How to grow your own Food

Nothing compares to the taste of a tomato just picked from the vine. Gardening is a fun and satisfying physical activity that gives you access to fresh, affordable produce. Here are a few easy steps to get started with gardening and growing your own nutritious food.

1. Know what grows. When buying plants, ask which varieties will do best in the conditions you have work with. Some plants need lots of sun while others tolerate shade. In general, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, peas, beans, corn and squash require six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Carrots, radishes, beets and other root vegetables benefit from at least three to four hours of direct sunlight. Leafy greens and lettuce can tolerate shade.
2. Be sure that you have the right soil conditions. The soil should be well draining and loose rather than clay soil or too sandy. Remove rocks and use a tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches. In addition, vegetables need organic material, such as compost or manure, to provide nutrients the plants need to thrive. Plants also need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which you can get in a fertilizer. If you don’t have good soil, consider building a raised bed.
3. Consider container gardening. If you have limited space or poor soil conditions, you can grow vegetables in barrels or buckets. Finding a container with adequate drainage is key. If the container doesn’t have holes in it, make a few half-inch holes near the bottom to allow water to run out in order to keep the plant roots from rotting.
4. Go herbal. Herbs are one of the easiest plants to grow and are a good place to start. Choose a few varieties, such as parsley, basil and rosemary. Don’t worry if you end up with too much by the end of the summer. Basil can be used to make pesto, and all herbs can be dried.
5. Start small. You don’t have to grow an extravagant garden right away. Start with a few vegetables that are easy to grow, such as cherry tomatoes, green beans or sugar snap peas. You can either use seed packets or starter plants from your greenhouse.
6. Protect your plants. You may have to put up a chicken wire fence to keep out the rabbits and deer. They love to eat vegetables!
7. Care for your garden. Water your garden regularly. Vegetable gardens need about 1 inch of water per week during cooler weather and two to three inches during peak growing stages. In addition, weed regularly because weeds harbor insects and disease and can crowd out your vegetables. Get rid of rotting or dead vegetation because they can also be a haven for pests.
8. Harvest your garden. Pick vegetables as soon as they are ripe and enjoy your delicious produce.
9. Enjoy gardening year-round. Gardening doesn’t have to end after the harvest. You can have fun looking at seed catalogs during cold winter months and start planning what to plant in the spring. You can even buy an indoor grow light to start growing tomato, bean and squash plants early in the spring.
10. Involve your kids. Research shows that kids who live in a home with a garden eat significantly more vegetables than those without access to a home garden. Gardening helps kids to engage their curiosity, learn to be resourceful and gain self-confidence. It is a great family activity that promotes physical activity.

Growing a garden is a wonderful way to eat local foods, save money, and promote a healthy diet. No matter what you plant, gardening is a fun way to get outside and enjoy the fresh air!

Tips to get your Kids to eat more Fruits and Vegetables


Spring is here, and you will start to see more fresh produce at your local grocery store and farmer’s market. This is the perfect time to talk to your kids about the benefits of fruits and vegetables. They are loaded with the nutrients your kids need to grow and to be healthy. Here are some ideas to get your kids excited about incorporating fruits and vegetables into their meals.

1. Fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables. Include fruits and veggies that your kids enjoy at every meal and offer generous helpings.
2. Be a positive role model. Be sure to include lots of fresh fruits and veggies in your diet. If your kids see you model positive behaviors, they are more likely to follow them.
3. Mix it up. Eating the same old plate of steamed veggies can be boring, so offer a variety of options. Try different cooking methods, such as roasting with herbs or sautéing with garlic.
4. Include veggies at breakfast. Make a breakfast smoothie with spinach or carrots, fill omelets with a rainbow of diced veggies, or serve toast topped with avocado.
5. Make caterpillar kabobs. Let your kids assemble chunks of melon, apple, orange and pear on skewers. For a vegetable version, use zucchini, cucumber, peppers or tomatoes.
6. Pack fruit in lunchboxes. Fruit is a good way to add a natural sweetness to the lunch meal. Include an apple, tangerine, orange, kiwi, grapes, banana, plum or berries to your child’s lunch. Fruit is “nature’s candy.”
7. Add vegetables to sandwiches. Serve your kids a healthy sandwich with whole-grain breads, lean meats, cheese and plenty of vegetables. Good ideas are tomato, onion, spinach, shredded carrots, bell peppers, cucumber, lettuce, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, or avocado slices.
8. Make “delicious dippers.” Kids love to dip their foods. Cut up some broccoli, carrots or broccoli and let kids dip them into yogurt or hummus.
9. Try personal pizzas for dinner. Set up a pizza-making station and let kids assemble their own pizzas. Use whole-wheat English muffins, bagels or pita bread for the crust. Let kids top the pizzas with tomato sauce, cheese, and a variety of cut-up vegetables. Pop in the oven or microwave to warm.
10. Fire up the grill. Try grilling yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers, onions and cherry tomatoes on a kabob. Brush them with olive oil to prevent them from drying out. You can also grill fruits such as peaches, pineapple or mango for a fun dessert.
11. Incorporate veggies into other foods. Add mushrooms to your favorite meatloaf recipe, shred carrots into spaghetti sauce, mix tomatoes into a casserole, or fold butternut squash into mac and cheese.
12. Encourage your kids to try new flavors. Ask your kids to try one new fruit or vegetable this week. Let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try at the grocery store or farmers market.

If these efforts don’t immediately change your children’s eating habits, don’t be discouraged. It can take several times of being exposed to a new food before many kids will try it. Don’t force your kids to eat something, because that generally backfires and leads to negative feelings about food. Continue to make fruits and vegetables a part of every meal and be sure to eat them yourself. Eventually your kids will start to try them and will learn to enjoy them as part of a healthy diet.

Try the recipe below as an alternative to popsicles in the upcoming summer months:

Frozen Fruit Cups
16 ounces strawberries
12 ounces orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 (20 ounce) cans crushed pineapple, undrained
2 (11 ounce) cans mandarin oranges, undrained
6 bananas, diced
1/3 cup lemon juice
16 ounces blueberries

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl
Portion in 1-cup increments, and allow to freeze overnight.
Place in lunch box in the morning, and will be a slushy consistency by lunch time