If you read my blog regularly, then you know that I’m focused on making healthy choices, starting with the food we eat. A great way to get the freshest, yummiest fruits and veggies is by growing them yourself. We have a fairly large garden and grow a variety of foods. I enjoy each stage of the gardening process, from the planning and planting, watering and weeding to the best part, harvesting and eating!
Gardening not only provides us with nutrient-rich foods, but there are other health benefits as well. A Danish study showed that gardening improved mood and reduced cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Other researchers have linked gardening to higher self-esteem and still another study found that daily gardening was the single most effective risk reduction for dementia in the elderly population, reducing incidence by 36%.
If that’s not enough to inspire you to start gardening, consider this: gardening is also a great form of aerobic exercise. By pulling weeds, lugging around heavy hoses and watering cans, reaching for plants and twisting and bending as you work, you’re giving your muscles a workout. This helps with flexibility, stamina and strength of many small muscle groups.
A photo of my garden with raised beds
Where to Start – Planning Your garden
Whether your garden is a small patio planter, a backyard vegetable garden or a plot in a community garden, you can make your space work and find a way to grow some of your own food. Once you’ve identified where your garden will be placed and how much space you have to work with, the next step is to plan what to grow. I love getting my kids involved in the planning stage. I ask each of them what they would like to see in the garden. I’ve found that the more involved the kids are with planning and planting, the more likely they are to eat the produce.
From there, I think about some of our favorite recipes and the ingredients needed. For example, Bahram and I like to eat cucumber and tomato salad, so tomatoes and cucumbers are a must-have. I use a lot of basil, mint and parsley when cooking so I always plant those as well. Just writing about these makes me think about eating a caprese salad, made using fresh mozzarella along with our homegrown tomato and basil – so good! Each year, we also make fresh salsa with peppers, tomatoes and onions from our garden. Another family-favorite are fresh beets.
I’ve had strawberries, raspberries and asparagus growing for several years. Strawberries and raspberries do great with a little shade as opposed to full sun, so they are in separate areas. These plants take a couple years to get established, but once they get going, they return each year, not requiring springtime planting.