Gardening: America’S New Favorite Pastime

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More than 41 million Americans planted vegetable gardens in 2009 — a number expected to increase as food costs climb, according to a recent Gardening Trends Research Report. When you factor in flowers, herbs and fruits, it’s difficult to find a home where people are not working the soil on a warm sunny day.

Aside from the obvious benefits of fresh flowers and produce, gardening provides low-impact, calorie-burning exercise. One hour of gardening burns about 375 calories. While love of gardening has not changed, methods continue to evolve — and one of the top trends is raised-bed gardening.

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It might be a little early to be planting peppers and tomatoes in the Rim Country, but now is the time to start getting your garden plot in shape or making a decision where to try raised bed gardening.

Tending a raised bed requires less bending and stooping, and is ideal for yards with poor soil. Rather than working to improve heavy clay soil or adding body to sandy soil, you’re starting with a clean slate. Raised beds are particularly useful for community gardens and urban gardens in areas with compacted or root-bound soil.

“Ninety percent of success is the prep work done ahead of planting,’’ says Mark Dwyer, director of horticulture at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, Wis. This includes finding a location that gets six to eight hours of direct sun each day.

Once the site is chosen, determine the size of your garden. A first-timer should start small — don’t overwhelm yourself with a massive plot. Select a location that offers room to grow, should you choose to expand your garden in subsequent years.

No matter what size raised bed you choose, the frame needs to be structurally sound and attractive. Helping to fill this niche is the durable, decorative M Brace raised garden bed bracket from Outdoor Essentials.

There are similar raised bed kits available at both Plant Fair Nursery in Star Valley and The Home Depot in Payson.

Once the frame is in place, fill the raised box with quality soil. Garden centers offer bulk and bagged soil mixes. Or create your own blend, using equal parts peat moss, coarse-grade vermiculite and blended compost.

The key to a bountiful harvest — be it fruits, vegetables or flowers — is successful pollination. Brightly colored flowers attract bees and hummingbirds, as will fresh water. Add a luminous green birdbath in serpentine jade to attract birds all summer and to provide an architectural focal point inside your garden.

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The M Brace, from Outdoor Essentials, make constructing a raised garden bed simple. No tools needed — just add wood and soil and you’re ready to plant your favorite vegetables or flowers. There are similar raised bed kits available at both Plant Fair Nursery in Star Valley and The Home Depot in Payson.

“Think outside the box,” says Dwyer. Add a few herbs — or anything you want — to make the garden uniquely yours. And don’t discount edible landscape ornamentals: “Many fresh herbs and vegetables can contribute their own charm to an informal border or container,’’ he adds.

Whether for a relaxing hobby or for the desire to grow nutritious fruits and vegetables for you and your neighbors, now is the perfect time to start a garden of your own.

Plant Fair Nursery is hosting a free presentation on square foot gardening with certified trainer Rod Ross at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, April 30. You will learn the basics of square foot gardening, how to set up for square foot garden, how to produce healthy fruits and vegetables, and gardening without digging or weeding.

From ARA Content

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