Even though it is not very sunny yet, all around us new green shoots are poking up out of the ground heralding the end of winter. While you enjoy seeing spring flowers and warmer days, think about using some of your open space to grow delicious, healthy food, too.
Fruits and vegetables that can be grown in your garden are packed full of many nutrients that can help you decrease the risk of certain diseases. Some of those powerful nutrients include calcium, fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.
Being outside and getting some exercise extends gardening’s health benefits beyond eating home-grown food. The mental health benefits of getting your hands in the soil to grow things, and contributing something positive to your yard, are immeasurable! Gardening is a great learning activity to share with your children, too.
In our mild climate, greens do well almost all year-round. Kale (contains vitamin A and C, calcium and potassium) is particularly easy to grow and will produce new leaves as long as you keep the seeding tops pulled off. Chard (Swiss chard contains magnesium, vitamins A and C) is another hearty green that does well in our mild climate throughout almost any season. Lettuce (leaf lettuce contains vitamin A and folate) and spinach (contains fiber, vitamins A and C, iron, folate and magnesium) grow well in the spring and fall. There are so many lettuce varieties and colors you won’t see at the store that it can be really fun to grow your own, and many can go from seed to your dinner table in 6-8 weeks. Speaking of kids — most will eat what they grow, so if you can’t get kids to eat their veggies, encouraging them to plant their own can help even the pickiest eaters to become a little more adventurous.
So many herbs grow well in our area. Rosemary and sage can be planted in pots and are perennials (grows more than one year) so with little care they will just keep on growing. Basil is another herb that does well in a pot or in a small patch, can be made into pesto, and is a classic summer green that goes great with tomatoes which contain vitamin A and C, and potassium.
The WSU Lewis County Master Gardeners program offers information on anything you need to know to grow your own food, no matter how much or how little space you have to plant your garden. Go online to http://lewis-mg-mrc.org/publications for gardening tips including: growing grains in home gardens, square-foot gardening for people with very little space, easy and inexpensive seed starters, spraying schedules for fruits and vegetables and straw-bale gardening.
The Master Gardeners website offers a wealth of other valuable information with a schedule of free gardening workshops, demonstration garden locations, and composting workshops.
The Master Gardeners’ annual plant sale is a must-see for old pros and new gardeners alike. The 2018 sale will feature more than 1,000 tomato plants along with annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, and more. All plants for sale are grown locally by Master Gardeners, which makes them ideal for your home garden. Go to the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds Expo Hall to talk to the experts and get your garden going with already growing plants.