By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor
Gardening is an activity for all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Every growing season is a new experience, so it doesn’t matter if you are just starting out or if you’ve been gardening for generations. Vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens – or edible gardens – can provide enjoyment as a hobby and can also provide fresh food for the table.
I’m not suggesting that you must grow all of the food you eat but I am encouraging you to consider joining a community garden or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or grow a few plants in your own yard or containers.
You do not have to have a 20×20 foot lot to grow a vegetable garden. In one 4×4 foot garden bed you could grow a nice variety of a few plants. Even a large container, 18 inches across could hold a pepper plant and letter plants. You can enjoy the health benefits of gardening, even if it’s on small scale.
Last month we talked about using herbs to season food without adding extra sodium. Growing a small herb garden (in the ground or in containers) is a great way to do a little gardening and enjoy a lot of flavors. What ways do you currently flavor your favorite recipes? Basil, rosemary, and oregano love the warm weather and can be planted anytime now that we are past the threat of frost.
Do you like garlic? Spicy foods? There are so many varieties of hot peppers that you would be amazed! Herbs can be used to season and garnish food for fresh flavor. They can also be used in other ways such as using the scent of lavender for calmness or refresh by drinking herbal teas or herb-infused water. You can even grow a stevia plant to sweeten your tea.
In addition to fresh food, gardens offer us other health benefits. For example, more research is showing the health value of people being outside in nature. In fact, one “prescription” for nature for health benefits is to spend 20 minutes a day outdoors. Research shows that people who spend at least 2 hours in nature each week report better health and wellbeing. The garden is one of many outdoor spots to enjoy nature.
Now, the plants do need a little bit of tender loving care. Plant them in a spot where they will get plenty of sunlight – ideally six to eight hours a day. Either test the soil in the ground or use potting soil for containers to make sure you have the ideal growing conditions.
Most vegetables need an average of one inch of water a week. If it rains an inch, over the week, they will probably have what they need. In the middle of the hot summer days, you will want to check to make sure that the soil is moist and that the plants are not dropping over. This is just a quick refresher for those who have not gardened in a while. If you have questions about vegetable gardens, you can call the Lucas County Horticulture Hotline with gardening questions on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10am – 1pm at 419-578-6783. Or go online to go.osu.edu/familygarden.
I encourage you to think about some of your favorite recipes, ingredients and/or the produce that you buy most often at the store. Can you grow any of those vegetables or herbs? When thinking about menus or recipes, some different garden themes could be: Pizza garden (tomatoes, peppers, herbs), Salsa garden (tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro), Salad garden, or Edible Flower Garden (nasturtiums, borage, purple chive blossoms). Growing some of your favorite produce won’t eliminate the need to go to the grocery store but it might save a few dollars when you make your food shopping trips.
Once June hits, the weather is getting too warm right now to plant seeds for cool weather crops like lettuce, spinach, cilantro, and radishes. All of those plants handle the cool weather in the spring or fall, better than the hot summer. For those plants that only like it cool, the good news is that those seeds can be planted again in the late summer for a fall harvest.
For more details about the fall vegetable garden, visit go.osu.edu/fallveggarden or call the Lucas County Horticulture Hotline, listed above. The other good news, is that many other greens, like collards or kale, can grow through the heat and be ready for a fall harvest. If you want to get some warm weather crops in like tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cooking greens, get the transplants in the garden now for a tasty treat later this summer.