If you read my recent article “Backyard Garden Design“, hopefully it convinced you of the importance for you and your family’s overall health and well being, of having a nutrient-dense backyard vegetable, herb, and flower garden. Well, I’m going to assume that happened, and you are now in the right frame of mind, and want to learn more about natures garden and that means you are looking for suggestions and recommendations.
I want to share my “ideal”, nutrient-dense, and practical garden plan, which I designed and implemented in my backyard over 30 years ago, and up to 2 years ago when I decided to sell my property, which was the practical thing to do, had for years and years provided bountiful amounts of fresh, organic, healthy, nutrient-rich, vegetables, herbs, fruits, and edible flower seeds, that my family, friends and neighbors had enjoyed for so many years. I have to be honest with you, I really don’t miss my house, but certainly miss my garden!
Wikipedia describes nutrient-dense this way.
Nutrient-dense foods such as veggies and fruits, are the opposite of energy-dense foods, such as alcohol, and foods high in added sugar or processed cereals. Beyond its use, to distinguish different types of food from each other, nutrient-density allows comparison to be made for different examples for samples of the same kind of food. Nutrient-density is correlated with soil quality and mineralization levels of the soil.
Learn more on nutrient-density from Wikipedia here.
Imagine walking out onto your own raised wooden deck through a pair of French doors, into your backyard. The time is early May. Stepping down and walking on a winding slate-stone path to reach a four-foot wide white arched arbor, and the entrance to your garden. The arbor is flanked and covered by a cascading trumpet creeper vine with huge, red trumpet-shaped flowers, with hummingbirds darting (1)in and around the trumpet flowers, and also hovering, while they drink the sweet nectar from the trumpet flowers with their long beaks.
Looking from right to left over a spance of over 18 feet is a one-foot high raised bed to the left, separated by the vine covered entrance, and another 18 feet of raised bed beyond the entrance to the right, is a beautiful array of magnificent flowers.
In both beds, almost to full-bloom, are flowers of every imaginable hue and shade and color of the rainbow, starting with a backdrop of the tallest perennials of foxglove, delphiniums, hollyhocks (edible seeds), sunflowers (edible), dahlias. Moving toward you, are shorter ones of annuals, bachelor buttons, with their unusual deep blue and purple flowers, red oriental poppies, cosmos, cleome, columbine, coreopsis.
There are also edible flowers and seeds of pansies, chamomile, California poppy, snapdragon, marigold, chives (allowed to bloom for seeds), violas, and flax. The flowers are busy with a mix of different species of butterflies, bees, and bubble bees, flying around and feeding in the blooms, doing their all important work of cross-pollinating. You knew by the research, how vitally important it was to plant flowers of all types to attract native bees and butterflies, which will also pollinate your vegetables when they first bloom, increasing your yield of produce.
Organic Vegetable, Fruit, and Herbal Garden
Walking through the arched entrance, the vegetable, fruit, and herb garden comes into view and it’s quite a sight. Again looking from left to right, are six 5-foot wide by one-foot high by 12-foot long raised beds, separated by five 2-foot wide slate stone paths between the beds. Beyond the first row of raised beds, on the rear side of the garden, is another row of six 5-foot wide by 12-foot long raised beds, and five 2-foot wide by 12-foot long stone paths running lengthwise, separated cross ways, by another 2-foot stone path running width-wise.
You remember, preparing the area for the raised beds and paths, by removing all the grass and weeds, including the roots, using your weeder puller to get all the entire roots, where all the raised beds and paths are located, and placing them in the compost pile to decompose. All the top soil was removed and placed in a separate pile. Raised beds frames were constructed out of non-treated (no chemically-treated lumber) 1-inch by 4-inch lumber, painted in two coats of white, with a high-quality, 15-year warranty, non-toxic exterior latex.
You then screwed the 1 x 4s, stacked 3 high (12 inch overall height), to 4-4-inch square posts cut to 12 inch lengths, with galvanized screws, to make the four corners of each rectangular bed. You decided you wanted deeper 12 inch beds, but you had considered 8 inch high shallower beds (2) like these in this video. The path stones were laid in 2 inches of coarse sand in a jigsaw pattern, then all the cracks between the stones were filled with sand.
Equal parts of existing topsoil, river-bottom soil, which was brought in by pickup truck, compost you prepared three months ago, and fresh, dried cow manure, also brought in by pickup truck, were mixed together and all the raised beds were filled with the soil mixture, to the 12-inch height above ground level. You checked the pH of the mixture, registering a pH of 6, which is almost perfect (range 5.5 to 7). You have carefully planned the design of your natures garden, and how your garden would be arranged.
You decided where you would locate and plant certain vegetables plants, placing the taller-growing vegetables, such as corn and climbing beans, in the center of the garden, from the front to the rear of your garden, and the shorter growing vegetables, planted left and right of center of the garden, so that the taller-growing ones were not shading the shorter-growing ones, simply because all the plants required direct sunlight of at least six hours a day. Your plants are getting right at 7 hours a day which is great.
Front Extreme Left Raised Bed. This raised bed has carrots planted 6-inches apart that should be pulling size in three weeks, garlic 6-inches apart, and also ready to start harvesting now, so dig a couple of bulbs if you need them for seasoning, 6 cucumber plants, now with quite a few developing cucumbers that will be table-ready size in one week, and many new blooms on the trailing vines, and 6 watermelon plants, with several nice size melons forming closely to the center of each plant, and blooming profusely on the outward-running vines. In the pathway separating the extreme left front and back bed, is a 2-foot by 2-foot area with herb chives growing, and a 2-foot by 2-foot area, with herb oregano growing. Both ready for cutting if you need some for a dish.
Let’s look at the common ordinary pickle, or cucumber, and it’s beneficial effect on your health and well being. In it’s fresh natural state, cucumbers are high in water content (96%) helping hydration, low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals and antioxidants, which has shown to lower blood sugar and prevent diabetes, among many other benefits. However, where cucumbers have the greatest nutritional value is when they are fermented and made into pickles. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles have a beneficial healthy effect on the brain and cognitive function.
Rear Extreme Left Raised Bed. In the back extreme left raised bed is a 4-foot deep by 5-foot wide asparagus bed with young shoots about half-inch in diameter and 6-inches tall, a 4-foot deep by 5-foot wide area with French red onions with green tops, planted 6-inches apart, well on their way to a maturing size, and a final 4-foot by 5-foot section planted with French shallots 6-inches apart, also with green tops. If you need either for seasoning than go ahead a break the tops or dig what you need of the bulbs. You remember the asparagus bed required special handling.
The asparagus needed to be planted 8 to 12-inches deeper in the ground than normal plant depth. That means your asparagus bed had to be dug deeper (3) than just 12-inches, to a depth of at least 18-inches, the root clumps planted at least 8-inches below ground, and filled with rich compost to the top of the bed. You’re thinking it took two growing seasons for the bed to mature and grow and expand into healthier and larger clumps.
After the clumps enlarged, it began producing one-inch diameter fresh tender shoots for harvest and your table. You’re thinking you could have avoided the wait had you bought 2-year old root crowns instead, when you first planted them. You are planning to cut enough shoots to braise for dinner tonight with the spaghetti sauce you are planning to cook tonight.
Asparagus really is an amazing tasty unusual-looking plant with it’s stems, which is what is edible, and it’s fern-like tops, having no food use. The nutrient-dense value of asparagus is incredible, being low in calories and a great source of nutrients, including fiber, folate and vitamins A, C, E and K, and antioxidants. Additionally, eating asparagus has a number of potential health benefits, including weight loss, improved digestion, healthy pregnancy outcomes and lower blood pressure.
Second From Left Front Raised Bed. First 6-foot by 5-foot section are 12 green pepper plants, with the first earliest peppers at the bottom of the plants gaining size and ready for harvest in less than a week, and full of new blooms higher up the plants. You can pick your first peppers in a week, and that’s exciting. The back 6-foot section has 6 Mexican poblano peppers, with some early formed young peppers and many new blooms, and 6 sweet banana peppers, with young formed peppers and many blooms. You will be able to make stuffed chili rellenes in about a week after you pick your first mess of poblano. And the banana peppers, you think you will go ahead and sample one now, even if it’s small.
Poblano peppers are low in calories and rich in most vitamins, especially vitamin C and vitamin A, as C is needed to produce collagen. Vitamin A is also a very important antioxidant and helps to protect both vision and bone health. Poblano peppers contain more vitamin A and vitamin C than a similar-sized serving of oranges. They also contain capsaicin, which is the compound that produces the heat in the peppers, giving it the ability to fight cancer cells.
Second From Left Rear Raised Bed. The full 5-foot wide by 12-foot bed is planted with 24 plants of climbing speckled butter beans, with the trailing young vines climbing the trellis you constructed, and full of young seed pods and extensive blooming above on the runners. You will be able to pick your first batch of butter beans for a meal in about a week.
Third From Left Front Raised Bed. The full 5-foot wide by 12-foot long bed planted with 24 bush snap bean plants, with the first young bean pods gracing the bottom of the plants, and full of blooms on the higher branches, as the plants and the snap beans continue to grow larger, and will also be ready for the first picking in about a week.
Green beans, string beans, or snap beans are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K, and of folic acid and fiber, supporting bone health and reducing depression. They also contain high amount of chlorophyll, which block the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines that are generated when grilling meats at a high temperature. Individuals who prefer their grilled foods charred should pair them with green vegetables to decrease the risk.
Third From Left Rear Raised Bed. The full 5-foot wide by 12-foot deep bed planted with 24 plants of Silver Queen white corn, planted early in March after the danger of frost, with young multiple ears tasseling and forming on bottom of stalks of each plant, with younger and smaller ears forming above on each stalk. You estimate you will be able to pick your first corn in ten days, and that’s exciting, too.
Front Fourth From Left Raised Bed. The full 5-foot wide by 12-foot long planted with 24 climbing Italian roma bean plants, with the young shoots upward-climbing the trellis you also constructed, full of young immature seeds pods on the bottom of the plants and full of blooms above on the runners. Your roma beans will be ready for first picking in probably ten days. Man’ some good old cooked Italian beans with some ham seasoning is really something to look forward to!
Rear Fourth From Left Raised Bed. The full 5-foot wide by 12-foot long planted with 24 Silver Queen white corn, planted 3 weeks later to stagger yield over longer period of time over the Summer. Corn is much smaller and shorter and hasn’t started tasseling yet, but will taste really good later in the Summer.
Corn not only provides the necessary calories for healthy, daily metabolism but is also a rich source of vitamin A, B, E, phytochemicals, and many minerals. Its high fiber content ensures that it plays a significant role in prevention of digestive ailments. The antioxidants present in it also act as anti-carcinogenic agents and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Front fifth From Left Raised Bed. The full 5-foot wide by 12-foot long bed planted with 24 okra plants, with young stalks about 3-foot tall and loaded with blooms and will grow much quicker and taller from now on, as the days and nights get warmer, producing edible-size okra by mid-June.
Rear Fifth From Left Raised Bed. The full 5-foot wide by 12-foot long bed planted with 24 heirloom slicing tomato plants, with many young green immature green fruits on bottom of plants and hundreds of blooms above on the vines. You’ve got at least four or five large enough green tomatoes, that you can take two and slice and roll in cornmeal and Italian breadcrumb mixture and fry up for the first fried green tomatoes of the spring.
Tomatoes contain all four major carotenoids: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene. In particular, tomatoes contain awesome amounts of lycopene, thought to have the highest antioxidant activity of all the carotenoids. Tomatoes are also rich in potassium, a mineral that Americans fall short on in their diet. Potassium is associated with heart health and proper nerve and muscle function. Tomatoes are associated with good heart health, strong bones, preventing stroke, aiding digestion, skin quality, cancer prevention, stroke reduction, treating asthma, and aiding cognition.
Front Six From Left Raised Bed. A 5-foot wide by 12-foot long front section planted with 12 yellow crook-neck summer squash with maturing young squash on lower parts of plants, and new blooms above. You will be able to pick your first squash for the table in a week. Pretty exciting! The back 5-foot wide by 12-foot long back section planted with 12 zucchini squash, with young zucchini on lower parts of each plant and new blooms above. Your first zucchini will be ready to pick in a week, too. At the end this bed and the back bed in the pathway is two 2-foot by 2-foot bed with cilantro and basil herbs, which is perfect for taking some cuttings for your spaghetti sauce tonight.
Back Six From Left Raised Bed. A 5-foot wide by 12-foot long front section planted with 18 strawberry plants, which are sending out runners, with young, beginning to ripen berries and covered in new blooms. You will be able to pick and taste your first ripened strawberries of the season in days! Wow!
Packed with vitamins, fiber, and particularly high levels of antioxidants known as polyphenols or phytochemicals, strawberries are a sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, low-calorie food. They are among the top 20 fruits in antioxidant capacity and are a good source of manganese and potassium, and the health benefits include protecting your heart, increases good HDL cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and guards against cancer. Quoting the National Institutes Of Health study:
….the bioavailability and metabolism of major strawberry phytochemicals as well as their actions in combating many pathologies, including cancer, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, neurodegeneration, along with microbial pathogenesis have been reviewed, with a particular attention to human studies.
The rear 5-foot wide by 12-foot long back section is planted with 12 cherry tomato plants, with the lower fruit ripe and ready to pick, and full of blooms above. You decide to sample a couple of cherry tomatoes, and bring enough to the table for a salad to eat along with your spaghetti tonight.
Fruit Trees and Bushes. Your eyes look over to the immediate left of your raised beds, and you see your peach tree at the rear of your property, loaded with ripening peaches on the lower branches, and full of blooms at the top of the tree. You are thinking you will be able to break your first peaches in a week or two, and you can’t wait to try your first peach right out in the garden. Thinking back, you remember planting your tree, which was transplanted from a friend’s yard as a young 6-foot seedling tree, and wondering how long it would take for your tree to mature enough to start bearing fruit. The second season the tree produced small fruits, which you removed, along with as many of the blossoms you could remove, according to horticulture recommendations. The third year you got your answer, when your tree produced an amazing amount of over 100 large juicy delicious peaches. In fact, even enough to freeze cut-up peaches in brown lunch bags for the long Winter months ahead, to enjoy. Now your tree bears so many fruit you end up giving at least half of your peach crop away, supplying family, friends, and neighbors with peaches.
Peaches provide 6% of your daily vitamin A needs and 15% of daily vitamin C needs. One medium peach also contains 2% or more daily value of vitamins E and K, niacin, folate, iron, choline, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and copper. Their health benefits are typical of other fruits and veggies rich in antioxidants.
In front of your peach tree, is your fig tree, planted the same time you planted your peach tree. You also remember it took your fig tree into its second year after planting before it started bearing nice full fruit. You remember reading somewhere back then, that one reason fig trees may not ever bear fruit within two to three years, is because of too much nitrogen in the soil, and to offset that, was for you to add more organic phosphorus additive in the soil, which you did.
So, the second year you were rewarded with enough fresh figs for your entire family all Summer long. The third year on, your tree produced such a bounty of fruit, you were able to can 20 quart-size jars of fig preserves, along with supplying your family and friends with fresh figs all Summer long. This years crop is well-on its way with hundreds of fruit on the lower branches ripening and will be ready for picking in a couple of days.
Figs are high in fiber which is beneficial for good digestion, and are a good source of several essential minerals, including magnesium, manganese, calcium, which promotes bone density, and potassium, which helps lower blood pressure, as well as vitamins, principally K and A, as well as folate and choline.
Directly in front of your fig tree, is your constructed 6-foot in diameter by one-foot high raised bed island, made of stacked slate stone, stacked around in a circle. Planted in the raised island are three blueberry bushes equally spaced apart, and full of ripe berries on the lower branches, and younger green berries, as you move up the bush, and hundreds of blooms at the tops of each bush. It’s time to pick your first batch of ripe berries before the birds get into them, but you understand, they love them as much as you do, and you really don’t mind them getting a few. You are thinking about some vanilla ice cream with fresh blueberries on top, a little later.
Blueberries, an antioxidant super food, are packed with antioxidants and phyto-flavinoids, these berries are also high in potassium and vitamin C, making them the top choice of doctors and nutritionists. Not only can they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, they are also anti-inflammatory.
You walk around the side of your house to the left side, which happens to be your north wall of your house and a great location for a vining plant, and you see your domestic blackberry vines supported on a 5-foot high by 15-foot wide constructed trellis next to the house. The four plants are also planted in a 4-foot wide by 12-foot long raised bed, 3-feet apart, and are loaded with deep black, plump, blackberries on the lower canes and vines, green immature berries on higher canes, and full white blooms on the tops of the canes. The blackberries are also ready to pick, and needs to be done today. Time to get busy!
Blackberries are very similar to blueberries in their antioxidant behavior, but are also an excellent source of vitamin K.
Generally all fruits and veggies are excellent nutrient-dense foods promoting better health and well being, as this 2012 NCBI study states….
Fruits and vegetables include a diverse group of plant foods that vary greatly in content of energy and nutrients. Additionally, fruits and vegetables supply dietary fiber, and fiber intake is linked to lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Fruits and vegetables also supply vitamins and minerals to the diet and are sources of phytochemicals that function as antioxidants, phytoestrogens, and anti-inflammatory agents and through other protective mechanisms,
Need To Supplement For Some Quick Energy. You’re thinking, you need some immediate and sustainable energy to gather the veggies, fruit, and herbs that are ready to be picked in your garden. You remember, you need to take your morning supplement of Peruvian Maca. You know, the all-natural, certified organic, non-GMO, whole-food, Super Food, nutrient-dense, Peruvian Maca.
Go ahead and refresh your memory on how much Peruvian Maca can help restore your energy levels, by reading these reviews below, particularly, after these past long Winter months, when you weren’t able to eat truly fresh totally organic veggies, fruits, and herbs from your garden, and as of yet, this spring.
Now that you know what to plant in natures garden, are you ready to enjoy this whole experience first hand, in your own garden, that you will design, and plant, and enjoy for many years to come? Or, do you still have questions? Or comments? Look for a new article soon on what to plant in your Fall garden.
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