There's nothing like the taste of homegrown tomatoes. Regular grocery store produce sections have red globe-shaped vegetables that look like tomatoes, but they taste nothing like the real thing grown in your own garden. The same truth applies to most vegetables in grocery stores that are shipped in from faraway places or other countries. Unless you make regular trips to a farmer's market or roadside vegetable stand, the only way to get that home-grown taste is to plant your own garden at home.
Many home gardeners choose to grow their own vegetables not only because they taste better, but also because they can control whether or not they are exposed to chemicals, fertilizers, or other toxic materials intended to make them grow faster, bigger, pest-free, or sturdier. Those substances may make the vegetables look better and last longer, but they can dramatically affect the nutritional value and definitely the taste.
Fertilizer is one of the most heinous offenders when it comes to making vegetables toxic. Everyone knows that when you buy vegetables from the grocery store you must wash them thoroughly before eating them, but even then there is only so much you can wash off because fertilizers are often applied from overhead by spraying. Instead of chemical fertilizers, it's easy to find natural alternatives that work just as well and are much healthier:
Coffee grounds and ashes: Believe it or not, one of the best mulches you can use around growing vegetable plants is a mixture of coffee grounds and wood ashes from your fireplace. This fertilizer provides a mixture of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous that help to make plants hardier and more tasteful.
Manure: It doesn't matter where you live, there is probably an excellent source of organic fertilizer just around the corner or down the street. If there is a cow pasture nearby, a riding stable, a petting zoo, or a pet store, just ask if you can have some manure to make your compost richer and more nutritional for your plants. Most places are more than happy to have you haul away their manure stockpiles, because it saves them the time and trouble of cleaning up the manure.
Seaweed: If you live near the coast, seaweed is an excellent way to fertilize your garden. Seaweed is richer in potassium and nitrogen than most manure mixtures, and most beach communities are thrilled to have people haul away the seaweed that clumps up on the shore interfering with the enjoyment of the beach. You may think that seaweed would be soggy and difficult to work with, but all you have to do is rinse it off. Pile it in a stack on your driveway or sidewalk, in a place where the water runoff will not affect your yard or garden. Leave it there for a couple of weeks so the rain will wash it down thoroughly, then you can just add it to your compost heap or work it into the garden soil in the fall.
Green manure: In the fall, after clearing out vegetables or flowers from your garden, you can sow a green manure crop such as winter rye or vetch. Plants such as these flourish in cool weather, thereby protecting your garden bed from weeds and erosion. Three or four weeks before planting in the spring, simply turn the winter crop over by digging it into the soil. As the plants decompose, they become a fertilizer for the next crop by adding humus to the soil.
If you are careful to mix compost and home-grown organic fertilizers, you will be able to customize your garden beds specifically for the vegetables and flowers you're growing. One of the best things you can do to ensure that your soil is exactly what you want it to be, you can have it tested. Soil tests are available from a state agricultural university, if there is one in your area, or you can get one from a local Cooperative Extension office. The results of a soil test will tell you exactly what you need to do to fertilize your soil and add whatever trace elements are necessary. Knowing how your soil will perform for you will help you to give your plants exactly what they need to thrive and produce. There is nothing like home-grown vegetables, so taking the time to ensure that they have ideal conditions for growing happily will end up making you happy.