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Apr 24, 2014







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Local places that can help

• Churchill’s Garden Center 12 Hampton Road, Exeter, 772-2685, churchillsgardens.com
Offers ongoing classes, including design consultations and workshops on garden planting, annuals, herbs and vegetables, container design, mixed gardens and more. For details, visit churchillsgardens.com/events.php.

• Demers Garden Center, Inc. 656 S. Mammoth Road, Manchester, 625-8298, demersgardencenter.com

• Osborne’s Agway 258 Sheep Davis Road, Concord, 228-8561. 343 Londonderry Turnpike, Hooksett, 627-6855. 304 Daniel Webster Highway, Belmont, 527-3769, osbornesagway.com, facebook.com/osbornesagway

• Studley Flower Gardens 82 Wakefield St., Rochester, 332-4565, studleyflowergardens.com
Online garden center resources at studleyflowergardens.com/garden-center-info.php. Also occasionally offers gardening classes. Call for more information.

• Wentworth Greenhouses
141 Rollins Road, Rollinsford, 743-4919, wentworthgreenhouses.com
Check website for upcoming classes and workshops. Tips for successful gardening can be found at wentworthgreenhouses.com/tips.html.





Growing food
Which plants are worth the effort?

By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



Victory gardens were popular during World War II as ways to save money and reduce pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort. Today, gardeners can still get more bang for their buck by growing their own crops, but the greatest value lies in the quality difference between home-grown and store-bought produce: The home-grown stuff can easily have more nutrients, better taste and better variety.

As for getting more (quantity) for less money, there are a few factors that need to be addressed: the size of the garden, whether or not it’s a first-time garden, the types of food grown and, of course, whether or not the plants grow.

Shade, poor-quality soil and inferior knowledge about growing particular plants can hinder a gardener’s success, which is why Jessie Banhazl advises purchasing ready-to-grow vegetable plants from local farmers. Unless you are planning on growing a lot, buying seed packets may not be worth it.

“It really depends on the size of your garden and how much effort you want to put into it,” said Banhazl, the co-founder, managing director and owner of Green City Growers, a Somerville, Mass., company that installs and maintains organic vegetable gardens for homeowners, businesses, restaurants and schools.

“Especially in New Hampshire, I wouldn’t recommend planting fruit crops from the seed — there’s not a long-enough growing season,” she said. It’s true that seeds are cheaper, but vegetable plants have a head start on seeds once growing season begins. Ready-to-buy vegetable plants have been developing in a greenhouse before growing season begins and, because of this head start, will produce more food throughout the season. (Banhazl does, however, advise gardeners to actually read the seed packets if they do choose to grow food from the seed. The packet will have all the information you need about when to plant it, where to plant it, etc.)
The quantity and quality of the food grown, however, are also dependent on the quality of the plant.

“Buy something from a local farmers market, because it’s something that they’d plant in the ground themselves,” Banhazl said. Plants and seeds from box stores are more mass-produced and thus may have received less care than the plants than the farmers.

Advanced gardeners are more likely to have success than beginner gardeners simply because they have more experience and know what grows well and what doesn’t. Because of this, Banhazl advises gardeners to start small and expand with each year. Find out what works and what doesn’t work. Start with the easiest foods to grow, then move on to trickier produce later, Banhazl said. This way, growers are also at less risk of losing money.

For the beginner grower, Banhazl recommends growing herbs. Chives, thyme and oregano are all very easy to grow, and they’re perennials: Plant them once, and they’ll come back every year. Leafy greens like kale and chard are also great to grow because the outer leaves of the plant (the edible part) will continue to grow throughout the summer, Banhazl said.

Everyone wants to grow tomatoes, but those can be tricky — beginners should try growing cherry tomatoes first, because those don’t need as much light and growers can grow more. There’s less risk of failure with cherry tomatoes, and thus you’re at less risk of losing money on them.

Cucumbers are very prolific, Banhzal said: “From two plants, you can get a ton of cucumbers.” Cucumbers are also great for a small gardening space because they can grow vertically, as well. Peas and winterbeans also grow up and out, which makes them great for urban gardeners working in small spaces.

Moving away from the simple matter of the price in the store vs. the price of growing your own food, the difference is not just in the numbers but in the increase in quality, said Joan Bonnette, president of the Nashua Garden Club.

“You have control of whether pesticides are used, and thus you can grow more organically,” Bonnette said. Match home-grown tomatoes and cucumbers against the organic ones in the store, and the price difference can be enormous. It’s also guaranteed fresh.
“It goes from harvesting, off the ground, right onto your dinner plate. There is no loss of nutrients,” Banhazl said. Lots of grocery stores harvest their crops before they’re ripe because they’re anticipating a certain shelf life, Banhazl said. “Every day the vegetable sits in the store, you lose nutrient content,” she said.

Gardeners are also apt to have access to more rare varieties that you can’t always get at the market. It opens up a whole new rainbow of flavors. Banhazl advises food adventurists to ask their local farmers for track records on growing these special fruits and vegetables.

“Pattypan squashes, Blue Hubbard squash, and carrots can grow in every color — vegetables have a great diversity that you don’t see at the store,” she said.

Of course, it’s not all about saving money or getting better quality. The best part is in growing something yourself, Bonnette said.
“It is less expensive, yes, but beyond the price, there are other benefits to gardening. In growing your own food, you get a sense of satisfaction,” she said. “You get exercise — you’re out in the sun, burning calories while enjoying what you’re doing,” Bonnette said.






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