Ask the Readers: Do You Grow Your Own Food?

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Alissa, Therese, and Mary for winning this week's contest!

Growing your own food can be a very rewarding activity in many ways, from watching the fruits of your labor grow day by day to enjoying the actual fruits (and vegetables!) harvested fresh from your garden. You'll trim your grocery expenses over time, and if you join a co-op or community garden, you'll even expand your social circle!

Of course, it may take some time, labor, and upfront costs to get a garden planted and flourishing. While it's useful to have your own food garden, it might not fit some people's lifestyle.

Do you grow your own food? Where do you grow them? Have some crops been more successful than others? What issues have you come across, and how did you solve them? If you don't grow your own food, would you like to? What would you grow?

Tell us whether you grow your own food and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Guest's picture

I just started growing some herbs and peppers this year. I live in an apartment so it is a bit hard.

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A little bit. Just planted tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumber this weekend (and ran outside to cover the last night because it dropped below freezing!). We also grow strawberries (a huge favorite in our house).

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Mary Happymommy

I don't grow my own food.

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Our own food, not yet, but our own herbs, definitely! We are planning a garden this year though, so I'm starting the seeds today in small eggshells to replant later. Should be interesting to see what happens!

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Kristine R.

We started a garden last year and will do the same again this year. There is nothing like going outside and picking fresh herbs and veggies!!

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I would love to grow my own veggies, but as a single mom of 3 teens in a rental space, it's hard to find the time and space! I considered a container garden this year, but I'm concerned about possums, cats and raccoons invading my crops.

Guest's picture

YES!!! Love growing our own food and there is nothing better the fresh green bean or tomatoes out of the garden to complete a meal grilled out in the summer. We also freeze and can the fresh food from our garden. Can't wait to plant this weekend.

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I grow lemons and avocados in my garden

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I've always gardened. When I had an apartment or condo, I container gardened herbs and salad greens. Now that my husband and I have a home with a nice sized yard, we plant in four beds; about 150 sq. feet. We usually grow lettuces, kale, collard, and mustard greens, onions and garlic, tomatos, and several types of beans and squashes. It's not so much about saving money; though it is a plus. It's more about quality, freshness, variety and flavor; and being a bit self sufficient. Since we live in Colorado, water conservation is important. We mulch heavily and use soaker hoses to get the most efficient use out of our water.

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Not this year! I just had a baby! :)

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We tried sunflowers and corn one year, but were stolen by the squirrels. The potatoes got too wet (were planted in a low spot). The green beans, squash, okra and tomatoes were prolific!! The strawberries went to the birds. Planted sweet potatoes this year . . so far 2 out of the 5 plants have survived (bought as seedlings). Had too many 40 deg nights after planting

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Jennifer Iley

No, I wish. It is something I want to do, but haven't taken the time. I'm not really sure where to start.

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Kelly in Nebraska

Jennifer, start with simple things in containers like lettuce, radishes, carrots or a couple of tomato plants. When you harvest lettuce, cut the top leaving about 2-3 inches above the soil, it will regrow itself until it gets really hot and the plant bolts.

Guest's picture

I have had my own garden for the last two years! Nothing better! Leeks, peppers, carrots, radishes, etc. You name it! Keep the critters out and some water in the ground and you'll save yourself boat loads! Great way to get outdoors and get some fresh air.

Guest's picture

Not right now, but I'd like to grow a few things. I live in a condo, and everything would have to be grown on my balcony.

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I used to have a nice garden, but I don't now for various reasons. I do try to buy as many fresh things directly from the growers at the Farmer's Market, though.

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I have tried growing tomatoes in a container on my balcony before and did pretty well until I got some pests. I do want to try again and try some herbs too, though.

Guest's picture

This is the first year I am trying to grow my own food. With fresh produce being expensive and my large garden in my backyard being vacant, I thought it would sort of be an interesting experiment to see if a city girl like me could produce healthy vegetables and fruits. With some help from a co-worker who has a green thumb, I have been able to successfully start my tomato plants indoors and also transplant raspberry plants I bought from a seed nursery. In a few weeks, I will plant my summer squash and snap beans as well. Hopefully, in a few months I'll be able to eat the fresh veggies picked right out of my backyard!

Guest's picture

Yes, I love gardening! Last year we had 3 different kinds of peppers, cucumbers, dill, beans, tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, onions, carrots, radishes & lettuce. We also pick wild berries (blueberries, raspberries & blackberries) on our property and can or freeze everything we can't use right away--nothing like fresh (canned) home-grown tomatoes in January!

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I grow green onions on my balcony. They require very little care, and now I don't need to buy them in bunches and have some go bad.

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Did you know that you can "re-grow" green onions? When you cut the rooted tips off, simply place in a shallow dish of water and place in a window sills. Within days, you should see sprouted growth. After just a few more days, you can plant in a pot.

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No I don't grow my own food. I'm space limited, but wish I could at times

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Betty D.

I did a vegetable garden once with my sis-in-law. It was very expensive! We planted a huge garden though. My tomatoes were delicious, and I was able to make awesome salsa. Part of the garden got ruined by groundhogs. I didn't realize when I started how much work it would be. Most days it was 90 degrees, which made the labor that much harder.

Guest's picture

Right this minute, I'm only growing basil, rosemary, thyme, and mint. I plan to add parsley, cilantro, chives, sage and tarragon. In the past, I've also grown tomatoes, chard, and cucumbers, but since moving to a hotter drier location, I've not had luck with container tomatoes. I'd like to put in some raised beds for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and pumpkins, but I'm daunted by two realities--I have to get rid of bermuda grass and I live on the edge of a preserve so I'll need to protect the tender veggies from critters.

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We plant a huge garden every year: potatoes, spinach, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes and all the extras needed to make salsa every year. We've experimented with sweet corn, lettuce, peas, beans and carrots. We also own chickens and receive 7-9 eggs a day from them :)

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I grew up with a vegetable garden, so I couldn't imagine not having one. The one year I lived in an apartment, I had tomato plants in planters. Now that I'm vegan, my garden really is..."my grocery store".

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Shari C

We grow some things. Mostly are favorites and items that are expensive, including raspberries, tomatoes and different varieties of peppers.

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We are currently living in a condo with all kinds of condo rules. So the only gardening I can do, is on my patio and deck. I have planted tomato, peppers, parsley, carrots, lettuce, spinach, peas and chives. Last year was the first time I have done container gardening, so I am repeating the veggies that did well last year.

Guest's picture

I have a basic apartment balcony where I have turned an unused storage space into a flourishing 40 plant oasis right outside my bedroom window. Last year I made a salsa garden, and this year I made a salad garden with everything I need to walk out on my porch and make a salad. Aphids hit me hard two weeks ago, but to keep organic, diatomous earth is my savior. Everything is rapidly growing that I have upped my salad intake to keep up with production.

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Our own food! Okra, collards, cucumbers, peas, peppers, bibb lettuce, corn and several varieties of tomatoes will be coming out of our garden this summer!

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We grow a lot of our own food and forage or hunt for more.

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I do not grow any food at this time. I used to keep an herb garden on the balcony of my apartment, but I'm a new home owner and just haven't found time to get into gardening yet.

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Karen L.

No I don't, but I have friends who owned a farm and used to grow many of their own foods and spices.

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We grow salad greens, beans, peas and a salsa garden with all the ingredients for canning salsa in the fall. We also get a weekly box from the local CSA. Between the two we eat mostly organic, nutrient dense produce all year from one garden or the other. This year will be our first for asparagus and some fruits, too.

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Sure do. We're on a waiting pattern in PA though, late frost warnings. Raised beds, compost bin, the whole 9 yards.

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If I grew my own food I would starve to death. I do NOT have a green thumb. Every plant I've ever owned has died a horrible death. I wish I had the talent and space for a little fruit and veggie garden. Maybe someday...

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Alex H

Absolutely I do! I'm regrowing celery on my windowsill, alongside basil, parsley and mint. Outside I've got tomatoes and peppers, zucchini and hopefully some blueberries on the way! Gardening is great and great fun.

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Laura Jacobson

We only grow a few things...we love growing our own tomatoes! We also have tried some herbs...but didnt have much luck with them. I would love to do more such as green beans, carrots, and peas!

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I've just started growing my vegetable garden this year. I have topsy turvys with tomatoes, strawberries and pepper plants. Most of my plants are in containers. I have more tomatoes, herbs, melons, summer squash and lettuce and many more. This is my way of offsetting my food cost :)

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I have been gardening for a long time. This year, we moved my vegetable garden and expanded it so it's now about 22'x20'. I have tomatoes, garlic, peppers, strawberries, green beans, eggplants, pumpkins, watermelons, banana melons, cucumbers, luffa gourds and sunflowers. I think I'm going to try some corn too. I have seedless concord grapevines and make jam from them and the strawberries every year, and I'm getting into edible landscaping. My herbs are spread throughout my flower beds around the foundation of the house, and right now I have lettuce and chives growing in pots. Nothing tastes as good as food you've grown yourself!

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gwen hicks

I garden every year . i have fun thinking about it. There is nothing like a home grown tomato. I enjoy what I grow. i only have a small space but i make the most of it and i add a few. pots. I have tomatoes. cucumbers, squash,turnips, peppers, eggplant and green beans, perhaps some other beans. i'm just getting started.

Guest's picture

Before the crash, I was lucky enough to buy a small house in the Catskills. The terrain is rocky and wooded, so I put in raised beds and started to grow vegetables, with the idea of growing most of my summer greens and salads. It's been a learning experience, and there have been a couple of hurdles.
The biggest has been lack of light caused by the neighboring trees (on neighbors' land). Trees don't stop growing, and lack of light has meant that I'm sorely restricted in what I can grow. Lettuce and herbs have proved to be the most successful long term; with strawberries on the side. Swiss chard also seems to put up with anything. But forget tomatoes, they are prima donnas who want lots of light all the time.
The other issue turned out to be the fact that I don't live in the house full time, and five days away in the city can wreak havoc on a vege bed (especially if there's a heat wave or drought).
Yet despite these setbacks, I'll never give up on growing veges. It's a constant education as every year is different, and there is something really satisfying about freezing, drying or just plain cooking something you picked out of your yard. (and... you know where it came from!)

Guest's picture

I love growing my own food! There is nothing better then making a salad and being able to say "I grew everything in this except for the dressing." And BLTs with super fresh heirloom tomatoes? AMAZING.

I just bought a new house so there isn't much...yet. I have some major plans. I want to put in blackberry and blueberry bushes, 6 grape vines, 4 raised beds in the south part of the yard, a container garden on the front porch, and an indoor year-round herb garden.

I live in the north (Zone 4), so the hardest thing for me is the short growing season. I make up for this by buying some plants (like tomatoes and peppers) and then growing some other plants (like lettuce) from seed.

It can be a lot of hard work, but it is always worth it. Nothing tastes as good as something that you grew yourself. Good luck!

Guest's picture

We remodeled our backyard last year, and made sure to leave a spot for a garden. Our kids planted strawberries, lettuce, peppers, and lots of herbs. It was fun to watch the garden grow through the eyes of our children, and the excitement on their faces when that first strawberry was ready!

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We have a garden....but we live in a cold area so sometimes we do not get much. It is fun to get anything from the garden and kids love it!

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I don't get enough sunlight to make the effort worth it. I do allow my green onions to root in a window sillo and give me a second or third go at them. Does that count?

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We have a small garden... we always grow tomatoes & basil~ we've also grown cucumbers, bell peppers & eggplant. Eventually I'd like to try a larger garden & do more.

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Each season we grow tomatoes, radishes, and carrots. Sometimes we grow herbs.

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There is nothing like a fresh picked warm from the garden tomato ... so grow them yourself? Oh, yeaaaah.

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Valerie B

This is the first year that I'm going to attempt a small garden. Wish me luck!

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Tiffany S.

I have a small cement patio and i'm attempting to container garden this summer with carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries. We also built a trellis with a pile of branches and are attempting to grow peas. *Fingers crossed* ; )

Guest's picture

We just put out our garden: tomatoes, banana peppers, cabbage, squash, zucchini, eggplant, green beans, collards, and kale. It's always neat to see our 3 year old getting excited about it and helping us at harvest time.

Guest's picture

I've always had a garden whether it was a home garden, community garden or container garden. Each has its benefits and downsides.

I loved the home garden for its convenience but had to contend with the neighbour's tree branches crushing my crops, wandering cats and some insidious weed that creeped through the garden with admirable vigour.

The community garden was beneficial for its communal rewards; new friendships, gardening advise and sharing of bounty but the field was home to groundhogs and voles so a lot of hard work was for the benefit of the field inhabitants.

As a now renter, we have a very large concrete balcony and I container garden. At 18 storeys we have almost no weed or pest problems. This year we have planted tomatoes, various peppers, basil, thyme, parsley, lemongrass, bay, wintergreen, eucalyptus, marigolds, a pineapple grown from the crown, avocado from the pit, celery grown from the base and ginger. The ginger is new for us and is a thriving plant, growing a sturdy foot and a half within three weeks.

There is something immensely satisfying about stepping a few feet to snip or pull fresh produce for your meals.

Guest's picture

It's the 2nd year that my husband and I have grown food in containers on our apartment porch. I love fresh basil (it's green gold to me), and I use it in pesto and on pizza especially. Looking forward to trying it as an agua fresca this summer. Also, new items are jalapeno peppers, mini bell peppers, spinach, chives, and grape tomatoes, which should be ready to pick more frequently.

Guest's picture

Over the last 3 years we have been planting & growing;
From our trees..Peaches, oranges, pears, grapefruit, kumquts, lemons, & limes
From the garden...Blueberries, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, & hot peppers
We just started from a pit plum tree.
One of the best things I enjoy about gardening is the look of happiness on friends faces when we share our bummer crops!

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Tabathia B

We usually grow tomatoes and herbs but this year we are adding lemons, strawberries, potatoes and pumpkins

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I grow tomatoes, herbs, and peppers in 2 4'x4' planter boxes. All of them have been really successful. Love the freshness!

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No, a garden requires too much watering in FL.

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I try and I am horrible at it! I can grow aloe vera (for cuts/sunburns) and every type of fresh herb known to man (I currently have 5 potted containers with a variety of herbs). Give me tomatoes and they are dead in a week :-/ I have managed to keep my satsuma and key lime trees alive and growing but they are still too young to produce just yet.

My parents live an hour south of me and grow tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, various greens, figs and green beans. My dad usually calls me when he has an overflow of stuff and I'll trade him my fresh herbs for his veggies.

Guest's picture

Oh yeah, I can't remember how many years in a row we have had one. I am thankful we have the property to do it on. We plant a variety of plants and I can't wait for the first Zucchini....that is one of our sure to pick them small and they are delightful.

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Rebecca B. A. R.

Yes--TOMATOES!!! They're yummy!!!

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Growing a garden after taking a year off! First tomato ripe enough to eat today! Have already harvested leeks, dinosaur kale, onions. Waiting with bated breath for the peppers and cukes. Asparagus beans are peaking out of the soil. Can't wait for them, the taste of them grilled is to die for!

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Yes! It's hard to beat home grown tomatoes.

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Jordy L.

We have a small backyard, but we try to plant as much as we can. We have some herbs back there (cilantro, mint, oregano, basil, lavender, and sage). We also have some cintranella plants, onions, and potatoes. If we had a bigger yard, we'd go all out.

Guest's picture

I live in LI, NY & grow cherry tomatoes & peppers with my boys every year in our backyard. They absolutely love every aspect of gardening from planting in the soil to daily watering to harvesting! We simply start with 3-5 hearty plants from a reputable nursery & by the beginning of Aug, there are 6 ft tall tomatoes vines producing as many as a gallon of tomatoes per week. I also keep herbs by the kitchen - this is another super easy way to have fresh herbs on hand. I have sweet basil, cilantro & rosemary.

Gardening is fun, rewarding & yields organic veggies !

We also have a fig tree & a blackberry tree which produces the most amazing, big green figs - yum ! We actually don't pick the blackberries from the tree because most of them have been pecked on by birds or squirrels and it's too high to pick. In general, I would not recommend fruit trees because they are hard to maintain & they attract a lot of insects.

Have a great summer everyone !!!

Guest's picture

My mom always had a summer garden, and we loved eating fresh peas, tomatoes, and squash as kids. I've kept up some form of vegetable garden for most of my adult life, even when in apartments, using the tiny balcony for container gardening (mostly tomatoes). Since we bought our home several years ago, I've had a nice garden in the backyard (in fact I planted that before we even moved furniture in!). My kids love to nibble on the cherry tomatoes and peppers, and we grill lots of veg in the summer, like our eggplant, squash, and onions that we grow. The coolest thing is seeing my boys enjoy eating veggies, b/c we all know how much better they taste fresh! :)

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I have a salad table, that I grow different lettuces on, along with arugala and chard.
I also have some tomatoes, strawberries, and green onions in pots.

Guest's picture

Yes. We have a townhouse with three raised beds in the back. I am sort of a fly by the seat of my pants sort of gardener. I plant stuff and hope it grows. Often, it's the stuff I didn't think would grow is what does the best. I have had the most success with tomatoes and collard greens. I had so many collards I had to give them away by the bag full to anyone that would take them. Two years ago, we planted half a sweet potato that sprouted in the fruit bowl. I never thought it would grow, but we got a good 12 sweet potatoes from the one plant that year.

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Guestjudy lee

We have always grown a garden but the last few years we have grown a very large garden and enjoyed all of the fresh vegetables. We have also canned and frozen the extras. We also have fruit trees and made applesauce and apple pies to freeze. We also share with our neighbors. We plan to plant berry bushes this year as well. We have chickens, turkeys and ducks also. It really helps on our grocery bill

Guest's picture

I have a huge garden and grow everything from potatoes and tomatoes to okra and soybeans.

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Yes, we do... but that said we are celebrating our first spring living in Albuquerque, where all the rules change in terms of gardening! We have a fabulous CSA for backup, but I am trying to grow berries, melons, and lots of types of veggies. We even planted a peach tree in our backyard! :) I imagine this year will be a lot of trial and error as I figure out what I can grow in our yard here, but I'm excited for the challenge!

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Margaret Davis

I wish I could grow my own food but between severe allergies and clay in the yard of my rental house it is not an option.

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J. Pario

Yes, we grow some of our own food.

Does doing make financial sense? (For the small-time gardener who also has a full time job, I mean. Plenty of people, now and in the past, have had their gardens as a primary or sole source of fruits and vegetables. If you are interested in a suburban version of this, check out the website:

Here's the end of a recent blog post of mine about this question:

My conclusion about gardening is that it is worth it if:

1. You enjoy it, and therefore are not counting your labor as an expense.

2. You are at least on a five-year plan. There is a lot of trial and error that you only benefit from if you apply what you learned to the next year.

3. You can taste the difference between home-grown and store-bought, or you value knowing exactly what has and hasn't gone into the production of your food.

If you are just doing it to be cheap, I'd skip it.

Hope that's food for thought :)

Guest's picture
Quynh-Thi Vidal

I want to start. Haven't yet.

Guest's picture

I have certainly do! Currently growing radishes, broccolini, sugar snap peas, kale, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes!

Guest's picture

Yes. I love growing my own food. I love being able to go in the backyard and get a fresh tomato without having to make a trip to the grocery store. This year we are growing about 10 different spices, 5 varieties of tomatoes, 5 varieties of peppers, sweet potatoes, eggplant, okra, snow peas, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, black eyed peas, and green onions. Tomatoes have always done well for me, and cucumbers usually do too. This will be my first time growing green beans, black eyed peas, or snow peas. Tried okra last year and it didn't produce anything, but giving it another try this year! I think my favorite spice to grow is basil, because I love it so much!

Guest's picture
Happy Love

We grow tomatoes, greens, peas, sweet peppers, and potatoes.

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We grow a garden! All sorts of vegetables in a 15 x 15 plot. It definitely beats farmer market prices and a fun hobby.

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Alissa A

I do not grow my own food!

Guest's picture

I am new to gardening but in the desert we grow tomatoes, basil, blackberries, strawberries, zucchini. We are getting lots of the blackberries right now and of course the basil does well. We also have lime, lemon, peach, pomegranate, orange, and fig trees. I LOVE going out and getting food from our yard. We do all this in a city lot. I enjoy it very much and would love to add more.

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Lisa Under the Redwoods

I grow lettuce, tomatoes, beans anD a few herbs.

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jamilah cassagnol

I just started a 80 sqft garden in my backyard this year. I admit that the start up costs were steep (materials for raised bed, top soil, fertilizers, seeds, containers, hand
tools, etc) but the reward of feeding my family a nice salad lunch straight from the garden is priceless. The lettuce almost melts in our mouths. We weren't completely successful though - for examples, the broccoli yield is too small for the amount of space it takes up in the garden. Other crops like cabbage were attacked by a mystery insect. Growing your own food is not for the feint of heart!

Guest's picture

We have a small garden - two 4x8' raised beds in our side yard. We've learned to spend our valuable space in the vegetables we love the most - beans, peas, and carrots. We also concentrate on growing our own of the "dirty dozen", including tomatoes and peppers. I have a couple of whiskey barrels with lettuce and parsley. We have an edge along our garage wall that has strawberries, rhubarb, and some Egyptian onions.

Guest's picture

I tend to grow more herbs than anything since I live on a second story condo.
Right now I grow them in pots and my plants include: Chives, Dill, Garlic, Jalapeno Peppers, Pineapple, and trying to grow some ginger.
The biggest issue I have is the heat during the summer months, I just tend to pray that they don't die. That and keep water constant without drowning them.

Guest's picture

I have always grown a garden. I typically grow herbs and vegetables.

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Dee cote

We have at leat a half acre planted. So far tomatoes, corn, peppers, lettuce, potatoes,onions, cucumbers, pumpkins, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. We freeze or can most of them to eat all winter.

We also have 28 chickens for eggs and 2 cows for meat.

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Debra K

We planted our first garden in 2012. We used some homegrown kale from it in green smoothies, and we used some homegrown carrots in various dishes. We will be planting more this year.