Time to start gardening

Feb. 17, 2013 @ 08:15 PM

If you’re thinking about growing a vegetable garden this year, time’s a wasting.

It’s not too early start planting lettuce and peas.

“You need to get them in the ground now,” said Leanna Murphy Dono, a master gardener who taught a free two-hour class about growing vegetables and herbs Sunday at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

The class was the first of the season, and Dono and other Durham master gardeners will be teaching a series of free vegetable gardening classes beginning March 24 at Duke Gardens.

During the 1980s and ’90s, folks just didn’t seem to be interested in growing their own vegetables, but home vegetable gardening is going through a resurgence and people are eager to learn, Dono said.

“It was not cool to have a vegetable garden,” Dono said.

But growing your own has become cool again, and it can save money, Dono said. People also like to garden because it helps them feel control over their lives, the food is fresh and tastes good and they take pride in growing their own food, Dono said.

During Dono’s class Sunday, she gave a Powerpoint presentation indoors about how to get started raising vegetables. Then, she took the class out to the new Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden at Duke Gardens to show the students the vegetable and herb garden.

Seeds and plants were already sprouting in the garden, which just went through a snow event the day before. The composted and mulched soil that remains around 53 degrees keeps plants growing through the winter and allows such early planting, she said.

“That’s how you can have this much productivity in the winter here,” Dono said, pointing to cabbages, lettuces and other vegetables.

Class members could hardly contain their enthusiasm about starting their first garden or improving the garden they already have.

Ainsworth Sewell brought his daughter, Anita, 14, to the class. He’s never grown a vegetable garden before, but he said he definitely will grow one this year. He liked Dono’s ideas for growing vegetables in containers.

“I want to do a raised bed, and I like the idea of putting them in these little pails, five-gallon pails,” he said.

He thinks they’ll attend more classes in March and April.

“Oh definitely,” he said. “This is only a start for us.”

Delores Traeger hasn’t grown her own vegetables either.

“I’m just getting information and trying to learn as much as I can,” she said. “I want to do container gardening.”

Traeger said she was inspired by the slides Dono showed of the tomato plants she grew on her deck in five-gallon pails.

“I’m going to do container gardening, you bet I am,” Traeger said. “I think it will be fun.”

Traeger was already imagining just how delicious her first tomato would be.

“I especially want to grow tomatoes,” she said. “When she started talking about them, I could taste them already.”

People who missed Sunday’s class are welcome to attend future classes and will receive plenty of information about how to get started, Dono said.

They’re free, and the next one, called “Love that Lettuce,” is scheduled March 24 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, look for: “In the Garden: the Master Gardeners’ Extension Gardener Series” near the end of:  http://www.hr.duke.edu/dukegardens/pdfs/March-July%2013%20ed%20brochure/Gardening-Horticulture-13a.pdf.

Or call the Durham County Extension Service at 919-560-0525.