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You Should Grow Your Own Food

Growing your own food is an easy way to solve a variety of health, environmental, and economic issues. Here are our top ten reasons to grow your own food, whether you have a single tomato plant or an entire backyard farm. In addition, You can save money on gas and produce by growing your own food instead of going to the grocery store. Longer-term investments provide the best returns; try planting fruit trees to begin reaping large financial returns.

Gardening is one of the most effective ways to save money on groceries while also providing you with hours of enjoyment in the spring, summer, and fall as you watch plants grow and mature and enjoy the harvest. It also encourages healthy eating habits and teaches your family the value of hard work. So, if you have the desire, consider starting in March. Plant a seed or seedling, and you'll have a thriving plant in no time. The following advice applies to the Northeast of the United States, advice for your area may differ.

Vegetables and flowers:

  • If you want to try your hand at gardening, March is the month to start indoor seeds of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and other warm-season vegetables. Tomatoes should be started late in the month to avoid having leggy plants in May.
  • It's time to till and prepare your garden for planting when it's dry enough. Take a soil sample to your Penn State county extension office for analysis, and then apply fertilizer and other nutrients as directed.
  • St. Patrick's Day is the traditional time to plant peas and potatoes, but unless you prepared the soil last fall, you may have to wait a few weeks until the ground dries out. Planting rhubarb, asparagus, and onion sets is also possible right now.
  • Once nighttime temperatures rise into the 30s, remove mulch covers from roses, azaleas, clematis vines, and other tender shrubs (be prepared to recover if a late cold-snap hits). However, leave mulch around spring flowering bulbs and tender perennials to protect emerging shoots from cold, drying winds.
  • Winter-killed rose canes should be cut back to one inch below the blackened area, and all rose canes should be cut back to about six inches above ground level. Cut back any perennials and ornamental grasses that were not cleaned up last fall.

Shrubs and trees:

  • Prune fruit trees, bramble fruits, and grapes before the buds swell (except peaches and nectarines, which should be pruned before they flower).
  • Now is the time to prune summer and fall blooming shrubs (wait to prune spring blooming shrubs such as azaleas until after they bloom). Wait until early summer to prune evergreen shrubs and hedges.
  • Dormant oil spray should be applied to any trees and shrubs (except blue spruce) that are infested with scale insects or mites.
  • Plant deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs now (before it gets too hot and dry), weather and soil conditions permitting.
  • Established rhododendrons, azaleas, roses, and other ornamental trees and shrubs, as well as fruit trees, should be fertilized. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer bag.

Lawn Maintenance:

  • Fertilize your lawn with either an organic or a chemical fertilizer, and treat lawns with a pre-emergent preventer as needed for crabgrass or annual bluegrass problems (watch for air temperatures above 60° F for 4-5 consecutive days for the right timing). To save time on application, consider a product that combines the two.
  • When the weather permits, remove excess thatch from your lawn and, if necessary, aerate it.
  • Fertilize existing lawns.


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