Watch your own garden grow with The no-Fail Guide to Gardening

Debra K chats with Master Gardener Kay Cannon on how best to help a garden grow.
BY DEBRA K | POSTED MAY 30, 2013 on

dk at Farmer's Market

As I venture out into the world of health and wellbeing one thing becomes increasingly clear: it is vital we eat healthy, whole foods as close to the source as possible.  We have access to vegetables in a variety of ways, from fresh-picked to canned.  To get the most amount of nutrients and benefit, it is best to eat as close to their source as possible.  So, for example, if you have access to farms and orchards and you are able to go and pick ripened vegetables off the vine, you will be eating the healthiest version of that item.  The farther you get from that experience the less healthy they become.  So a canned version of the same vegetable has been harvested some time ago, cooked, stored, shipped and might even contain additives and preservatives that are unnatural.  All steps of this process degrade the nutrients in the vegetable.  Always try to get the freshest variety of the produce to receive optimal health benefits.

Another great option is to try and grow some of your own herbs and vegetables.  Not being an avid gardener myself I reached out to a good friend who could offer us some advice.  When Kay Cannon, an award-winning executive coach who helps Type A individuals achieve success without collateral damage isn’t helping her coaching clients, she’s putting her Master Gardener’s training to work.  She gave me the following advice on how to grow a successful garden.

DK:  I normally kill all plants that come into my home – is it possible to grow your own successful garden?

Kay:  Gardening is like baking a cake. You need to mix together the right ingredients in the right amount at the right time. To successfully grow a vegetable garden you need to plant the right plant in the right place at the right time and then provide the right amount of water and fertilizer so it can grow big and strong. But here’s the deal. Growing seasons and conditions vary dramatically from one geographic location to another. Growing a vegetable garden in Florida is going to be very different from growing a vegetable garden in Minnesota. To get a gardening “recipe” specifically designed for your part of the country, contact your local county extension office and ask if they have a publication on growing vegetables in your area. Many of these extension publications are free or cost very little and you can trust the information because it’s based on research done at your local land grant university. If you don’t have access to a local county extension office, you can search for this information on the internet by putting in the following search terms “growing vegetables in [insert your state here] extension”. It’s very important that you include the word ‘extension’ in your search terms. This insures you will get scientifically based information from a land grant university. Look for the search results from universities in your area.

If you are not able to have your own garden some great options are to go to farmer’s markets, produce stands or sign up for farm delivery.  The next best option is to always buy fresh produce in your grocery and prepare yourself.  If you must by pre-prepared items read the label to see what has been added to keep the item fresh and skip the ones that have too many additives or ingredients you can’t pronounce.

I’m a firm believer in taking baby steps.  So for a true newbie it is best to start in a manageable way which might be some potted plants on a window sill or on the back porch.  My first venture into growing my own food items started with fresh herbs.  I had bought some young basil, mint and rosemary plants at my farmer’s market.  The seller was more than happy to spend time with me educating on how to care for the plants.

I placed the pots in sunny windowsill and was able to use these herbs immediately in dishes I was cooking.  This was an easy and great first step to starting my own garden.  Once you are confident in your ability to do this, you can move some larger pots of herbs and vegetables outdoors and try to raise some plants this way.   The level of work stays manageable and you will have a high probability of success.  If you find you love this, then you can begin to explore having some part of your property dedicated to growing vegetables.  Most nurseries, farms and sometimes garden stores will offer advice and classes to help you be successful.


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