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Friday, March 22, 2013

Urban gardening takes root

Imagine walking out the door of your home, and just a few steps away was some of the tastiest food you have ever eaten. Fresh. Crisp. Vibrant. Full of flavor and vitamins.

This isn’t some type of gourmet’s dream – it’s the reality of urban gardening. Even in highly populated Pinellas County, you can have the garden of your dreams that takes less work, encounters fewer problems and produces more crops with the right know-how.

That’s where the folks at the county’s Extension Service come in. The agents who work at Extension are trained by and have the backing of one of the most renowned agriculture universities in the United States – the University of Florida. They are also keenly attuned to the unique conditions that Florida gardeners face.

For instance, residents can find a bumper crop of information about getting their gardens off to a good start. Proper site location, soil preparation and crop selection can prevent issues from sprouting up later, reducing the need for fungicides, herbicides or other chemicals. From seeds in the ground to harvest time, farmers can bring their questions, concerns or samples to extension for a diagnosis and information on the best way to fix the problem and get ready for record growth.

Of course, a bounty of fruits and vegetables is great, but the enjoyment can be short lived without advice on how to cook, preserve or freeze the bounty for enjoying at some later date. For the tasty morsels you want to cook right now, get advice on how to build a balanced meal that is both nourishing and tasty.

Gardening isn’t just about plants, either. The number of people raising chickens in Pinellas County is growing, and they are getting the freshest eggs for their recipes. Extension agents can also help the aspiring chicken farmer with the know-how to get their brood off on the right wing.

Where to begin? You can visit the Pinellas County Extension Service online at to access all of the resources. Lawn and garden help is also a call away at (727) 582-2100 and then pressing the number one. The line is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m. until noon and 1 to 4 p.m.

If you are the more up close and in person type, swing on by the Pinellas County Extension Office at 12520 Ulmerton Road in Largo, or check out the Pinellas County Master Gardener Plant Clinic at the Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave. in Palm Harbor.

If you visit the Ulmerton Road location, be sure to stroll through the abundant gardens located near the building. There, you can watch as volunteers harvest the many different botanical bounties and get ideas for your own garden.

Urban gardening classes are also offered. Be sure to click, call or stop by for the latest information on what’s coming up.

Gardening in Florida? You will dig it!


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