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Summer is the best time for enjoying fresh vegetables, and nothing tastes better than vegetables picked from your own backyard.

Planting a vegetable garden is surprisingly easy and requires very little space. The key to a successful garden is sun, so be sure to plan your garden for a spot that gets a lot of direct sunlight. Even if you don't have a large patch of ground to plant all the vegetables you would like to grow, if you have a nice border around your house that gets good sun exposure, this is also an ideal planting area.

Once you've decided on your garden's placement, it's time to decide what you want to plant. What and how much you plant will depend on the size of the area. For instance, if you are only working with a 3' by 5' space, you do not want to plant vegetables such as lettuce or broccoli as these plants take up a lot of ground space. For a smaller garden, tomatoes and peppers are ideal. If, as mentioned above, you have border space, radishes and carrots are a good choice.

Start to prepare the ground in mid to late spring by adding some mulch or topsoil to the area. This is also a good time to start a compost pile. Save all your coffee grounds, eggshells, potato peels, etc. and discard them in the corner of your garden. Rake the compost through the soil weekly and by the time you're ready to plant, the soil will be nice and rich.

If you are opting for tomatoes and peppers as your vegetables of choice, your best bet is to purchase the actual plants from your neighborhood nursery. A flat of tomato or pepper plants consisting of about eight plants to a flat, is relatively inexpensive.

Depending on the climate, it's best to wait until late spring (Mother's Day being a rule of thumb) to get the plants in the ground. Dig approximately six inches deep to insert your plant and place each plant approximately 8 to 10 inches apart. You can have two rows each of tomatoes and peppers in a small 3' x 5' garden. Be sure to water your plants daily but avoid overwatering as this will drown the plants before they flower. As tomato plants grow, their vines become thick and heavy and it will become necessary to stake the plants. You can do this with wooden slats tied with string or you can invest in regular tomato fences that you can place over your plants to keep them straight.

For root plants such as radishes and carrots, you can plant right from seed in mid to late spring. As the seeds sprout, thin them out to six inches apart. Radishes and carrots grow underground; however when they are ripe and fully grown the tops of the vegetables will protrude from the soil and you'll know they're ready to be picked.

Assuming a Mother's Day start date, your vegetables should be fresh and ready to eat by mid to end July. But be prepared, a successful garden will yield lots of fresh vegetables, so study up on your canning and freezing!