“To be truly organic, you have to buy organic seed and have a two-year process of cleansing the soil. If you use compost, you have to buy organic bananas to be able to put the skins in your compost pile,” she says. “Most families aren’t growing a truly organic garden, but they can grow an earth-friendly garden.”

And the fruits (and vegetables) of that labor often taste much better than what comes from your neighborhood supermarket. “There’s nothing like the taste of fresh vegetables. And you’re going to eat more of them if they’re right there in the backyard.”


Smart Gardening:

  • To save your joints, use lightweight Styrofoam or plastic pots for your garden. If they’re big, fill them 1/3 full with Styrofoam peanuts, which will help with drainage and reduce their weight.
  • Consider raised beds, containers or planting tables to reduce the stress on your knees when digging and weeding.
  • Grow the varieties from seed that are the most expensive to buy, such as the fancy lettuces (arugula, rainbow chard), heirloom tomatoes and squashes and baby zucchini.
  • If critters take a liking to your crops, drape netting over your plants to try to keep them out.
  • Call your county extension office or visit their Web site for information specific to your area, such as optimal planting times, easiest-to-grow crops and watering restrictions, if any.

Easy Crops:

Vegetables and herbs that are fun to grow and produce a good yield, from best-selling author, PBS host and "Today Show" garden expert P. Allen Smith:

  • Leaf lettuce. My favorites are Buttercrunch and Salad Bowl.
  • Radishes. There are lots of varieties – I like Cherry Belle.
  • Green onions. Start from onions plants larger than a dime in diameter.
  • Cherry tomatoes. The plants are compact and the tomatoes are tasty.
  • Green peppers. You’ll save lots of money growing your own.
  • Bush green beans. You’ll get big yields from small plants.
  • Herbs. Basil, thyme, oregano and chives are great.