If you’re like me, you’ve complained more than once about the cost of gluten-free food in the grocery store. Even the fresh produce can cut into your budget, especially if you’re buying organic like I do. What if I told you to get a little dirty and start growing your own fresh fruits and vegetables? It’s easy! So what do you need to have to plan a gluten-free garden? You don’t have to live on 10 acres like I do! You can start growing your fresh food even if you live in the middle of downtown big city in an apartment. All you need are some containers, dirt and plants or seeds. A well-planned gluten-free garden, can be a beautiful and enticing way to incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs into your diet. The following tips will help you to plan a productive and practical gluten-free garden. Tip #1: Pick the Perfect Spot.  When choosing a location for your garden, try to find a spot as close to your kitchen as possible.  After all, you want your own personal culinary garden to be easy to reach while you are preparing meals. The location you choose must also take into consideration the kind of environment your plants prefer. Choose a sunny location that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. If you live in a really hot climate, you may find a bit of afternoon shade is nice to have, as well. Also, you’ll want to make sure the location you choose has easy access to water. You definitely don’t want to drag a heavy garden hose around the house or carry buckets of water in order to keep your plants hydrated, (unless you are gardening in containers). Tip #2: Pick Your Plants. The easiest way to decide what you want to grow in your gluten-free garden is to think about what you like to cook. For example, if you use a lot of fresh herbs, you’ll want to keep a big pot of your favorite varieties on hand. Kids can’t get enough of your homemade salsa? Plan to have a steady supply of fresh cilantro and juicy tomatoes nearby. In other words, you want to stock your kitchen garden with the fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers you use in your day-to-day cooking.  These are the items you will want to have convenient access to throughout the growing season. Items you plan freeze, can or otherwise preserve for later use are ideal for your regular vegetable garden.  Or if you are like me, I like to plant the foods that are most likely to have huge amounts of pesticides.  (Dirty Dozen image at the bottom) Tip #3: Make the Most of the Space You Have.  Due to their proximity to the house, many gluten-free gardens are confined to a relatively small space. If your proposed garden has a small overall footprint, don’t get discouraged. Instead – look up! Take advantage of as much vertical space as possible to maximize your growing area. Consider growing juicy yellow pear tomatoes surrounded by creeping thyme in a vertical container or use hanging baskets suspended on shepherd hooks for your favorite herbs. Just make sure you keep them well watered as hanging baskets tend to dry out more quickly. You could also add a trellis or incorporate a fence into your design to provide support for climbing plants, such as pole beans or cucumbers. If your potager has a blank wall with good sun exposure, you could add a ladder-like series of shelves to house a lot more plants than you could fit into the ground you have available. Tip #4: Make It Beautiful. Although some may argue that beauty for its own sake is neither productive nor practical, I disagree. Your gluten-free garden is an extension of your home and will likely be visible to your family and guests. So, making the area as attractive as possible just makes good sense. Balance, symmetry and repetition are components of any good garden design. To incorporate balance and symmetry into your garden, try adding two matching brightly colored containers filled with herbs and place them on each side of the entrance. For repetition, add multiples of the same plants throughout the garden. For example, a group of 3 cherry tomato plants in attractive containers will have a stronger visual impact than a single plant. You can also create a sense of order by planting lovely borders of edible flowers or fragrant herbs along walkways. One great thing about incorporating ornamental aspects into your garden, is you may find you want to spend more time in an area that nourishes both your body and soul.

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