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Let’s get planting
Lettuce turnip the beet! Homegrown herbs and produce will keep your house and meal plan fresh and flavorful. There is a pot full of benefits to growing your own food at home with anything from a basil plant in the window to a tomato bush in the garden bed.
Store-bought produce is picked long before they have fully ripened. This means less time attached to the supply of nutrients and more time for nutrients to wither away before getting to your kitchen. Homegrown foods allow you to harvest exactly what you want, when you want, helping to cut back on food waste and boost the nutritional value. Because these foods are in your backyard (or hanging out on your balcony), the foods don’t have to travel via plane, train, and automobile to get to and from the store. Going green in more ways than one ultimately cuts back on your carbon footprint.
How’s your green thumb? Beginner gardeners can start with transplants. These are already seeded or partially grown plants just needing your TLC to maintain growth. If you’re a go-getter with the greenest of thumbs, try starting from scratch with seeds. Here are few foods that work well in any garden from apartment balconies to raised beds in the backyard!
This is the most popular produce to grow at home for good reason. With many different tomato varieties, you’ll get a boost of vitamins C and B6, antioxidants, and lycopene (a carotenoid known for having cardiovascular, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory benefits). Plant your tomato seeds early in the year, about 6 weeks before the last frost. Give them plenty of water and nutrient-rich soil with at least 6 hours of sunshine daily for the plumpest results.
Great for all levels of gardening, beans are simple and come in both pole and bush varieties. Common beans to grow at home include dry beans, snap beans, and wax beans (green and yellow). Beans are a great source of plant-based protein, magnesium, iron, and fiber. Plant your beans in warm soil when there are no signs of frost and be sure the soil has quality drainage.
Crunchin’ on lettuces
Salad greens and crunchy lettuces are great to have on hand for impromptu, fresh salads. Summer salads are a great way to fill up on vitamins A and C and the minerals manganese and folic acid. Keep your lettuce growing in cool temps by planting them in early spring. Prevent wilting by watering frequently on really hot days. As you keep harvesting and munching on salads throughout the season, continue planting more seeds so your supply is always in stock.
Fields of strawberries
What’s better than a strawberry fresh from the vine? And they even look amazing growing in a window box! With most store-bought berries subject to chemicals and pesticides during harvest, it’s nice on your wallet to grow your own organic varieties. Get your daily dose of antioxidants, plenty of vitamins and minerals, and fiber with strawberries. Start by growing from a plant or bare roots if you want to munch on your strawberries within the first year of harvest. These fruits also need plenty of sun (at least 6 hours a day), organic soil, and suitable drainage.
Culinary herbs add so much flavor to dishes of any cuisine. They are packed with nutrients and fiber with a variety of uses in the household outside of just the kitchen (think essential oils, lotions, and balms). Simple to grow and maintain, herbs like basil, cilantro, mint, rosemary, and thyme are both tasty and a bargain for your garden.
- Basil: Who doesn’t like fresh pesto from homegrown basil? Keep basil in rich soil and warm sunshine for the best growth.
- Cilantro: Choppy-chop up a bunch of cilantro (leaves, stems, and all!) for a fresh batch of salsa. Continue to sow the seeds during harvest for consistent growth.
- Mint: Freshen the air (or your breath) with fresh mint. This fast-growing herb likes to take charge, though, so pot it separately or keep it in a raised bed.
- Rosemary: Remember rosemary? Good! That’s because it has memory-boosting benefits. Give it plenty of sunshine and water every day. Plant it in a space where you’ll get a nice sniff of its aroma daily.
- Thyme: Take thyme to breathe! Thyme’s main compound, thymol, is therapeutic for problematic breathing like those who have chest coughs. Its small size makes it great for growing indoors, but make sure it has plenty of sunshine.
Let’s keep growing! If you’re ready to get down and dirty in the garden, check out more articles below and then put these actionable steps into practice to decide which foods to grow at home. Happy gardening!
Choose your foods
Start small and start with what you like the most. Are you growing indoors, outdoors, or both? How much space do you have? Which foods will you enjoy the most? Plan your garden, whether it be a new raised bed or a balcony full of pots.
Invest in gardening supplies
Time for a green shopping spree! Based on the foods you chose, figure out which tools and supplies you may need. Ceramic pots, potting soil, gardening gloves, pruners, plant cages, shovels (big and small), and plant stands. Check out this guide for the best indoor gardening tools. Or try this gardening tools guide for an in-depth list for beginners.
Seek out your seedlings
Decide whether you will start from seeds or buy an already planted herb or vegetable (these are called transplants). Seeds allow you to see your crop grow from start to finish, are typically less expensive, and give you a greater selection in the variety of each crop. On the other hand, transplants are convenient and give you instant satisfaction.
Plant and pot!
It’s time to get your hands dirty. Carefully research your plant seeds – the best time to grow, how much space they need, and the best growing soil. If using starter plants, be prepared to transfer them to a larger pot or garden bed with more room. Dig deep into the logistics with Kitchen Gardening 101.
Put on your green thumb
Tomatoes are potted and your thyme is in the kitchen window. Give them some tender loving care with a regular watering schedule, adequate sunlight, and trimming back old leaves and stems. Regularly check on outdoor plants making sure there aren’t any critters nibbling away on your future snacks!
Cultivate your inner chef
The most rewarding part of having a home garden is reaping the benefits of fresh herbs and produce! Try new recipes that highlight your garden foods. Pluck those cherry tomatoes right into this Tomato Confit. Toss a mixture of savory herbs into these Glazed Meatballs that will leave you drooling for more. (Don’t forget all the vitamins and minerals packed into fresh herbs!)
About the Author
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)
Shannon is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness Instructor with over 5 years of experience working in Corporate Wellness specializing in overall health, nutrition, and fitness. Throughout her journey to becoming an RDN, she grew her passion for culinary nutrition by teaching and developing hands-on cooking classes for all ages in the community.
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