It’s not too late to start a summertime garden with healthy vegetables and herbs that can grace your dinner table and significantly boost your health. Whether you have started a garden already or if you are planting your first garden, here are some tips to make the most of your summer fun ... right at home.
Go for cilantro!
Cilantro has a multitude of health benefits. It lowers anxiety, improves sleep, helps with blood sugar levels, and protects against cardiovascular disease, as well as urinary tract infections.[i]
The best way to plant cilantro is in full sun if you live in a mild climate, or light shade if you are in a hotter climate. Pick your cilantro as often as you can because it will increase foliage and life span of the plant.[ii]
TIP: The best way to eat cilantro is fresh! It is delicious with just about anything (not just Mexican dishes). It has even been known to have a cooling effect, perfect for a hot summer day.
There are several other great herbs for your “kitchen garden” (including coriander) that are easy to grow and both healthy and flavor-enhancing.
Loose leaf lettuce is ready for picking in just three weeks.
Rookie gardeners are encouraged to start with loose leaf lettuces, which include spinach, arugula and mustard greens. They are easy to grow with enough sun and afternoon shade, and they continue to grow even after you trim leaves off them.
TIP: For best results, make your salad the day you pick the leaves because these lettuces lose their nutrient value in just two days from when they are picked.
Lettuce is an excellent source of fiber and cellulose, which improves digestion and contributes to long-term weight loss. They are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, as well as potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and zinc.[iii]
Snap beans are harvested in a snap!
In about 50 days snap beans can be harvested. Even better, they improve the soil for the benefit of any other plants growing around them.[iv] In addition to having nearly the same benefits as leaf lettuces, snap beans can also satisfy some of your daily protein requirements. They are a great snack when eaten raw or with a dipping sauce, and can also be steamed or stir-fried. Very versatile ...
Cucumbers are cool, crisp and a quick harvest.
In less than two months you can have cucumbers that range in size from 3 inches to 24 inches. What they require most are hot sun and daily watering.[v]
Did you know that the cucumber is actually a fruit? Most people believe that a cucumber is a vegetable. They can be enjoyed in many ways and are great for preventing disease, lowering blood sugar levels and promoting hydration.
TIP: Talk about versatile, cucumbers can be puréed for a summer facial to tone your skin![vi]
Yum Yum's! (Enough said.)
These are sweet, hybrid-mixed mini bell peppers. They are grown in a variety of gorgeous colors and they are ideal for snacking. Yum Yum's are delicious when eaten raw but can also be grilled for kebabs or stuffed with just about anything.
Yum Yum's boost the immune system, maintain good eye health, and are ideal for weight loss and digestive health.[vii] They take about 55 days to mature, so you can enjoy them by summer's end (worth the wait).
TIP: For next year, plant seeds a half-inch deep and start planting 6-8 weeks before the last frost-free date.[viii]
Put your garden to work!
We put so much work in our gardens that we often forget to take the time to really enjoy them. Here are some creative ways to do more with your garden.
- Place benches and chairs next to your garden so that you can unwind and enjoy the beauty of your work.
- Enhance your garden with night lighting. Outdoor lights or candles in your garden can make for a fun, sparkling ambiance. Enjoy the cooler evenings outside by yourself or when entertaining family and friends.
- Add a water garden to invigorate your backyard space. A water garden can be simple in one water-tight container or it can be more elaborate.
- If space is an issue, start a summertime container garden.
Cultivating a garden can be a very rewarding experience. Make your "favorite summer restaurant" your very own "garden-to-table" concept ... right in your own home. Keep it simple and enjoy the amazing fresh flavors your garden brings.