. However, the cost of that equipment has come down in recent years.”
Sylvia Byrd, associate professor in the MSU Department of Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion, suggested gardens offer other benefits.
“The big advantage is that gardening provides physical activity, which is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “In addition, research demonstrates that children who participate in gardening and food preparation are more likely to consume fruits and vegetables as a regular part of their diet.”
Community gardens are a good alternative for those who do not have space in their residential gardens for food production.
“Community gardens are becoming common across the country,” said Chris Campany, assistant professor of landscape architecture at MSU. “The pooled resources of a community garden provide extra benefits and can expand the potential for space- and sunlight-deprived gardeners.”
There are alternatives for those who lack an interest in gardening but still want access to freshly grown produce.
“Much of the food purchased in local grocery stores or large retail chains is not as fresh as locally grown produce because it may travel 2,000 miles before it settles on the retail shelves,” Byrd said. “Even if you don’t grow your own food, you can buy from others who do grow locally, supporting local farm businesses.”
For more information about planting and maintaining fruit and vegetables, view the “Garden Tabloid” published by the MSU Extension Service at http://extension.msstate.edu/vegetable-gardening-mississippi.