At a luncheon in Beverly Hills, all the ladies were jabbering about the rising costs of food and especially fresh vegetables and fruits. We decided to set up a challenge; who could grow the best garden and serve the best salad at our next luncheon!

The race is on- in a matter of a few weeks we are looking forward to a healthy garden, user friendly for family and keeping dollars in the cookie jar. Right now I have a head start with my lemon and kumquats and the grapes that will bloom in July. They are so yummy with no poison chemicals, and definitely tastier than the produce selection at the local market.

It wouldn’t be fair if the ladies relied on their gardener’s to do the care-taking. We all agreed that family members were fair game. And, since Michelle Obama has a White House garden and has included her family in the weeding process (President Obama is not exempt) we are allowing family members, or friends to help out.

My first outing was a visit my local nursery for growing tips, in search of seeds and small potted plants that could be replanted in the soil. I suggest you do the same especially if you're new to farming in your own backyard. Why wait until inflation hits and a cucumber costs an unaffordable $5. Investigate what veggies grow best during the summer months in your climate. I am planting tomatoes, again! Usually the birds nibble on them before having graced our salad. So, I'm on the offensive, I purchased tomato covers for protection.

1.Start your compost container for plant food, instead of fertilizer. Put all your left over vegetables and fruits in a large container. Mix the ingredients and let it ferment naturally. Get tips online or ask your local nursery to give you the best advice.

2. Select a good location for your garden. Some of your crops can be grown in pots and other produce needs to be grown in the ground. I planted some of my strawberries in a shaded area last year and they did not fair as well as the ones in the sun. Most vegetable plants require sun 6 hours daily to produce a crop. Starving for sun rays plants wither, and become more apt to attract bugs and disease.

3.Preparation and planting. Tend your garden. Know how much water the plants require. Adjust to water temperatures and rain levels. Every plant has a growth cycle and harvesting recommendations. Use common sense. Check out disease and pest cycles, use the internet for help or your local nursery. I’ve become a number # 1 fan of Charlie, my nursery owner.

4.Loosen and break up the ground, digging down to 6 to 8 inches in the soil. Liberally spread compost on the area and mix it in. Then rake the area. I prefer planting small plants that can grow to full bloom. Follow the depth in the pot they were in and space each plant at recommended distance. It’s tricky, I plant use the soil that is in the pot. Be sure not to harm any established roots the plant may have. When your done make sure to give the plants a good watering.

5. Pests and diseases may soon be gobbling up your precious veggies. There are organic products to fend off the little buggers.

There's a time to plant and a time to sow...enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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