ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Republican
Community gardens will spring up all over Belvidere. They might look something like this one. The gardens are planted to help provide fresh food for anyone who needs it.

You can grow your own food with style, and create unique, beautiful vegetable gardens that are as attractive as they are bountiful. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself a little more eager to weed—you won’t want to leave your pretty vegetable plot.

Most people think of vegetable gardens as plots of green, leafy plants in boring rows. But you can think out of the box—even if you’re planting in a raised bed. With a little planning, you can grow edible plants with a display that rivals the beauty of any flower garden. Although this garden is relatively small (roughly 20 x 20 feet), it includes mouth-watering fruits, vegetables, and herbs—as well as flowers. It’s hard to be anything but stunning with a mix like that.

Many vegetable garden plants can be started from seeds while it’s still cold and snowy outside so start right away. Cool-weather plants, such as cabbage and broccoli, especially benefit from a jump-start indoors so they have a chance to bloom and produce a crop before the heat of summer shuts them down. A grow light can be as simple as a fluorescent shop light hung just inches over your seed trays.

Figuring out how much room you have for growing your garden will help you narrow down the choices. If you have a small garden, you may want to avoid space-hogging vegetables such as sweet corn, pumpkins, or squash. Instead, focus on compact vegetables such as salad greens, radishes, bush beans, and peppers. Some vegetables are available in space-saving varieties (de-terminate versus indeterminate tomatoes, for example), which can help you utilize every inch of growing space you have.

The key to success with your vegetable garden design is to make sure you have the right spot in your yard or your house. Most vegetables do best with full sun—at least eight hours of direct light a day.

Place your garden where you can easily access it. Keep your kitchen garden near the door for ease in reaching the vegetables you need for dinner.

For more great information about how to start your vegetable or flower garden, Sandie O., a Master Gardener of Boone County, said, “These are some gardening books I really like at the Ida Public Library.”

She chose several books for spring flowers, regional planting, and fruit and vegetables:

-“Annuals for Illinois” by William Aldrich and Don Williamson (635.9312 Aldrich, William)

-“Grow a Little Fruit Tree Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees” by Ann Ralph (634.0442 Ralph, Ann)

-“The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Garden” by Sally Roth (635 Roth, Sally)

-“101 Organic Gardening Hacks Eco-Friendly Solutions to Improve any Garden” by Shawna Coronado (635.0484 Coronado, Shawna)

-“A Garden of Fragrance” by Suzy Bales (635.968 Bales, Suzy)

-“Martha’s Flowers A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering, and Enjoying” by Martha Stewart with Kevin Sharkey (635.9 Stewart, Martha)

-“Gardening Made Easy” by Better Homes and Gardens (635 Gardening)

-“Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots” by Sharon Lovejoy (635 Lovejoy, Sharon)

-“Perennials for Illinois” by William Aldrich and Don Williamson (635.932 Aldrich, William)

-“The Postage Stamp Vegeta-ble Garden Grow Tons of Or-ganic Vegetables in Tiny Spaces and Containers” by Karen Newcomb (635 New-comb, Karen)

-“Tiny Garden, Huge Harvest” by Caleb Warnock (635 Warnock, Caleb)

-“Rocks, Dirt, Worms & Weeds A fun user-friendly guide to creating a vegetable or flower garden with your kids” by Jeff Hutton (635 Hut-ton, Jeff)

The Boone County Health Department requests that people participate in planting, maintaining, and harvesting their Community Garden. You can learn tips and tricks to grow your own garden while helping them provide a resource for those in need.

Call 815-544-9730 if you are interested.

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