BY PHIL PALEY / AJT //

As Passover ebbs away, we start to think about spring, flowers, our yards and great summer vegetables.

Many of us remember our grandparents planting some summer vegetables; tomatoes, cucumbers, maybe an herb or two. I myself remember as a child going to my grandparents’ house and seeing several large containers on their deck with tomato plants in them; to this day, my grandmother says:

“The summer tomatoes are just so luscious!”

Interestingly, the First Lady and her kids have also gotten into vegetable gardening. It’s a pastime that, in general, is in vogue; not does it produce healthy, tasty foods, but you’ll also save money in the long run.

And what’s more, you don’t need to be Martha Stewart to grow some vegetables. The few minutes a day you will spend with your spouse and kids tending to the plants will be priceless!

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The first thing you need to do is pick a nice sunny location in your yard. I suggest you call the Georgia Dig hotline at #811 before you dig. For free, they will come out and locate all the underground utilities, just to make sure you’re digging in a safe spot.

Once you’ve accomplished those two tasks, go to your local garden center and buy some potted “crops,” like tomatoes, watermelon or spicy peppers (they say variety is the spice of life). You should also get a bag or two of dirt and some fertilizer.

Now use a shovel to dig up the top layers of your chosen area. Now that you’re at bare dirt, this is the really intense part: Dig a hole two to three times the size of the pot that your plant is in.

Then add some of the good dirt to the hole you just dug out, carefully remove your new plant along with the dirt that is in the container with it, and place it in the ground – green side up! Make sure to line up the top of the dirt line of the plant with the dirt in your garden.

Finally, for the home stretch: Water and fertilize your newly planted garden for the first time. About once a month from here, give your new plants a little shot of fertilizer; and of course, water the plants a little every day. Think of them as little kids; they just need a few sips to keep them going, so don’t go for the whole “Noah’s Ark” approach (more is not necessarily better).

As a last step, you may want to add a little fence around your new garden. After all your hard work and effort, you don’t want the animal life of your neighborhood reaping all the benefits.

I’ll leave you with a few pointers to keep in mind. Firstly, if you plant tomatoes, try picking ones that are ready at different intervals. Last summer, I planted Early Girl tomatoes, Romas and Celebrity; these three kinds are ready at different times, so we were able to enjoy tomatoes for an extended period of time.

Also, if you plant watermelon or cantaloupe, be sure to give it lots of space to grow.

Enjoy, and see what new things you discover!

Phil Paley has been in the landscaping business for more than 15 years, has a certificate in landscape horticulture, and owns and operates Paley Landscaping, a full-service lawn and landscape company that does projects all over the Atlanta area.

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