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Gardening has been a major source of food for ages; however due to the increased population of humans and the expansion of cities into farmlands, many of the farm lands in the United States has greatly decreased. Much of the products consumers purchase at the grocery store are grown in other countries and have to be imported into the country, traveling extensive distances. Upon moving to a community with more land space I have noticed people at the local home improvement stores gathering materials for gardening at their home. Soon I became curious about the process of gardening and about the product that I could create as well as with the turn out. After purchasing a new home I recently I decided to take up vegetable gardening. I have always been interested in gardening, maybe it is the small town Indiana upbringing, however I never had the opportunity to start my own garden as I grew older. Through conversations, classes offered at the local extension office and frequent visits to gardening stores I have also noticed other individuals in my area with similar interests. Gardening in the form of fruits, vegetables and flowers can have many added benefits. There are two important options to consider when starting a vegetable garden, whether to start from seeds or from plants. Both of the options can have positive and negative aspects. Some things to consider when choosing to use seeds are that seeds require more time, more patience, are less expensive and offer a science experiment for young children to witness and take part in. Purchasing starter plants can be more expensive, require less time and patience, and can produce a faster product. I decided to start my garden using seeds because this is my first experience starting my own garden. I used many different types of seeds and quickly learned that some require more attention than others. Planting a garden from seeds or plants can produce positive results; however it is an individual preference. Another one of the first and most important steps in gardening is choosing a location of the garden. Of course individuals cannot change the location of their home to make it more suitable for a lush garden; however there a few simple adjustments to make a desirable location for produce to grow. One negative aspect that I quickly learned about starting a garden in Missouri is the lack of suitable soil. I discovered that the soil we have in our back yard is very sparse and under that thin layer of soil was a blend of clay and rocks. This combination led me to try out an above ground garden. My husband went to the local home improvement store and bought untreated wood measuring 6x12 feet. Using an electric drill my husband attached braches on the four corners of the garden box to ensure the security. After assembling the box we then lined the bottom with a black mesh lining to prevent unwanted growth of weeds and grass in the garden. Another method that also works and is less expensive is lining the bottom newspaper instead of the black mesh lining. We then filled the box with a mixture of top soil, sand, pet moss, and potting soil and used tools to ensure an even distribution of the naturally occurring materials. This added combination seemed to create a pleasant environment for plant life, as many plants grew plentiful immediately.
Of course one of the main benefits to having your own garden is being able to eat fresh produce right out of your own yard without having to travel to the store where much of the produce is shipped from hundreds of miles away. Along with the rising food costs in America, having your own garden can also cut down on the cost families are spending at the grocery store. However, the 6x12 feet garden we created is not large enough as the only means of produce for our family for an entire year. For those individuals who desire to become less reliant on grocery stores they should consider creating a larger garden. If your garden is large enough and yields enough produce, families may also choose to freeze or can the fresh produce for use later in the year. Individuals can purchase items for freezing and canning produce at many stores at many stores for a relatively low cost. Another added benefit to having your own garden the added knowledge of knowing what is in your garden. By choosing against the use pesticides on your garden individuals can have an organic garden without the worry of additives. Without of the use of pesticides gardeners must keep a constant watch on the crops to ensure worms, bugs or other creatures are not feasting on the fruits of your labor. There are many alternative measures gardeners can use to keep a lush garden rather than the use of commercial pesticides. One method to deter some insects from attacking the crops is the use of marigold flowers around the garden. The strong smell of the flowers is an immediate deterrent for many insects. I planted both yellow and orange marigolds in the garden however; the yellow marigolds have done especially well in the garden we created. Of the gardeners who have decided against the use of pesticides some may state that the taste of produce is much sweeter than store bought produce. Some families may even choose to sell their fresh produce at a local farmer's market or vegetable stand. My neighbor is one such individual who decided to have a vegetable stand outside her house. Her seven-year-old son primarily helps with the vegetable stand; yet the four-year-old son tries to help in some aspects. The children have been helpful in the implementation and daily upkeep of the garden. The boys were able to help choose desired plants they would like in the garden from various local stores, help water the garden daily and sell the fresh produce to individuals in the neighborhood. The children, especially the older son benefits from the process and contributes daily with the garden. Gardens can also promote and encourage many educational learning opportunities for children. My neighbor is fostering new and continued education during the summer through math and science concepts. The math concepts that are promoted include money, addition and subtraction. Therefore, by selling the produce for a quarter a piece the child is learning the value of money, along with adding and subtracting money. He then is able to make valuable choices about the profit he made from the garden. He is also able to learn about immediate gratification and delayed gratification, through gardening and the ability to save the money he earned for a large item or spend it quickly on a small item. Gardening also promotes science objectives such as earth systems, plants and animals, and ecology. These objectives are being promoted through learning about the life cycle of a plant, the local weather, and the food chain. By starting a garden from seeds children can witness and be active participants in the process of life science. Young children can observe, discuss the process of gardening and state their observations. Older children are able to make a hypothesis prior to planting the seeds or conducting this experiment. During the gardening process and at the end of the season children may write their observations and the conclusion to the experiment. At this time a discussion between children and adults may
occur to decide any changes for next year's garden. As I am midway through the first year of gardening I have noticed some changes I will likely implement next year. This first noticeable change I would make in my garden for next year would be the placement and the spacing of crops that can yield large produce and the crops that are especially large. Next year I will not plant as many zucchini, yellow squash or cantaloupe as these crops grow to be very large and vine across the garden and into the yard. Another change that I will make for next season is the time and method of planting seeds I will use. If I choose to start my garden from seeds again next year, I have decided that I will also start the seeds in the individual starter pods again; however next year I will start the seeds in early April. I will then transplant the plants into individual pots inside the house before planting into the garden box. The reason for this is because of the late frost that can occur in the month of May and also to allow the plants to have more room to grow. Thus far I have enjoyed my first garden and I have found many added benefits to having my own garden. The gardening process takes little time once the process has begun and can even be relaxing to some individuals. I would recommend gardening to individuals as a hobby, an educational experience for children and to simply have your own
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