Plan garden wisely to save on food bills

Every year, as food prices continue to skyrocket, there are more and more people who want to grow their own vegetables. Pouring over colorful seed packets of picture-perfect tomatoes and shapely carrots is fun, but planning an efficient family food garden calls for skills that most novice gardeners simply do not possess.

You need to plan your garden wisely, taking into account not only the type of soil, but the location of crops and the exact amount of cabbage and peas to plant. Any way you look at it, it's a hard row to hoe.

This year, however, perhaps it can be a little different.Neophyte gardeners, for example, can obtain their own "Smarter Garden Plan" from the Northrup King Company. The cost is $3.50.

It's a complete, customized garden plan that is designed especially for you.

All you have to do is fill out a simple form listing the size and shape of the garden. The smallest garden that can be planned is 10 by 10 feet; the largest, 900 by 900 feet.

Then you list a description of the soil, whether it's sandy, dark black, or clay, and whether you weed by hand, rotary tiller, or small tractor.

Next comes the exciting part. From a list of 41 different vegetables you choose the ones that your family likes best, indicating the number of adults you wish to feed. There's even a separate column to check if you would like an extra supply of a particular vegetable for canning of freezing.

Certain vegetables, such as corn and pumpkins, are asterisked to warn you that they require greater space and therefore should be minimized if your garden is small.

That's all there is to it. Your data and zip code will be computerized and you'll get a list of the best varieties for your area together with a layout that is designed to reduce plant completion and make harvesting and cultivating easier.

All you have to do is follow the simple planting diagram and timetable.

Look for your "Smarter Garden Plan" form in gardening magazines or at any nursery which sells Northrup King seeds. You may also request a form by mail. Write to Northrup King Company, PO Box 1615, Minneapolis, Minn. 55440.

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