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“He who plants a garden plants happiness.”-Chinese proverb

For a long time, I wanted to grow my own vegetables. I dreamed of delicious red and green striped heirloom tomatoes and endless zucchini in the summer, with greens in the spring.

Four years ago, we built a raised bed vegetable garden in our backyard. At 8 feet long and 4 feet wide, it seemed huge. We filled it with the perfect mix of topsoil, compost, manure and worm casings, and a friend installed a drip watering system.

There were some ups and downs—one year, squirrels stripped every last ripe tomato off our plants, usually the day before we were ready to pick them; we’ve had ghastly tomato hornworms the size of a hotdog (ok, maybe not quite that big, but almost!). But there was also an abundance of zucchini, and we gave away gorgeous bouquets of tender greens and herbs. It was so satisfying, last year we installed a second bed.

This spring our microgreens and lettuce were fantastic—fresh, tender and spicy. At dinnertime I’d go out and snip a fresh salad. We tried seeds for delightful French breakfast radishes and Imperator 58 carrots. And there was a superabundance of flavorful Tuscan kale, swiss chard, parsley, thyme and rosemary.

In early March I planted six tomatoes. These grew over six feet tall before falling over, burying the cucumber, thyme, basil, parsley and six pepper plants. Clearly, we still have a lot to learn about veggie gardening! Even so, this summer we've harvested a ridiculous number of Sungold cherry and heirloom tomatoes, a bumper crop of Shishito peppers* and so many zucchini. Currently the cantaloupe plant is taking over, with jillions of flowers, and every day we check the vines to see how the melons growing!

Quick and Easy Appetizer: Blistered Shishito Peppers**

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan until shimmery. Add the Shishito peppers and toss until they’re blistered and softened a bit. Lightly sprinkle with salt. Serve warm. This makes a simple but delicious appetizer, especially with a cool cocktail.

(Note: Shishito peppers are mostly mild, but now and again you’ll be surprised by a very spicy one!)

And just for fun, here’s a few more reasons to plant a veggie garden, according to some “experts”:

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. -Lewis Grizzard

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn. (Ummm…)

-Garrison Keillor

I grow my own vegetables and herbs. I like being able to tell people that lunch I’m serving started out as a seed in my yard.

-Curtis Stone

4. Growing your own food is like printing your own money.

-Ron Finley

(Btw: Ron Finley is an amazing guy! He’s an artist and fashion designer living in South Central Los Angeles. In 2010 frustrated with the “food prison” in his neighborhood--where it’s difficult to find fresh produce--he planted a garden on the median between the curb and his house. The city said it was illegal, so he worked to change the law. Ten years ago, he founded a charity which has since built dozens of community vegetable gardens around the city.)

And, finally, an opposing point of view, here’s Andy Rooney’s tongue-in-cheek take on veggie gardening:

Last night we had three small zucchini for dinner that were grown within fifty feet of our back door. I estimate they cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $371.49 each. - Andy Rooney

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