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Gardeners are experiencing this spring at a frenzied pace. There seem to be enormous questions that need answers every single day. And if you plant vegetables, it’s impossible to calm down. The simple decision or whether or not to plant the tomatoes and basil yet is driving us crazy. You can look at this joyous, often hectic dance with nature as a labor of love, planting a few pots of peppers and tomatoes. Or you can follow the lead of so many new gardeners and allow it to consume every spare space by planting a full-blown plot that might just feed the entire neighborhood. Vegetable gardening really tends to grow on you, so approach it cautiously as it might develop into a life-long passion.

Did you read the book, The $64 Tomato… by William Alexander? Written in 2006, it was a tongue-in-cheek treatise on vegetable gardening, bemoaning the money spent to get one ripe tomato. Well, in today’s world, the skyrocketing costs of food and fuel, the mystery of where your food has been grown and what chemicals may have been used, the advantages of home and local vegetable gardening are much more cost effective. And the reassuring feeling of knowing that your food has been grown safely and is the freshest and tastiest can’t be measured. We feel that planting vegetables will be at an all-time high this year among gardeners, both experienced and novice, so why not hop onto the bandwagon?

Growing up, I remember stepping out the door to discover a zucchini or two and a few tomatoes lurking on the porch. It didn’t matter if you lived in the country or the burbs. There always seemed to be a highly productive garden nearby. I kind of miss that feeling of well-being and generosity and would like to bring it back again. It’s almost a blue chip guarantee that most vegetable gardeners will end up with more than they can possibly consume.

Hopefully your harvests will be bountiful and more than enough to supply your immediate needs, so what will you do with the extra produce? Sharing with friends and family is always a satisfying feeling, but there are also many ways to preserve your hard work and save some of those incredibly fresh tastes for the cold, icy days of winter. Preserving food, like gardening, can be kept simple or made as complicated as you like. Some people garden with preserving the harvest specifically in mind. If this is the case, there are certain vegetable variety choices that preserve better than others so a bit of careful planning with seed selections will ensure you better success in the harvest kitchen.

No room for a dedicated vegetable garden? Interplanting edibles and ornamentals is a common sight in Europe, so why not here? Fruits and vegetable plants can be every bit as beautiful as annual or perennial flowers. Many varieties make great container plants, making it easy for everyone to grow a bit of their own food, even in a small space. Besides being very rewarding in the kitchen, gardening is great exercise and reconnects us to the earth, as it allows us to slow down a bit and refocuses our energy.

So surrender to summer by becoming the ultimate localvore. While I wouldn’t give up coffee or chocolate for anything in the world, there is no reason why my tomatoes have to come from Argentina or my apples from Australia.