PHOTO: Kevin Fogle
The vernal equinox has happened and spring is officially in full swing. My yard in South Carolina is a living rainbow of flowering ornamentals, and I’m itching to start planting my front-yard plot.
The pleasure of growing your own vegetables cannot be overstated. Every garden I plant brings me such absolute joy—turning the earth, planting the seeds and starts, caring for the young seedlings and watching them grow to maturity. Getting our hands dirty seems so natural as part of the human experience. Gardening offers a brief respite from the modern technological world that is seemingly far removed from the silt, sand and clays that make up our productive soils. Watching my children play outdoors, I see the heart of my love of gardening in their full-bodied exploration of the natural world while collecting acorns, observing the first leaves emerging on the dogwood trees, and using their hands as imaginary bulldozers to move the freshly tilled ground.
Gardening as a hobby should not be a chore. One way to keep your garden focused and interesting every year is by planting only a set number of crops. Be selective and decisive! Think about the various greens, beans, tomatoes and melons available, and pick a few amazing crops you know you love and that tend to do well in your particular region. Try to pick plants that produce crops you often use in the kitchen. There is nothing worse than harvesting a massive haul of rutabagas or huge bucket of lima beans only to find that you rarely cook with these vegetables and your time and space in the garden was largely wasted. Also consider planting one or two new cultivars of vegetables you regularly use and enjoy. New heirlooms and hybrids on the market often have fun new colors and flavors that can add some zing and excitement to your harvest.
One of the stalwart crops that I plant every year is cherry tomatoes. The super flavorful nature of these colorful fruits makes them perfect for snacking raw off the vine, adding to fresh salads or livening up a quick stir-fry. When selecting cherry tomatoes to grow, I pick one new cultivar to try each year and grow one or two of my established favorites, like the Sun Gold, Sugar Snack or Black Cherries.
By honing in on the crops you love, you’ll be able to spread that joy for “playing in the dirt” to your family, hopefully starting a tradition that is passed down through generations.