Planter’s Row: Gardening

By  Jessica Pittman
In South Carolina we have a wonderful climate for gardening, making backyard vegetables gardens a common hobby.  Sharing produce we grew ourselves can be fantastic since it’s the freshest food; however, we must remember safe handling practices from seed to harvest.
Gardening has not become more dangerous over the years; we simply have more research informing us on the dangers of unsafe growing practices.  When planning a garden we have plenty of things to consider; site selection, planting and harvesting times, garden layout, when to fertilize, the list goes on and on. If you are a fruit or vegetable gardener, planning for food safety should be added to that list.
Your garden should be located in an area that is away from garbage cans, septic systems, farm animals and family pets.  Keep family pets out of the garden during the growing season.  Help control wild life by not feeding wild animals and birds near your garden. Use only potable water when watering a garden. Public water systems are safe but water obtained from lakes, ponds, rivers and streams can be polluted. If you are using ground water from a well system, conduct a water test once a year.  Any compost used for growing produce must have reached temperatures greater than 130 °F and been turned often during the composting process.  Never use synthetic herbicides, fungicides or insecticides (except mosquito repellent) in or within 25 feet of the garden; insecticidal soaps are a safe alternative.
Use clean containers to gather your produce. Wash your hands before and after handling. Wash all produce in clean water and use a vegetable brush to remove visible soil.  Store fresh produce away from other food items.  Make sure to harvest often and keep any rotting vegetables out of the garden.  

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