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Gardening?
Gardening? Start small to save your knees and your back

If youíve decided to quit the golf links, and tennis is beginning to be too strenuous, you might just be planting your first garden this year.

William Alexander, author of The $64 Tomato, has some advice for you: Start small, stay small, and grow only what you canít buy cheaply in season at the supermarket. In spite of many easy-gardening devices available at home improvement stores, it takes more than tools to maintain a garden. It can be backbreaking work, especially if your back is already tender.

Alexander likes to plant sugar snap peas because they grow on a trellis. His gardening is limited by the number of times he can bend. He can stand up while harvesting peas. He also likes low-maintenance leeks and shallots.

Using plastic weed block between rows will reduce weeding. If you have to weed, use a sharp stirrup hoe and stand up when you use it.

Tomatoes are a favorite of gardeners almost everywhere. When planting, remember that they take a lot of space. Leave three to four feet between plants so you can walk around them to harvest.

Fertilize as directed and use a sturdy cage up to six feet high around each plant. A tall cage is especially important for varieties like Big Boy. Without one, the plant will fall to the ground, and youíll have to get on your knees to harvest.

Unless you plan to preserve tomatoes, donít buy more than six plants. Watching things grow is part of the fun of gardening.

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