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Plant Gardens With Favorite Vegetables
By Amy Woolfolk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Planting a garden may seem as simple as tossing seeds on the soil, but deciding what to plant in the garden takes careful planning.
Dr. David Nagel, horticulturist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said gardeners need to consider their personal preference for vegetables, how the produce will be used, the amount of available garden space and the amount of sunlight needed.
"The most important thing is to grow vegetables that you like," Nagel said. "Other things to think about are whether the vegetables will be eaten fresh or frozen, the amount of space available in the garden and the amount of sun needed."
If vegetables will be frozen or preserved, plant more than if they only will be eaten fresh. Nagel said some Mississippians who garden for the love of it share their extra vegetables with family, friends and people who can't grow their own.
The specialist said gardeners should consider how much room a plant will take in the garden, how long it will be in the garden and how much food it will produce. Some vegetables require a lot of space for a long time, while others are planted and harvested in a short period of time in a small space.
"Melons, pumpkins and sweet potatoes are in the garden for a long time, but the harvest period is relatively short," Nagel said. "Okra, tomatoes and pole beans are also in the garden for a long time but produce a continuous supply of food."
Vegetables best suited for a small garden are those that need little space and produce large amounts of food. They include lima beans, lettuce, spinach, onions and peppers, Nagel said.
Irish and sweet potatoes are productive for the amount of space they need, but can present a storage problem after harvest.
Nagel said the amount of sunlight a garden spot receives also impacts vegetable selection.
"Ideally, the garden should receive full sunlight all day," he said. "On small residential lots, this may not be possible. When this is the case, locate vegetables in several spots around the house according to their tolerances."
Vegetables grown for their fruits or seeds, such as corn, tomatoes and beans should have the sunniest spots. Vegetables grown for their leaves or roots, such as lettuce, spinach and turnips, can grow in partial shade.
Nagel said gardeners should plant the newest varieties of seeds each year.
"For best results, choose the newest varieties of the vegetables you like best," he said. "All vegetables can be grown in Mississippi, but newer varieties typically have more resistance."