TV series whets the appetite for simple backyard garden

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I recently bought a color TV set -- something I vowed I never would do -- just so I could fully appreciate a new, nationally released series on backyard food gardening.

The weekly series is called ''Dick Raymond's Garden.'' It removes the mystery from gardening, showing clearly that back-yard productivity is relatively simple to achieve if a few basic rules are followed.

It is also colorful, entertaining, and filled with tips not normally found in gardening books. In short, it is by far the best program on vegetable growing that I have viewed.

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Apparently many others feel the same way. In Boise, Idaho, where the 13-week series first aired, it is being viewed for the third time around.

So much for the amateur response. A more professional opinion comes from Alden Miller, a Midwest farm boy turned vegetable specialist with the Worcester County Extension Service in Massachusetts.

Miller was filled with praise, seeing the series as a ''very valuable educational tool,'' and he has recommended its use in schools. He describes it as ''practical,'' as ''appetizing to the mind as the vegetables themselves.'' ''Non-gardeners will also find it enjoyable,'' he adds.

Each half-hour show deals with one home-garden favorite or group of favorites -- one show for tomatoes, another for root crops, and so forth.

The Raymond garden here in North Ferrisburg provided the setting for the shows filmed throughout the 1981 growing season, taking the viewer from sowing all the way through to harvest -- and often on to kitchen preparation and storage methods as well.

There was no dressing up the garden to create the setting.

''This was a working garden from the start,'' says Raymond. ''What we filmed being sown, we filmed while it grew, and filmed being harvested.''

I have visited the Raymond garden on several occasions, and it is always a picture of vigor and abundance from spring through fall. In no way do the shows exaggerate its productivity.

Raymond began gardening with his father as a youngster during the depression years of the 1930s. ''We grew vegetables or we didn't eat,'' says Raymond. ''It was that simple.''

What began out of necessity soon became a genuine love which kept him in the garden whenever the sun was up. He kept experimenting, seeking new and better, or simpler, ways to garden. Often the experiments failed, but many of them succeeded. It is these successes that add spice to the ''Dick Raymond Garden'' series.

Compost is a basic feature of the Raymond garden, and so all crop residues are tilled in to provide a green manure. He also uses some commercial fertilizer. However, even the dedicated organic gardener will find much of value in the shows. Simply substitute a trowelful of compost or manure for every teaspoonful of fertilizer Raymond uses.

The show now is being aired on 30 stations nationwide. If you would like to see the show in your area, you might present your local station with a few telling facts: Vegetable gardening, according to a Gallup survey, is a bigger leisure-time activity than golf, tennis, jogging, hunting, or fishing.

If that's not impressive, consider this: More Americans (33 million) grow vegetables than watch professional sports on television. In other words, there are a whole lot of potential viewers out there. Moreover, the vast majority of these back-yard food growers are homeowners, prime targets for a wide range of advertisers.

The program is available from Gardenway Marketing Services, Troy, N.Y. 12182.

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