backyard gardening

Gardening can not only provide healthy vegetables for our table, but also physical activity and stress relief.

Gardening, in one form or another, is a popular hobby in the United States. Taking part in gardening activities helps promote healthy habits, including spending time outdoors, being physically active and consuming homegrown fruits and vegetables.

Although most would agree that gardening is a worthwhile endeavor, traditional gardening with long neat rows spaced 3 or 4 feet apart to allow cultivation by a tractor or tiller may not be feasible for everyone. Individuals who live within the city limits or in urban areas, especially those living in townhomes, condominiums, and apartments may nothave big outdoor spaces needed for this conventional style of gardening.

Gardens can be as big or as small as you need them to be. The first thing you need to do is to select the site of your garden.

•Pick a site convenient for you to maintain. This can include containers on your porch.

•Avoid areas exposed to strong winds as well as areas that are prone to puddling after a rain.

•Look for an area where plants already do well.

•Avoid clay soils and add organic matter to sandy soil.

•Plant away from trees as they will compete with your vegetables for nutrients and water.

Once you select your site you need to plan your garden.

•For beginners is it better to start small. You can always expand later.

•Select crops you use often. It does not make sense to plant cucumbers if you do not like cucumbers.

•Know details about your crops — how and when to plant and harvest, disease resistance, varieties that grow well in your area.

•Consider including plants that attract pollinators and other helpful insects.

•Create a rotation schedule to reduce pest problems and increase fertility.

After planting, your garden will require some management.

•Vegetables need about an inch of water each week. Rain can provide some of this water. Don’t allow plants to stay wet as this can cause problems with disease and fungus.

•Fertilize your crops by adding compost to the soil before you plant. Slow release fertilizers and organic matter sources and add nutrients over longer periods of time. May vegetables require more nutrients during flowering or as fruit are forming.

•Manage weeds by mulching and by removing them quickly before they can spread seeds.

•Understand which insects are beneficial and which are pests.

•Use chemical controls as a last resort. Garden chemicals need to be stored away from children.

Avoid spraying plants in bloom with insecticides because they also harm pollinators. Apply only as directed.

•Watch out for furry pests. Plant things that our furry friends don’t like to eat around the edges of the garden. Deer do not like plants that are furry and prickly, so planting squash and okra around the edge might at least slow them down. Blood meal or hot pepper sprays can keep pests away, but have to be reapplied regularly. Hanging objects like flags or old CDs may scare some of these animals off as they move in the wind. Fencing can be used, but deer require much more fencing than rabbits.

Gardening can not only provide healthy vegetables for our table, but also physical activity and stress relief. You can start with a small plot or even raised beds or containers on your porch. Make a plan, grow what you like and enjoy the fruits of your labors!

Stop by the Extension Office located at 2657 Hopkinsville Road in Cadiz behind Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance and pick up your free “Growing Your Own Garden” calendar.

Citrus Kale Salad

1 bunch of kale, washed and dried

¼ cup orange juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt

2 oranges, peeled and seeded, cut into chunks

1 small red onion, sliced

½ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Tear leaves off kale stalk and chop. Set aside in a large bowl. Combine orange juice, olive oil, sugar,

garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small jar. Shake until combined. Add yogurt and shake again until

creamy. Pour dressing over kale and toss. Add orange pieces, onion and seeds. Toss until combined.

Yield: 4 (1 ½ cup) servings

Nutrition facts per serving: 240 calories; 16 g total fat; 2 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 0 mg cholesterol;

180 mg sodium; 19 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 1 g added sugar; 7 g protein

Editor’s note: Information for this article was obtained from “Tips and Tricks for Starting a Backyard Garden” by Dr. Leigh Whittinghill, assistant professor of Urban Agriculture with Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension; and “Gardening in Small Spaces” by Rick Durham, Horticulture; Brad Lee, Plant and Soil Science; and Ashley Osborne, 4-H Youth Development with University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension. The recipe can be found on the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Nutrition Education Program website at

Reach Cecelia Hostilo, Trigg County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, at P. O. Box 271 (2657 Old Hopkinsville Road), Cadiz, KY 42211, by phone at 270-522-3269, fax at 270-522-9192 or email

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