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Mount Pleasant Gardeners Opt for Early Edibles

Edible trumps beautiful as Mount Pleasant gardeners prepare their properties for summer. "People aren't spending as much, given the economy, so they're opting for vegetables and herbs instead of flowers to get the most out of what they do spend," said Barbara Kijak of Green Valley Nursery in Hawthorne, N.Y. Her father, Joseph, founded the business in 1947 and at age 93, still comes to work every day to speak with customers.

Barbara Kijak said the nursery offered 35 tomato varieties at the end of April. It's down to 20 varieties this week. "We're known for our tomatoes, which we grow from seeds, so they're a good indicator of what's selling," she said. The most popular this year: Early Girl and Fourth of July red tomatoes, because, as their names suggest, they fruit early in the summer season.

Peppers, eggplants and squash are selling well, Kijak said. "Herbs are hot – basil, of course, and parsley, especially Italian Plain Leaf, are selling off the shelves." The reason, she said, has as much to do with how easy herbs are to grow and how good fresh herbs taste as it does with being self-sustaining and lowering food costs. Green Valley customers are spending $50 to $60 on average to ready their gardens this year.

Local gardeners who want flowers to brighten their property are opting for the annual favorite, impatiens, which does well in shade, and wax begonias. "We grow most of our annuals from seed, too," said Kijak, whose sister, Patricia, and brother, Joseph Jr., a landscape architect, stay involved in the gardening business.

What are your favorite tips for successful vegetable gardens?

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