Gardening for Health and Wealth

Last week, we talked about seasonal foods. This week, I wanted to tell you about the best source of affordable, nutritious, local, seasonal foods: a garden! For the price of a pound of tomatoes, you can use your SNAP benefits to buy a tomato plant. That plant will produce many pounds of tomatoes over its lifetime for your family to enjoy. Not to mention how much tastier many people, including me, find a sun-ripened tomato to be compared to grocery store varieties.

Growing your own produce will help you and your family eat more fruits and veggies. Even picky eaters are more likely to eat food they helped to plant, nurture and harvest themselves. Eating more produce is good for your health by helping control your weight, protecting your eyesight, and reducing the risk of certain diseases, like cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Before you dismiss starting a garden as too much work or impossible to fit in your yard (or you may not even have a yard), pause and think outside the box…or actually, inside the pot! Just because you think of a huge garden with rows and rows of tomatoes, peppers, corn and other veggies your grandparents may have grown, doesn’t mean you can’t fit growing your own produce into your lifestyle.

Your garden doesn’t have to be huge. It is actually better to start small and add a bit more each year, especially if you are a beginner. A few herbs in a pot will add tons of flavor to your meals without a big investment or time commitment. Just remember to water them!

Speaking of pots, container gardens are a great alternative for people who don’t have an ideal spot for an in-ground garden. If your yard is too small, too shady or your yard is actually just a windowsill, you can still grow fresh, tasty produce for your family. Certain fruits and veggies work better in pots, so use this chart to help you decide what to grow.

Plants for Containers

Virginia Cooperative Extension can provide you with more detailed information on container gardening here, including how to choose a pot and soil, as well as caring for your plants.

I have wanted to start a garden for a long time, but I always seem to have to move in the middle of summer. So this year, I will be doing some container gardening with 2 tomato plants, some beets, radishes, lettuce, spinach, and kale, as well as basil, chives and parsley. By planting my garden in containers, I can take them with me when I move (which I will be doing next month). I chose these plants because:

  1. They grow well in containers.
  2. I eat a lot of salads, so having a continuous supply of leafy greens will save money. Did you know you can eat beet and radish greens?
  3. Those are my favorite herbs and they work well in many different recipes.
  4. I am very picky about tomatoes and only like homegrown ones, as you can tell by how many times I have said this in just 2 short posts! You have no idea how much I look forward to the first tomato sandwich of the summer.

How many of you like to grow fruits and veggies? What is in your garden this year?

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