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It started off innocently enough--I just wanted a low-maintenance hobby.


What came of it was intense design plans on graph paper, hours of tilling our rock-hard dirt in the back yard, the purchase of several 2x6 boards, screwing them together with corner joints, and hauling in two truckloads of topsoil--sweating profusely in the process and wishing more than once that I was in front of the television with a cold beer.


But you know what? It was worth it.


My wife and I started a raised vegetable garden this year, in part because of the desire to cut grocery costs, in part to positively impact the environment but initially because I wanted something rewarding to occupy my free time. Something that shows daily progress.


Vegetable gardens are the Earth-friendly, cost-friendly craze of 2009. Gardens are popping up everywhere, with all kind of vegetables from tomatoes to carrots to jalepeno peppers being planted.


As this article points out, eating local food is a statement that you're not interested in contributing to the carbon emissions that transporting food requires. And you can't get much more local than your own yard.


With the cold weather behind us for a while (we hope), now's the time for most of the country to get planting if you haven't already. Here in California, we were able to plant weeks ago. Along with three tomato plants, we planted broccoli, strawberries, potatoes, green onions, chives and various herbs. We've also had a couple of plants fizzle out almost immediately. Oh well. We're rookies. We'll figure it out soon enough.


There are lots of little things to remember, which this article in Newsday touches on in good detail. Some things won't work (like our zucchini) but like anything, you get better the more experience you pick up.


Soon enough, when you eat your first home-grown tomato or bell pepper, you'll realize just how awesome a vegetable garden is--to both you and the planet.

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