You are here

Grow What You Eat

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

Dad was never a fan of ornamental shrubs and flowers. His philosophy was: Grow what you can eat! And, by golly, we ate good from his huge summer gardens filled with potatoes, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, string beans, spring onions and anything else tasty he could squeeze into the 40-by-100-foot plot behind my childhood home in Newport News.

Those summer gardens fueled my own desire to grow what I could eat, even though Dad continued to spoil me with fresh produce until his health recently declined. Today, I often grow edibles in raised beds fashioned from plain boards of lumber, or try my hand at straw bale gardening, which I really like because the entire garden can be recycled into compost.

My favorite edibles continue to be tomatoes – small grape tomatoes like Juliet and cherry tomatoes like Super Sweet, as well as mini pickling cucumbers that cut up nicely into fresh spinach salads. Eggplant and squash are also easy to cultivate in a backyard garden.

For the past two to three years, I plant extra miniature tomatoes like Juliet because my yard turtle, Fred, favors them so much. Each morning, bright and early, Fred creeps from the creek, along the grassy back lawn, into my pollinator garden where I place one or two tomato plants just for him. He always knows they will be there, and I know he will always be there – it’s one of the best parts of my mid-summer gardening days when the fruits begin to ripen.

This year, I’m introducing my 3-year-old granddaughter, Mattie, to gardening. Using a kit of cedar boards, she and I will plant a small garden of veggies, things like tomatoes, basil, oregano and onions for a homemade pizza, and surround it with marigolds for color and extra pollination.

In addition to my father, my grandmother in Lynchburg mentored my love for any kind of gardening. We spent many hours under her grape arbor, shelling fresh-picked butterbeans and shucking corn. I hope to pass that love onto Mattie and inspire her to grow what she can eat – it’s a healthy way to love your grandkids, for sure!

Portrait of a Pepper

Stuffed, pickled, jelled, roasted, hot, mild, sweet, bell, ornamental, mini, long, red, green, yellow and orange - Peter Piper sure had his work cut out for him! Peppers come in a beautiful array of colors, shapes, sizes and tastes. This fruit is an excellent way to add flavor, color, and crunch to an otherwise bland dish. But peppers can also add a unique range of nutritional benefits to their expansive resume.

Whether mild or spicy, peppers are nutrient packed and are one of the richest sources of vitamins A and C. Just a cup a day can provide more than 100% of your daily requirements. Select from a variety or pepper colors to get the biggest bang for your buck. All peppers, red, green or yellow, are excellent sources of vitamin C and vitamin A - two antioxidants that work together to neutralize free radicals. And, recent research indicates that both hot and sweet peppers contain substances that have been shown to increase the body's heat production and oxygen consumption for about 20 minutes after eating, which means your body is burning extra calories! So, whether you like the sweet or the heat, there’s a peppery for every pallet.

One of our favorite peppers is Red Beauty. Try this variety for a juicy, sweet 3 to 4-inch pepper with extra thick walls and glossy green fruit that turns to vivid red when mature. A great addition to a summer cookout or add to any salad or dish for pop of color and flavor. These enjoy sunny, warm days, and well-drained, fertile soil.

Filed Under: 

Veg Out!

The end of summer doesn’t mean the end of vegetable gardening. Cooler weather makes gardening more enjoyable and there are less insects to bug you. Actually, frost tends to improve the flavor of many cool weather crops. And, an added benefit is that many of these plants are visually pleasing in your yard, giving your landscape a boost in appearance.

To get started, we’ve compiled a few easy steps for fall veggie garden success.

  1. Prepare the Soil.
    Start from the bottom up to really have success. We suggest turning over the soil as one of the most important steps. This process aerates and mixes soil components.
  2. Fertilize with Compost.
    When fertilizing a vegetable garden, organic fertilizers are recommended. They consist of natural, organic material such as forest products, vegetable waste and animal manure. It can be purchased in bags, bulk, or made at home. McDonald Compost (sold in bag or bulk) will do the trick!
  3. Plant Your Garden.
    Dig the hole a bit larger than the plant’s root ball, place the plant in it, and firm the soil around the roots to the level of the surrounding soil. Water to eliminate air pockets and provide moisture to the root system.
  4. Water & Weed Regularly.
    Be sure your veggie garden receives water and you remove the weeds so that the weeds are not competing with the nutrients your plants need to perform their best.
Filed Under: 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Veggie Gardening