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Growing own food a great stimulus package

Growing own food a great stimulus package



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With all the bad economic news, most families are looking at their finances a little more carefully.

Some are hoping to win the lottery, others are waiting for the government bailout, and some are just hoping they can somehow survive.

While I am not an economist, a banker or a politician, I am a gardener, and I think one of the best economic stimulus packages for most of us might be to grow a little more of our own food.

The food you grow can be some of the freshest and tastiest you've ever consumed.

While cleaning out my grandmother's house after she died, I came across a poster (which was actually made by my great-grandmother) that advertised tomato plants for sale.

My great-grandmother always grew a huge vegetable garden but also sold plants to her neighbors in a small northeastern Arizona town.

She provided for her family through the Great Depression, two world wars and many other hardships. My own parents grew up during the Depression, and although money was tight, they never went hungry because they raised their own food.

During World War I and II, the call went out for Victory Gardens. These gardens were civil morale boosters, but they were also amazingly productive.

One poster campaign of "Plant more in '44!" encouraged nearly 20 million Americans to plant Victory Gardens, and some 40 percent of all the vegetables consumed in the United States that year came from these gardens.

Nearly three decades ago, President Spencer W. Kimball of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints admonished people to plant a garden with their family. His advice is still applicable today:

"We encourage you to grow all the food that you feasibly can on your own property. … Grow vegetables and eat them from your own yard, even those residing in apartments or condominiums can generally grow a little food in pots and planters. … If there are children in your home, involve them in the process with assigned responsibilities."

At one time, Utah had a significant commercial vegetable industry. Much of the area now covered by homes once produced tomatoes, sweet corn, beans, peas, potatoes and other crops.

There is certainly no reason that property cannot grow plenty of food once again.

Start with the location. Vegetables need full direct sunlight for at least six hours per day; more is even better. Vegetables prefer a nice loamy soil, but almost any soil can be made productive if you add organic matter and the needed nutrients.

Water is another essential. Culinary water and secondary water (irrigation water) will grow good vegetables. Farmers have raised great crops using flood, sprinkler or drip irrigation, so your available methods of application need not be a handicap.

If you have never grown vegetables before, take one of the many classes being offered this spring. If that does not fit your schedule, find a garden mentor.

That person might be a Utah State University master gardener, an experienced neighbor or friend — or even a parent who tried to teach you these skills when you were young.

They can help you avoid many common garden mistakes and frustrations.

Pay particular attention to the varieties you plan to grow. Our high mountain desert climate is different than most of the rest of the country, and many varieties that grow well elsewhere might not grow well here.

There is no point in planting a variety that will not mature and produce an abundant, tasty crop during the growing season in our area.

USU Extension Service has been helping people grow gardens back to my great-grandmother's day. Although most Utah residents no longer make their living on the farm, you can still get valuable information to help you grow a productive garden.

Go to the USU Extension Web site at www.extension.usu.edu .There you will find the contact information for the extension office in each county in the state. The publication section holds a wealth of gardening information.

Among the great resources are the vegetable fact sheets written by Dan Drost, a vegetable specialist.

These fact sheets cover almost 50 vegetables and herbs that grow well in Utah. They also include a list of the recommended vegetable varieties for the state. The fact sheets are free for you to use and share with others who want to learn to garden.

Get your seeds, some fertilizer and get to work.

Like great-grandma, you will probably find your economic stimulus package at the end of your arms.

Growing tasty produce will stimulate your own economy and can provide a boost for friends and neighbors or the local food bank.

Larry A. Sagers

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