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Friday, June 9, 2017

Backyard Vegetable Gardens as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

Backyard garden
Backyard Gardens can fit in almost anywhere
It is nearly summer which brings so many healthy possibilities. For most of us it is the time of year we feel the healthiest. We spend more time outdoors enjoying a variety of activities and we tend to eat simpler meals with fresher foods because they are abundant and readily available.

For those of us who are consciously working on living a healthier lifestyle investing in a vegetable garden is a great way for us to spend some outdoor time. It is one of the most rewarding activities because we can not only benefit from the physical activity of tending the garden but we can also benefit from the bounty of what can be harvested from gardening.

As we want to become more aware and in control of what we eat--focusing on fresh whole foods--having a vegetable garden is a perfect way to control the quality of the food we eat. If we choose to add fat, like oils or butter, or salt, or a sweetener to the foods we harvest, we can make that choice and then we will know exactly what we have added. No more guessing games with the highly processed and refined foods we are used to buying prepackaged at the grocery store. We are in control.

Raised garden bed
Three raised beds allows us to have room for tomatoes,
herbs and a few other favorite vegetables
It is amazing what you can grow in a small space or in pots on the patio. My husband and I put in three raised beds in our backyard three years ago. You do have to pay attention to where you put your beds and what grows well where you live. Even with those steps there is a lot of experimenting that goes with gardening. Making sure you have good soil and a source of water that is consistent takes some time to refine. For instance, this spring for the first time, we saw lots of worms in our beds...a good sign the soil is rich in nutrients for a great season of growing vegetables and herbs.

This year we planted four varieties of tomatoes (Purple Cherokee, Green Zebra, Juliet and 4th of July) that will mature at different times through out the summer. We also planted arugula, kale, cucumber, zucchini, and yellow squash. New this year we are trying out broccolini. One whole bed is devoted to herbs. They are great as a seasoning but also fresh added to all variety of salads and other side dishes. The standard collection of herbs we grow are: mint, basil, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, oregano, sage, chives, parsley--curly and Italian, cilantro, and dill.

Vegetable garden
The abundance of vegetables allows you to share!
If you haven't yet gotten started with your vegetable garden it is not too late! Just pay attention to how long a type of vegetable or a certain variety of vegetable takes to mature and choose accordingly. We have found, for instance, that tomatoes can take a really long time to mature so we now choose one or two varieties that have a short time to maturity from 30 - 45 days.

I find that gardening has a wonderful rhythm to it. It is great for thinking about things or about nothing at all. At the end of any time spent gardening I always feel renewed and accomplished. It is an activity that is good for the soul, the mind and the body.

When our garden is at it's full maturity there is sometimes an overwhelming amount to harvest. That is when it is fun to share the fruits...and vegetables of our labor! I am a firm believing that sharing our healthy lifestyle with others is the greatest gift we can give...and there are so many fun ways to share, including giving our friends and family vegetables and herbs fresh from our garden.


Remember to enjoy and live vibrant...and have the sunscreen handy!