Gardeners can literally reap the fruits of their labor by planting fruits or vegetables in a small space in their landscapes. Many gardeners tend to their landscapes as a hobby, which requires hours of manual labor and a big financial investment. But this does not have to be the case. Many existing home landscapes are well suited for growing fruits and vegetables.

Individuals do not need to build a farm to get fresh food from their yards. Your home vegetable garden doesnít have to be in raised beds or in straight, raised rows.

Traditionally these practices have been instituted to accommodate machines, which are not really necessary for a small home garden. Gardeners can simply tuck seasonal vegetables in between existing ornamental plants in the landscape. While they may not be as attractive as zinnias or daisies, vegetables can be just as appealing if people look beyond beauty to see true value.

Inexpensive seeds or starter plants for fruits and vegetables can be bought at local establishments across the state. Almost all commonly grown fruits and vegetables are easy to preserve, which provides cost saving and nutritious alternatives throughout the year.

Research shows that storing fresh produce either through canning or freezing preserves almost all of the nutritional value of the produce. Freezing is the easier of the two options, but it does require more space. Canning requires less space but needs specialized equipment.

However, the cost of that equipment has come down in recent years.

Raising a home garden offers many other benefits other than consuming what you grow. The big advantage is that gardening provides physical activity, which is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. In addition, research demonstrates that children who participate in gardening and food preparation are more likely to consume fruits and vegetables as a regular part of their diet.

Community gardens are a good alternative for those who do not have space in their residential gardens for food production. Community gardens are becoming common across the country.

The pooled resources of a community garden provide extra benefits and can expand the potential for space- and sunlight-deprived gardeners.

There are alternatives for those who lack an interest in gardening but still want access to freshly grown produce. Much of the food purchased in local grocery stores or large retail chains is not as fresh as locally grown produce because it may travel 2,000 miles before it settles on the retail shelves. Even if you donít grow your own food, you can buy from others who do grow locally, supporting local farm businesses. Stop by the Neshoba County Farmerís Market located behind Farm Bureau on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays beginning at 6 a.m. to pick up your locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables.

For more information about planting and maintaining fruits and vegetables, view the "Garden Tabloid" published by the MSU Extension Service. This publication is available on the web at www.msucares.com or you can stop by the Extension Service office in the Neshoba Coliseum for a copy. You can also contact us at (601) 656-4602.