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Answers to your vegetable gardening questions

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It's easy to find excellent basic information about planting a vegetable gardenĀ online. But once you've planted the garden and you have veggies up and growing, then questions generally arise: How can I avoid bushels of zucchini all maturing at once? How can I tell when winter squash is ready to harvest? Can I grow tomatoes if my garden doesn't receive more than five hours of sun?

Finding answers isn't nearly as simple as getting basic planting information. Sure, you can call your local extension service office or ask a friend or neighbor who's an experienced gardener.

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But I highly recommend a handy little book,"The Veggie Gardener's Answer Book," by Barbara Ellis (Storey Publishing, $14.95). Measuring just 4-1/2 inches by 6-1/5 inches, it fits perfectly in your hand and anticipates all those questions a beginning or intermediate gardener is likely to have.

The first part provides the basics: planning and planting, soil and composting, caring for the garden, and insects and diseases (all recommendations are organic).

The second part provides the solutions you need, logically arranged by specific vegetable -- from artichokes to tomatoes.

So if you want to know why your parsnip seeds haven't come up, how to grow broccoli in the Deep South, and when to harvest beets (President Obama's least-favorite veggie), the answers are easy to find in this gem of a gardening guide.

It would even be ideal for the fifth-graders who are helping the first lady with the new White House kitchen garden.

Note: Coming Monday, April 20: Ten garden bloggers (including Diggin' It) reveal the six plants they can't live without.


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