Homegrown Foods from the Garden Make Family Meals Healthier

father gardening with kids

Planting your own garden puts fresh, healthy veggies right in your back yard! There’s nothing like a homegrown tomato, ripened by the sun and picked at the peak of the season. And having fresh produce available means it’ll be even easier to include at least one serving at every meal and snack.

Plus, gardening offers health benefits beyond nutrition. It’s an enjoyable way to fit in more physical activity and outdoor time each week as you dig, mulch, trim, water and remove those pesky weeds. It can also help relieve stress and anxiety.

You don’t need a huge yard or tons of equipment to garden. The main thing you need is sunshine, about six hours a day, and easy access to water.

New to gardening?

Try starting small with container gardening. It’s a great way to experiment without getting overwhelmed. Get ready-to-plant seedlings (also called plant starts) from fellow gardeners or local garden stores to give yourself a strong start. Raised garden beds offer a clean slate of prepared soil, and store-bought kits make them easy to assemble. Some versions are designed for accessibility to gardeners using a wheelchair. To get started, fill with good soil that drains well, then get ready to plant. 

Decide what to plant.

Plan for a colorful crop of produce to get a good variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients from your harvest. Consider planting with a theme, such as growing tomatoes, cilantro, peppers and onions to make your own salsa.

Don’t have much space?

Look for container-friendly varieties of your favorites. For example, try tomatoes or berries that grow more compactly than in-ground versions. Or think vertically: Use existing structures as support for climbing vines, hang planters along a fence or from hooks overhead or invest in a vertical tower garden. Potatoes, chard, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and summer squash grow well in containers.

Don’t have enough sun?

Opt for herbs, lettuces or other greens, which can thrive in part-shade and pack nutrients into your meals. Or explore the possibilities of a windowsill or rooftop garden.

No yard?

Plant small containers of herbs and keep them by a sunny window. You’ll be able to snip just what you need to pack flavor into your healthy recipes without having to buy a whole package from the store. Another option is to join or start a community garden, where neighbors get together to grow food and share in the harvest. You can look for one in your area at communitygarden.org.

Get the kids involved.

Kids love getting their hands dirty. Gardening is a great opportunity to teach them about how food is grown. As a bonus, kids may be more likely to try foods they planted or harvested. Include quick-growing items like radishes and lettuces so they won’t have to wait all summer to taste the fruits of their labor. Plants like cherry tomatoes or blackberries are easy to pick and just need a quick wash before snacking. Bonus: Homegrown fruits and veggies can serve as great inspiration for make-your-own salad night!

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