Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How to Start a Vegetable Garden…It’s Not Too Late

By Paula O’Neill, M.S., RN-BC
Clinical Program Manager

Just imagine. You decide you would like a salad for lunch. You walk out to your back yard or terrace and pick a ripe, juicy tomato off the vine. Next, you select tender, succulent lettuce leaves and crisp red radishes. Delicious! There is nothing like the taste of fresh picked vegetables. And this is just one of the many benefits of having your own garden. Other benefits include:

1.     Exercise. When you are weeding, digging and planting you are also stretching, bending, and moving...all forms of exercise. 
2.     Stress relief. Studies have shown that gardening can help lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and improve mood.
3.     Connection to nature. Putting your hands in the dirt and working with the earth, nurturing life through the growth of plants, herbs, and spices has been reported by some to be a spiritual experience.
4.     Improved health. Growing your own vegetables provides you with fresh, nutrient-dense food. And an extra benefit is helping to reduce your grocery bill.

It’s not too late to start your own garden. All you need is a small area in your yard or a few containers. Choose a location that gets a lot of full sun and has good drainage. Vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. If you are planting in containers, make sure that the bottom has drainage holes. Next, select your soil. If you are a beginner you may want to start by purchasing commercial soil made specifically for growing vegetables. Now you’re ready to plant. Make sure you space your crops properly. You can follow the directions on the plant tab or seed packet. Lettuce, radishes, kale, Swiss chard and broccoli are some examples of vegetables that can be planted in August. At this time of year, it’s best to plant seedlings.

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” - Alfred Austin

If you would like more information about gardening, including how to start your own garden or maintain your current garden, join us and our Master Gardener at The Learning Garden at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center - Perth Amboy every Thursday, weather permitting, from 12 pm- 1 pm. Call 732.324.5257 for more information and to let us know you’re stopping by.

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