Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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March 18, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow? Fresh fruits and vegetables come into season in Cherokee County

JACKSONVILLE — Be they large are small, summer gardens offer a great way to connect with nature while lowering grocery bill costs.

“By and large, we have a wonderful fertile soil with a good amount of rainfall (although) we sometimes need to take special consideration due to heat and drought in the summer or acid pH in the garden,” said Cherokee Co. Extension Agent Kim Benton.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension –  for whom Benton works – offers a wealth of information to those interested in home horticulture, which includes grass, trees, ornamentals and gardens. Established in 1915, it serves as a statewide education agency that addresses needs at the local level using technology and practice. County offices provide information through workshops, literature and consultation, as well as provide tools like soil sample kits to help gardeners better prepare their sites.

“The extension office can answer a great range of questions – take blackberries for example – anything from raising them to canning them to killing them, including children’s learning (identification, etc.) through 4-H,” Benton said.

Big Plants, Small Spaces

She will teach a container gardening class from 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday (MARCH 19) at the Woodmen of the World Lodge in Jacksonville. The class gives individuals interested in trying their hand at gardening a way of doing it on a more manageable level.

“It's a new topic being offered here locally, but there is a strong desire by most of the people within Cherokee County to grow their own vegetables, and since many don’t have a large plot of ground to work with, container gardening is the next best thing,” she said, describing several reasons why people are drawn to the idea.

Then there's the appeal of growing certain vegetables that often taste much better homegrown than they do store-bought.

“People love tomatoes. They absolutely love to grow them, and sometimes containers are the only way they can do this,” she explained.

And, she added, “the best way to teach kids is to do things hands-on, and kids love nothing more than picking fruit off of a vine that they grew themselves. 

“It might not get them to eat it, but it will certainly put a love of gardening into their hearts” while encouraging the development of healthy, lifelong eating habits, Benton said. “(Container gardening)  provides people with knowledge that can be a tool for growing their own healthy veggies.  Growing it yourself means you are more likely to eat and enjoy it.  Also you have the added bonus of being in control of what is sprayed on it and what it is fertilized with. If the right varieties are picked, and put in a location that works for the plants, production can be prolific which gives cost savings at the grocery store.”

The March 19 class will show participants the best types of produce to grow in a container – herbs for areas that receive partial sun and vegetables for more sunny areas.

She'll also discuss the cost involved in producing a container gardening, as well as types of container and fertilizer needed and “how to set them up to grow for you,” she said.

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