At the end of November 2018 I wrote an article, “For Garden Earthly Delights“, discussing the many wide-ranging health benefits of having your own flower and vegetable garden. We discussed how it encourages people to engage in other behaviors and activities that promote wellness, by consuming more fruits and vegetables than non-gardeners, particularly when gardeners choose to grow food organically, they’re reducing their exposure to harmful chemicals and pesticides and potentially eating produce with a higher nutrient content. Gardening also reduces stress and improves mental health, besides getting more moderate-intensity exercise, which can help people live longer lives. So, what about a home garden? Have you thought about starting one? With all those good reasons to garden, what are you waiting for? In this article I’d like to expand that concept and discuss the “how’s”, “where”, “when’s” and “what’s” of gardening, and stress how important it is for your better health and well being:
How To Establish A Garden. How to develop a proven plan for your healthy nutritious garden, including location on your property, your design, deciding on a feasible size, and composting.
What Will Your Garden Grow? You will have to decide if you want a fabulous, nutritious-rich garden of vegetables, fruits, and edible flowers and seeds, a beautifully landscaped floral paradise, or a combination of both.
How To Establish A Garden
Direct Sunlight. Virtually all plants require a few basic ingredients. Plants are pretty magical, as they harness energy from the sun and, through photosynthesis, convert that energy into their tissues. Because plants need the sun to grow, many plants, including most fruits and veggies, need a good amount of Sun, around six hours during the day.
Sufficient Moisture. Plants also need water, and it’s often the amount of water that’s available that will keep plants from wilting up in the summer sun and heat. How much you need to water plants will depend on a few things. Hotter and drier air will pull moisture from plants and soils more quickly, so more watering will be necessary as the temperatures go up. The type of soil you have in your garden will also affect how much water is available to plants.
A good rule of thumb is that plants should receive enough water to cover the ground with an inch of water each week. And, it’s better for plants to get all the water one or two times per week rather than a small amount each day. In many places, it may be necessary to water your garden regularly in order to keep plants happy. Consider your water sources; if they’re not close to the area where you’ll be gardening, it will be important to figure out a system for transporting water to your garden. Mulching around your plants will also conserve water.
Nutrient-Rich Soil. Plants need nutrients in order to grow healthy and strong, and those same nutrients are passed on to us when we eat plants for food. In particular, plants need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These nutrients can either be derived from the soil, or will need to be manually added. Garden soils can be tested to find out whether it has a good pH and sufficient nutrients to support plant growth. If the soil isn’t ideal for growing plants, you will need to supplement it with organic fertilizers, or composting. I can’t stress enough, for your health and well being, the importance of using certified-ORGANIC additives, and fertilizers in your garden. Absolutely no chemical additives, fertilizers, or pesticides, should get within a 100 feet of your garden. There are natural organic-based deterrents and home-based remedies for repelling insects. So, no pesticides, because they will kill good insects too! Yes, there are insects you want in your garden, such as lacewings, lady bugs, praying mantis, wolf spiders, ground beetles, hover flies (looks like a small yellow jacket but no sting), and brachonoid wasps. Leave me a note in the comment section below, and I’ll be happy to send you my favorite formula for deterring bad insects. As a rule of thumb, vegetables like a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.
Rich Compost. For building a fast-compost, do the following: Choose an out-of-the-way area that gets direct sunlight for your compost pile, or use a large capacity compost bin. Place coarse material such as branches, twigs, and stalks on bottom at least one-foot high, which helps with air circulation through the pile. Alternate moist green materials such as kitchen scraps (no meats or fats), coffee grounds, used tea bags, grass clippings, dryer lint, and hair clippings, and dry materials such as leaves, dead plants, etc., in 3 inch layers, up to 5 or 6 feet high, and mix up.
Add nitrogen-rich activator, or cow manure, if you can locate. Another good additive is shredded and soaked newspaper and corrugated cardboard, as food for worms and microbes to keep them happy. Using a spray nozzle moisten between each layer as you go. Cover top of pile with layer of finished compost or soil and clear plastic sheeting to help build up heat for decomposition. Turn pile every 7 to 10 days and re-moisten if needed, and in two to three months, you’ll have the blackest (black gold), richest, sweet-smelling compost you’ve ever seen.
Planting and Design. Gardens come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s just a matter of figuring out what will work for you. Community gardens provide another great alternative if your gardening space is limited or if you’re looking for a more social gardening scene. If you’re growing plants outdoors, try to choose a spot that optimizes all those things that plants need, such as light, water, nutrients, and good soils. You can choose to grow plants directly in the soil, which is an easy and affordable option, if you are fortunate enough to have fertile topsoil, or, to build raised beds, which conserves space, or to grow plants in containers. Raised beds, which are basically large wooden boxes (non-treated lumber) filled with soil, are often six to 24 inches off the ground; ideally 12 inches deep is fine, they can be very productive, but it will cost additional money to build the frames for beds. Remove the existing topsoil where beds will be and bring in a couple of pickup truck loads of natural river-bottom topsoil, which you can find and buy locally, or purchase bagged certified-organic soil. Mix your topsoil with the river-bottom soil, or bagged soil, and fill your raised beds. For smaller spaces or starter gardens, containers are a fantastic way to go because they provide so much flexibility. Watering is especially critical for containers because they dry out faster than garden beds. Luckily, these gardens are often pretty small so watering only takes a few minutes.
Reason For Garden. In planning your garden, there specific things you have to think about, such as what type of plants are you excited about growing? Many people are interested in growing their own food, but others may be interested in simply beautifying their decks or yards. If you are growing plants for food, what do you like to cook and eat the most? Grow things that are so delicious to you, and they may not even make it into the house!. But, also you should give serious consideration to the nutritional value of the food you grow, such as the fruits, nuts, seeds, and veggies found in the Mediterranean Diet, which we will assume is important to you, when we ask the question “What will your garden grow?”
And don’t forget to consider how space and light is available for your garden? Another question you should answer, how much time are you willing to commit to starting and maintaining your garden? Plants require regular care, so be realistic about how much time you’ll be willing to spend weeding, watering, and so on. One important note on weeding. One huge advantage of using raised-beds, is you cut down on the growth of natural and annoying weeds. It’s generally a good idea to start small and learn the ropes before taking on a huge commitment. If you love it, you can scale up from there.
What About A Home Garden and What Will Your Garden Grow?
Healthy, Nutritious Fresh Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds. Be sure to select the most nutrient-dense vegetables to grow in your garden. Not all are created equal! There are vegetable varieties bred specifically for better health, from tomatoes to carrots to zucchini. Bring good taste and good health and well being to your garden and table! We all want to provide our families with the most nutritious meals we can and if you are growing your own vegetables you definitely are eating the freshest possible produce you can get.
And remember, one way to increase the nutritional content of what you grow this summer is to pay attention to your soil and be sure that you are replacing all important trace minerals, by using ample amounts of fresh compost that you created!
Another way is to grow varieties that have been bred to have higher levels of phytonutrients. What’s that you ask? Phytonutrients are plant chemicals that protect the plants from insects, disease, drought, and other forms of adversity. Some of them, like the antioxidants, those with anti-inflammatory properties, high in omega-3 fatty acids, and folates, have been found to help humans weather adversity as well by strengthening our immune systems, protecting us from cancer, warding off heart disease, lowering cholesterol, and supporting healthy vision.
Several universities around the country have plant breeding programs that are looking at ways to increase the healthy antioxidants in different vegetables. Natural ripening increases the amount of phytonutrients in any vegetable and makes them more readily absorbed, which is just another good reason to grow your own instead of relying on commercial produce, which is picked green before being shipped to your store.
High Antioxidant Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds. Damaging molecules in your body, called free radicals, are produced, as both a byproduct of normal body waste function, and a result of environmental exposures from harmful invaders such as pollution, and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells and cause dysfunction within your body. A balanced diet containing antioxidants, such as lycopene and beta carotene, significantly reduce the damaging effects of free radicals, by repairing cell damage, as well as, strengthening the immune system, and it supports your body in growth and repair. Lycopene lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. Beta carotine protects against heart disease, viral infections, cataracts, and cancer. Lutein, found in leeks, lettuce, and kale, is a great vision protector, preventing cataracts and macular degeneration. Sources of antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Vitamin C–fruits and veggies high in Vitamin C are oranges, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peppers, and tomatoes.
Vitamin E–nuts, oils, and veggies high in vitamin E are almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts, sunflowers seeds, vegetable oil, spinach, tomatoes, and kiwi.
Zinc– veggies, seeds, high in zinc are sesame seeds, pumpkin, crimini mushrooms, and spinach.
Beta-Carotine–fruits and veggies high in beta-carotine are pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, broccoli, apricots, red cabbage, and cantaloupe.
Selenium–veggies, nuts, high in selenium are brazil nuts, beans, legumes, whole grains, crimini mushrooms.
Vitamin B6–sources high in B 6 are bananas and potatoes.
Magnesium–veggies, fruits, seeds, and nuts high in magnesium are black beans, chickpeas, soy beans, green peas, spinach, swiss chard, tofu, dates, figs, almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.
Others high in anti-oxidants include prunes, blackberries, plums, beets, kale, goji, grapes, artichokes, cauliflower, figs, cherries, red delicious apples, and pomgranates.
High Anti-Inflammatory Vegetables, Nuts, and Seeds. Your immune system becomes activated when your body recognizes anything that is foreign and invading, and it triggers the defensive process of inflammation, to destroy the invaders. However, sometimes inflammation develops and persists on its own, from some imbalance, and becomes your enemy. Many major diseases that plague humans, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s’s, have been directly linked to inflammation. Plants with anti-inflammatory properties promote hearth health, fight viral diseases, and support good cognitive function. Latest research is confirming what we eat is the main contributor to excessive and persistent inflammation in our bodies.
To reduce the potential of inflammation in your body, reduce the consumption of high inflammatory-causing foods, such as fried foods, sodas and high-sugar drinks, reprocessed foods, fast foods, refined carbs such as white bread and white rice, animal fats like lard, shortening, and margarine, processed meats and fatty meats.
Foods that combat inflammation are tomatoes, olives and olive oil, mushrooms, peppers, and broccoli, green leafy veggies, especially dark-green leafy veggies like kale, turnip greens, collards, and spinach, nuts like walnuts, pecans, and almonds. Fruits like strawberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, pineapple, and oranges.
High Omega-3 Fatty Acid Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds. Consuming high omega-3 foods may also reduce inflammation, alleviating fatigue, and improve concentration and mental clarity. Omegs-3s are important for many bodily functions, including your brain, eyes, and nervous system, and most likely your mood.
Best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flax seeds, peanuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, pecans, and walnuts. Other sources are, avocados, cloves, romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, navy beans, edamame beans, kidney beans, lentils, basil, broccoli, cauliflower, tofu, soy beans, summer and winter squash, and any dark green leafy veggies.
High Folate Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, and Seeds. Folic acid, also referred to as a folate, is a B-complex vitamin that has very important roles. Its most notable role is in preventing pregnancy and neutral tube defects, but it also aids in proper red blood cell formation and development, cell growth, and supporting your nervous system. Due to its relationship to the nervous system, a folate deficiency or a diet low in folate is associated with depression irritability, mental fatigue, and insomnia.
Excellent sources of folates are spinach, asparagus, romaine, mustard greens, collard greens, broccoli, beets, lentils, parsley, cauliflower, summer squash, bell peppers, green beans, tomatoes, peas, brussels sprouts, black beans, kidney beans, strawberries, papaya, and fennel.
No Peruvian Maca In Your Garden. Unfortunately, one of the most nutrient-dense, whole-food, Super Food, Adaptogen Peruvian Maca, is the one vegetable you will not be able to plant in your garden now or any time in the foreseeable future. Peruvian Maca, native to Peru and the high Andes Mountains, can not be exported, at least legally, in it’s whole root form or its seeds outside of Peru, per the Peruvian Government, because it is considered a Heritage Plant of Peru. So, there is no way to legally plant Peruvian Maca outside of Peru. However, Peruvian Maca, is availabe as a supplement in fresh dried chunks, and powder, which is the next best thing. Why do you need to supplement with Peruvian Maca, besides starting your own nutritious-rich garden? Read the following reviews and you will have the answer.
What about a home garden now? We hope you found this article informative and you seriously consider having your own personal nutritious-rich garden, which will benefit you and your family health-wise in so many different ways. If you want to be able to walk out into your garden by the first of June, and pick a fresh, tender, sweet ear of Silver Queen white corn, you need to start planning your garden NOW! What are your questions? Any comments will certainly be appreciated too.
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