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Gardening: 9 gardening tips for the greatest return

We’ve all done it…gotten overzealous in spring and overplanted or planted the wrong varieties for our tastes and needs. Make this the year you plan your garden for the best return on your investment.

First, prepare a list before placing your catalogue order or making that first trip to the garden center. Without a bit of preplanning our carts end up filled with more seeds and plants than space available or varieties that are not suited to our growing conditions or our family’s taste.

Make sure each plant you select provides the greatest return on investment by including winning varieties with a visit to the All-America Selections (AAS) website (all-americaselections.org). This non-profit trialing organization has test sites across the US and Canada that trial and select winning varieties for their taste and garden performance.

Review your favorite recipes and consider growing the ingredients you need on a regular basis. Salad lovers may want to plant a container of greens that can be harvested daily. Sandy Lettuce and colorful mild flavored Red Kingdom Mizuna are slow to bolt, extending the harvest into warmer months. Add some super nutritious Prizm kale for your morning smoothies and salads. Prizm’s stemless stalks releaf quickly after harvest so you’ll have a continuous supply.

Fill a corner of the garden or container with a small-fruited tomato or two for salads, snacking and other daily treats. Red Celano grape tomato (a determinate for containers) and the light-yellow sweet Firefly tomato (an indeterminate for vertical or staked gardens) are attractive and very productive, ensuring more than enough for your whole family to enjoy.

Add a bit of crunch and color by growing Roxanne radishes. And don’t forget the cucumbers. Green Light cucumbers are seedless, sweet and prolific – great for salads or a refreshing summer drink. Keep a constant supply of these ingredients by making small plantings throughout the season.

Grow several containers of tasty and attractive Delizz strawberries. These everbearing plants will provide a pretty pot of fresh strawberries throughout the summer for your morning oatmeal or afternoon glass of wine.

Plant unusual vegetables you can’t purchase at the grocery store. Roulette pepper has the look and citrusy flavor of a habanero without the heat. And you won’t find anything like Yellow Apple tomato at the store. It has small unique apple-shaped fruit with a citrusy sweet flavor that’s perfect for snacks or stuffing with cheese.

Dedicate some space for those vegetables that are more expensive to buy than grow. Green peppers are a bargain in the summer, but the yellow, orange and red ones can cost two to three times more. Reduce the wait time and increase your enjoyment with early maturing colorful peppers like Orange Blaze or the yellow sweet peppers like Cornito Giallo, Escamillo or Just Sweet.

If you plan to freeze, dry or can your harvest, make sure to reserve some time during harvest season for picking and preserving. Select disease resistant productive varieties like Early Resilience Roma Tomato so you’ll have plenty of produce to preserve.

This is your year to produce a garden filled with just enough family favorites and unusual varieties that are less expensive to grow than buy.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” gardening DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by AAS for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ web site is www.melindamyers.com.

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