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Imagine biting into a ripe, juicy tomato or slicing open a fresh avocado for some homemade guacamole. Now imagine all you had to do to get these fruits was go into your backyard.

Whether students are trying to stick to a diet, penny pinch or clear their head, some Knights are finding alternatives to hitting up the produce sections of supermarkets to get their daily doses of fruits and veggies.

Trinity Miller, a senior interdisciplinary studies major, grows a variety of fruit and vegetables in the backyard gardens of her homes in Orlando and Tampa.

Both Miller and her boyfriend are vegan, and a large emphasis on health was one of the reasons they decided to grow food in their gardens.

"I appreciate the food we eat now, especially since I know where it comes from and the hard work that we put into it," Miller said.

With the ability to grow bananas, mangoes, blueberries and tomatoes at both of her homes, Miller says her grocery bill barely exceeds $20 every other week.

In addition to reduced and less-costly trips to the grocery store, other students find a spiritual aspect in backyard-food gardening.

Leah Taylor, a sophomore health sciences pre-clinical major, describes growing her own food in her apartment as "therapeutic" and "relaxing."

While shopping at the Winter Park Farmer's Market every Saturday, Taylor encourages like-minded students to grow simple plants first, such as herbs, before trying fruits and veggies.

"Some easy ones are cherry tomatoes, most herbs and pineapple," Taylor said.

For students who are interested in backyard gardening, using the right tools and equipment will help benefit the life of a plant.

Shannon O'Rourke, a senior health sciences pre-clinical major, said pots, soil, fertilizers, seeds and starter plants all help assist in growing a backyard garden.

"I think it's really beneficial once you get everything started and do your research," O'Rourke said. "Plants need different amounts of room to grow, soil types, amounts of time spent in the sun and water, as well as choosing the right time of the year that is best to grow the plant."

O'Rourke grows a variety of herbs and vegetables in addition to a couple of strawberry and blueberry plants from her home in Orlando.

"I love being connected to where my food comes from," O'Rourke said. "Not so long ago, America was made up of mostly farmers; but now most people have no idea where their food comes from."

Easy plants for the budding gardener:

-Mint

-Basil

- Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

-Aloe

-Lettuce

-Oregano

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Dakota Croog is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.

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