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There are many benefits to vegetable gardening. Growing your own food is one good reason for digging in the dirt and becoming friends with a garden hoe. But there are other benefits as well.

I became acquainted with vegetable gardening when I was maybe two or three years old. I remember walking around in the big vegetable garden dad and mother always grew on the home farm. Pa especially and Ma too, would often stop their work in the garden and just stand and look at it. I thought they were just resting, but now I know they saw beauty in these rows of vegetables. They saw beauty in watching things grow.

As I got older and left home, I always had a vegetable garden, except for my college years and when I was in the Army. Sometimes my garden was only a few square feet. At one time, when our kids were growing up, we grew nearly a half-acre of vegetables.

In addition to the vegetables and their inherent beauty my dad always planted a few flowers. He especially liked dahlias. Big colorful ones. During the summer and autumn months that my mother was in a nursing home, Pa always took her a big beautiful dahlia. To help brighten her day, and help her remember earlier days when they gardened together. They were both in their 90s at the time.

Today, I usually plant a few zinnia seeds and a row of sunflowers in our garden. I like sunflowers. They are beautiful, easy to grow, and the birds like the seeds.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Grow a few flowers in your vegetable garden. They also add a spot of beauty.

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to www.jerryapps.com. 

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