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Gardening provides fresh ingredients for home cooking

Gardening provides fresh ingredients for home cooking

Tamra Reall

Tamra Reall

With spring’s arrival, it is an exciting time for gardeners. Tamra Reall, a University of Missouri Extension field specialist in horticulture, helps coordinate the Extension Master Gardener program for Jackson, Clay and Platte counties. She says there are a lot of reasons gardening is popular.

“For me, I think it’s being in nature, having a definite interaction with nature,” she says. “It’s kind of a magical experience. It’s slow, but you get to see how things work in a way that in our fast-paced world we don’t often get to see.”

Reall says gardening became especially popular last spring when the COVID pandemic hit and there was not as much going on. She says it is also a way for kids to get involved in food production, and a lot of plants are good for getting started.

“Lettuce is a great first thing,” Reall says. “It grows quickly. It’s pretty easy.”

She says most greens are popular items to grow in gardens, and radishes and tomatoes are a common staple of Midwestern gardens as well. She adds that if people are growing tomatoes every year, they should rotate where they grow them for best results.

Reall says the Extension Master Gardener program is like a lot of similar programs across the country, and the goal is to help people learn about horticulture and become good gardeners.

She says good soil quality is important, and gardeners may want to get a soil test.

“It all starts in the soil,” she says. “Good soil quality helps. When plants are healthy, you have fewer pest problems.”

She says gardeners can also do a site assessment before starting a garden, making sure it will get enough sunlight. Vegetable gardens need six to eight hours of sunlight a day to thrive.

Reall says local Extension personnel can help answer gardening questions.

“This is not a process that they have to do alone,” she says.

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

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