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Urban vegetable gardens look to be 'Sweet 'n' Neat'
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The vegetable garden looks to be “Sweet ‘n’ Neat” next year, thanks to some new varieties of tomatoes by that very name.
More and more urban dwellers are joining in the latest trend of growing their own produce, and tomatoes are the No. 1 choice of those growing edibles.
Gardeners can choose from several new varieties, such as Sweet ‘n’ Neat Scarlet, Sweet ‘n’ Neat Cherry, Sweet ‘n’ Neat Yellow and an impressive Little Sun Yellow. While determinate varieties fit a smaller garden situation, these new patio varieties open the door even wider, enticing everyone to grow some, even if it is in a container.
In addition to these tomatoes, there are also great selections suitable for growing in baskets, like Tumbling Tom Red and Tumbling Tom Yellow. The Tumbling Junior Yellow will be introduced next year and, although small, you can expect a bounty of delicious tomatoes.
In Mississippi State University trials, Dr. Bill Evans harvested 4.5 pounds of Tumbling Tom Yellow tomatoes in just one picking. At this year’s California trials, I counted right at 40 cherry-sized tomatoes ready for harvest on a Sweet ‘n’ Neat Scarlet in a 6-inch container.
Tomatoes aren’t the only produce going compact. You’ll have your choice of both sweet and hot peppers, zucchini squash, acorn squash, eggplant, okra, pumpkins, basil, strawberries and more.
Whether it is the global economy or food safety scares that have fueled this trend, it cannot be argued that there are some great family benefits to these small urban gardens. Today’s children are growing up in a fast-food world where poor nutrition and lack of outdoor time are common. Children involved in growing vegetables may become future gardeners, growing fresh vegetables for their families one day.
The urban vegetable garden certainly doesn’t have the same look of our grandparents’ gardens, especially since urban gardens are smaller. It is the proverbial “piece of cake” to get the soil rich and fertile. The products needed to accomplish this are available at most garden centers by the bag or even by the scoop if you have a pickup truck.
Urban gardens normally are constructed on raised beds and enclosed or separated from lawn areas with wood or rocks. This will not only give you the best in drainage and aeration, but it will help keep encroaching grass out. Simply use the string trimmer around the edges.
This style of garden is easy to tend from all sides without compacting soil by constantly making trips to hoe or weed. Harvesting is as simple as reaching in and picking your produce.
Fall vegetable gardens are great because the produce ripens at a cool time of the year, delivering the best flavor. If you miss planting for fall, make sure you jump on the bandwagon come spring.