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Gardening How-to

Dirt-Cheap Eats

Enjoy fresh food, fresh air, and a fatter wallet by growing your own vegetables

Fence Out Critters
 
Most gardens need protection against predators such as rabbits, groundhogs, and pets. A good fence is a better investment than repellents or scare devices, whose effectiveness wears off in time. The simplest fence is one with metal stakes supporting wire mesh. The gate can be mesh with a wooden frame. Make the fence six feet tall to keep out deer, and use a finer mesh at the bottom to deter rabbits, extending it below ground level to stop burrowers. Total cost: $150.
 
Make Your Menu

What should you grow? Start with what you love to eat. About $50 worth of seed packets will get you started. Since you won't need all the seeds in the packets, and most stay fresh for at least three years, the yearly cost is about $16. In any garden, tall plants such as pole beans should go on the north side, to avoid shading the others.
 
Most vegetables are annuals, planted anew each year, but I tuck in a few alpine strawberries, too. These tiny, exquisite plants bear fruit all season and remain in place from year to year, to our grandchildren's delight. They head for the strawberry row the minute their parents pull up in the driveway. Our sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes are also kid magnets, and I like to think our small foragers are gleaning far more than a healthful snack. They're learning that growing food brings joy, and that dividend is priceless.

Barbara Damrosch writes a weekly column, A Cook's Garden, in The Washington Post. She's the author of The Garden Primer.

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