Sunday, August 3, 2008

Nutrition: Home Vegetable Gardens on the Rise

This fantastic article by Christina Gillham in Newsweek supports the ideas behind community gardens:

Yvette Roman and Fred Davis’s 1,300-square-foot front yard stands out from the grass lawns that are typical of their suburban Los Angeles neighborhood. Two large raised vegetable beds that contain colored rows of bell peppers, basil, parsley, purple cauliflower, two kinds of broccoli, onions, leeks, beets, four kinds of potatoes and three kinds of tomato plants dominate the yard. Climbing up a trellis are concord grapes, melons and pole beans. Near the driveway, there is another bed that holds tomatoes, tomatillos and Swiss chard, and Meyer lemon, tangerine and lime trees.

Roman, 43, and Davis, 44, started the vegetable garden just over a year ago (the backyard is reserved for their dogs and barbecuing) as a way to reduce their carbon footprint by eating locally and to ensure that their food supply was as healthy (read: pesticide-free) and as safe as possible. “Growing organically is super important to us,” says Roman. To read more about the Roman/Davis garden, log onto their blog.

Long a hobby among retirees, vegetable gardening is gaining popularity with a younger set of green thumbs. Many home growers are concerned about recent salmonella and E. coli outbreaks in store-bought produce and the widespread use of pesticides. “As we’ve gone toward a global food chain and away from local farming, a lot of people have become concerned about food standards,” says Robert LaGasse, executive director of the Garden Writers Association (

If the thought of picking healthy, fresh produce right outside your door sounds appealing but somewhat daunting, Charlie Nardozzi, a senior horticulturist at the National Gardening Association (, suggests starting small, with some raised beds in an area that gets at least six hours of sunlight a day. A 5- by 10-foot bed can fit a row of beans, a squash plant, a cucumber plant and some rows of carrots and lettuce. Save some space for a few tomato plants for next year—it’s too late to grow them for this season. If you have limited sunlight, stick to lettuces and root crops.

For soil, use organic compost or a combination of compost and topsoil. Buy organic seeds from or (for more on growing organically, log onto First-timers might also consider transplants or seedlings, says Nardozzi, which you can get from a garden center. City dwellers can grow vegetables in containers on a balcony or a sunny windowsill—tomatoes, peppers, carrots and lettuces are plants that do well in containers.

Check with your local Master Gardeners association (find one at to make sure the vegetables and fruit you want to grow are right for your region.

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