Last year I ripped up my front lawn. The neighbors were appalled. The kids were jubilant. During the summer months, I didn't spend a penny on produce, but we had a fresh, organically grown salad every day. That's what I call dividends.

Most people are afraid to try to garden, or have had some unsuccessful attempts in the past. But gardening is basically following some simple rules, standing back and shouting,— "Man, oh man! Where did all that zucchini come from?!"

The most important thing (and I'm not kidding). Find a place in your yard that faces South. It should get 7 or more hours of direct sunlight each day. If you can't find a good place, try gardening on your roof.

Dump out a big bag (or 2! or 3!) of compost (about $1-$5 a bag) on the place you picked out. Take a shovel and act like Old McDonald. Mix that stuff into the dirt, like you'd mix flour into a cake batter.

Plant the plants, or sow the seeds. DO read the directions. (My only disaster last year was planting the cucumbers too early. I didn't read the directions!)

Give each plant about a cup of water when necessary. Different climates have different needs. Pray for rain.

Fertilize those mamas! (Fertilizer costs about $2 for a small box and it'll last you all season). Do this at least once a month. Your veggies will jump out of the ground and kiss you!

Here are my favorite veggies. They produce heaps, taste like wow, and don't suddenly die on you.

`Northeaster' pole beans:

Plant at the bottom of your chain link fence (or some sort of trellis).

`Aria' cucumber:

Israeli-type. I got over 200 from one vine! If you try to grow one thing, this should be it! Plant at the bottom of your chain link fence (or again trellis).

`Arlesa' baby zucchini and `Sunburst' baby scallop squash

Pick them when really tiny, steam them, add a dab of butter. Perfect!

Any cherry tomato variety, but especially `Yellow Peas', `Sweet 100 Plus,' or `Sugar Snack'

Most garden centers carry at least one of these in early spring.

It's a short list, but these are really fool-proof (I grew them, didn't I?!). If you're really nervous, start with one, and see how much fun it really is and how much money it saves you over the season. Better yet, let one of your children (age 7 or older) be in charge.

One last tip: You really do have to pull out the weeds, but if you lay down some plastic around the plants, the weeds will be unable to come up. Black garbage bags are fine. Use some rocks to hold them down. And enjoy!