It’s Sunny and Warm… It’s Garden Time! At HealthBarn USA we are all about sharing important information about living a healthy-lifestyle, so you too can bring these exciting concepts home to your family! I’ve been teaching the Organic Veggie 101 Workshop at the Barn to many first time gardeners and I’m excited to report that there is a serious grow-your-own food movement sprouting in Bergen County, NJ. You don’t have to be a tree hugger to join this movement, it’s a well-heeled crowd who are getting informed and dirty!
Don’t despair about animals munching on all of your hard work, here are my basic tips and resources on how to get your garden started at home whether it’s in the ground or in a container — it’s worth the effort!
- Pick a sunny spot! Choose an area that gets a lot of direct sunlight throughout the day and has easy access to a water source. Veggies need at least six hours of direct sunlight!
- Compost. The soil is the key ingredient when it comes to healthy plants and healthy people, so use compost or an organic potting soil for vegetables. To compost, dig a hole in your yard in a sunny place, add fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, tea, coffee grinds and egg shells daily, turn it using a shovel or pitch fork, and you’ll have healthy soil in no time! Blessings Blends will get you high quality black gold while you get your compost pile start!
Plant what you like to eat. Everyone always asks me, “What should I plant?” Start with what you eat! I begin by reviewing our favorite seasonal recipes loaded with veggies first and then, I take an inventory of my seeds to determine what I need to purchase for spring, summer and fall plantings (with expert advice of our youngest farmers, too!)
- Know your zone! Check for your region in the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone to get a good idea about what crops grow best in your zone by clicking here.
- Buy seeds & seedlings. Purchasing high quality seeds is important for germination because there is nothing worse than planting seeds and watching nothing come up! I recommend organic seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and heirloom seeds (and a variety of unique plants) from Seed Savers Exchange. For seedlings, it’s important to buy from reputable local nurseries (preferably one that grows their seedlings from seed) because it minimizes the risk of diseased plants.
- Garden gear. The essentials include a shovel (large and small), hoe, rake, gloves and a hat (for sun and heat protection). Make sure to get enough “stuff” at the right sizes, so the whole family can participate.
- Have fun! Remember, the garden doesn’t have to be perfect — just get started, enjoy getting dirty and being active with friends, family and neighbors!
Need more motivation? Home gardening saves money, too! According to the National Gardening Association, a 600-square-foot garden yields $600 worth of produce for an investment of $70 — WOW! For additional reading, check the Yogurt Dish’s article about organic gardening as a family with my two cents about the importance of composting!
What’s your favorite vegetable to grow?
– Stacey Antine, MS RD, author, Appetite for Life, founder, HealthBarn USA, co-host, Family Food Expert Internet Radio Show, and recognized as top 10 dietitians nationally by Today’s Dietitian magazine for her work with HealthBarn USA.