James Quinn, with University of Missouri Extension, says gardening is a good way to connect with nature and learn about food production.

With summer here, many people across the Midwest are enjoying time in the garden or trips to farmers markets. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a popular part of many meals on the farm during the warm months.

James Quinn, University of Missouri Extension field specialist in horticulture based in Cole County, says gardening is popular for a number of reasons.

People can connect with nature and learn about food production.

“It is a healthy activity to garden,” he says. “Folks connect with nature, and they understand where their food comes from, a big reason parents like to have their kids take part.”

People have different favorites to grow in gardens or buy at farmers markets, but Quinn says a few vegetables are consistently popular.

“Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes are the preferred vegetables to grow,” he says. “Lettuce, green beans, summer squash like zucchini, cucumbers, cabbage and peppers are favorite choices as well.”

Quinn says a few basic tips can help people have a successful gardening experience.

“Keep the garden reasonably well-watered,” he says.

“Use mulch to suppress weeds — and it helps with diseases — harvest regularly, and when a crop finishes, such as lettuce and cabbage about now, get rid of it and consider planting a cover crop.”

Gardeners have a variety of cover crop options, but Quinn recommends buckwheat for a variety of reasons.

“Buckwheat is the easiest cover crop to use, and bees love its flowers, which it is quick to do,” he says.

Quinn says gardening offers a lot of opportunities for recreation and learning, and enjoying fresh produce during the summer months is a popular tradition.

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Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.