Plant a garden this spring -- even if you've never done it before -- you'll be surprised by the tasty rewards. Chef Nathan Lyon, from the PBS show Growing a Greener World, offers great tips for starting your own garden.
You don't need a lot of room: Start small with just a few of your favorites. For the past few years Lyon has been growing his garden out of two small raised beds on his balcony, for example, and has had abundant harvests.
"If you have just a little sliver of earth you can grow great produce, and the giddiness that comes across when you start picking and tasting your own food is really difficult to compare to anything else," Lyon says.
Lyon says the best place to start is your local garden store. Go through and pick out things you like to eat. And ask questions -- lots of them. Garden experts are the best sources to learn how to take care of your plants and what kind of light and water needs you'll have to provide for.
Most important, put your plants in healthy, well-drained soil. Compost is a perfect agent for this. In fact, compost is great for a lot of things. Not only does it help ward off diseases using natural methods -- rather than relying on pesticides -- it boosts your plants growing power.
"There's the common saying: 'You are what you eat;' I think of compost as being the best food that you can give to your soil to grow really healthy vegetables," Lyons says.
Good compost can really make a difference between OK produce and amazing produce. Lyon is adamant about the use of compost in growing a garden, but he cautions about finding the right kind. Many people just like to use leaves or organic material, but the best nutrients are going to come from a U.S. Compost Council (USCC) approved compost.
Still not sure where you want to start? Lyon suggests starting with a tomato garden. Tomatoes can be used in a variety of dishes and are great for making sauces and canning. All you need is some tomato seeds or plants, a sunny spot, and good soil.
Plant your tomatoes deep in the ground, leaving only about 3 to 4 inches of the plant above the surface. Water your plants, soaking the rootball, every three to four days for the first couple weeks then begin slowing down the watering frequency. In no time at all, you'll have plump, ripe tomatoes hanging off your plants ready for the table.
Don't waste another summer without the wonderful taste of fresh vegetables right from your backyard. Gardening takes a little time but is well worth the effort.
"Anybody can do this with the right things—like really healthy soil and a couple of plants," Lyon says. "It's amazing! There's almost no limit to what you can do, and the type of community you can build with fellow gardeners is a magical thing."