Magazine article Sunset

In the Garden: Follow a Few Simple Guidelines and Your Crops Will Thrive

Magazine article Sunset

In the Garden: Follow a Few Simple Guidelines and Your Crops Will Thrive

Article excerpt

Great food starts with good soil. For vigorous, flavorful fruits and vegetables, plant nitrogen-fixing cover crops (clover, vetch) and till them into the soil in spring. Mix in compost and fertilizer, and you'll have loose, rich soil. All you need to do is plant, add drip irrigation, and let the garden rip. Our plot measured 550 square feet, but you can grow the crops wherever you have room.

When you grow your own food, you can plant varieties that are hard to find in a grocery store or even a farmers' market. We put in peppermint, so aromatic that it makes store-bought spearmint taste like grass. We grew 'Trombetta di Albenga' zucchini, which tends to curve like a trombone. And 'Sharlyn' melon, so creamy and tender it practically melts in your mouth.

Don't expect everything to succeed. Squirrels ravaged our wheat and barley. The biggest disaster: our olives, which were horribly infested with fruit flies. We ended up picking olives at a Santa Cruz olive farm (see "The Imports," page 83). Chances are, though, that almost everything will be fine. To go into the garden after being away and see that your corn has shot up to 7 feet, or to find dozens of dewy new cucumbers, is a real thrill.

GO ONLINE AND FEAST SOME MORE ...

- Garden calendars for each region of the West

- Enrich your soil, step by step

- Organic pest controls

- Growing tips for all our crops

- Harvesting methods

- More recipes

- 10 downloadable how-to guides: chickens, cheese, olive oil, bees, wine, beer, salt, and more

- Read our blogs: rollercoaster learning

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