You can’t beat the flavor of fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the garden. Tender baby peas, fresh strawberries and delicate lettuce are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to produce that can be grown at home.
A diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables offers enormous health benefits and growing your own produce at home will give the entire family an enjoyable pastime. Five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day are recommended to promote good health. Growing your own produce allows you to eat a wide variety while enjoying excellent quality when picked right out of your garden. Plus, you know the soil quality in your garden and if you used any fertilizers or pesticides on your plants.
We know families that plant and tend a garden eat more vegetables and reap the benefits of a healthy diet. Growing fruits and vegetables at home also can be a great way to cut grocery bills and supply your family with vitamin-packed fresh produce throughout the summer.
Gardening Promotes Family Time
Little ones can plant their own vegetables, watch them grow; help with weeding and watering and harvesting. Then the children can help prepare the veggies for the family dinner table. Children are more likely to eat foods they have helped pick out and prepare!
Seeds can be planted now and, when they germinate, the seedlings can be replanted outside in the garden. A good rule of thumb is to replant after Mother's Day (after the threat of frost is gone). Certain vegetables can yield two crops per year if you plant an early spring and a late summer crop. For our region those vegetables include: lettuce, radishes, snap beans, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and onions.
Most vegetables need six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Gardeners might want to consider how vegetables are grown and plan their garden based on how much room they have, if they are going to use containers, their soil quality and how much time they have to tend the garden.
When planning your garden, consider not only light but also growth patterns. Some vegetables grow above ground, such as broccoli, cauliflower, beans, tomatoes, corn, okra, asparagus, lima beans, celery, lettuce, spinach and peppers. Others grow below ground, such as carrots, onions, potatoes, beets, turnips, parsnips and radishes.
The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service also recommends succession planting when space is at a premium. This is where a vegetable can be planted in the same space during the same year after the first vegetable is harvested. Green beans, for instance, could be followed by a planting of cabbage for fall harvest.
Also, make use of the vertical space in your garden. Cages can be utilized for tomatoes and cucumbers can be trained to grow on a fence or trellis. More production per square foot can be obtained with pole beans than bush beans.
Recipes to Try at Home
Asparagus with Pinenuts
Serving Size: 4
Yield: 1 1/2 pounds
Serve immediately or at room temperature. NOTE: Toast pinenuts by placing them in a dry skillet, cook, shaking pan often just until golden and fragrant.
Keep pinenuts freezer until time to use if there are leftovers.
Green Beans and Tomatoes
Serving Size: 6
Yield: 6 cups