Gardening for Health and Wellness

We had those April showers… Are you ready for your May flowers? 

Relaxing and enjoyable– gardening is a wonderful way to spend your free time. There are so many benefits of planting a garden in your backyard or using a community garden plot. 

Some of the benefits of gardening include: 

  • healthier fruit and vegetable options for your entire family, with less chemicals and pesticides 

  • Vitamin D from all that sunshine! 

  • Fresh air and exercise, lifting bags of soil is a real work out! 

  • great educational experience for the entire family 

But, if you’re like Dr. Jennifer, you’re interested in creating your own garden but you have no idea where to start. Here are some HEALTHY, easy-to-grow in Ontario veggies: 

String Beans- A great source of fibre, potassium and folate. They contain anti-oxidants similar to those found in green team. 

Cherry Tomatoes- A major source of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. Cherry tomatoes are also high in Vitamin C and K. 

Kale – The superfood of the century. This rich, green, leafy vegetable is an amazing source of a multitude of nutrients and is easy to grow from seed in early spring or fall when temperatures are cooler.

Cucumber- Cucumbers promote hydration, may help with weight loss and blood sugar regulation. It is so easy to add into a salad or eat on its own with some hummus. Plus, it tastes delicious in a glass of ice cold water. 

Whatever you decide to grow, remember to do a little research first to make sure that your garden is going to be rich and bountiful.

Dr. Jennifer and Dr. Jason’s mom, Josie, is the best gardener. We love going over to her house in the summer and fall and enjoying the “veggies of her labour”. She always grows the best string beans. Here are Josie’s best tips for gardening: 

  1. Everyone loves garden tomatoes. Tomatoes have a long maturation time, this is the one item I would splurge on and buy mature plants instead of seedlings, or patio plants and plant them directly into the ground, that way they don’t dry out too quickly. You will be enjoying fresh tomatoes much earlier this way. Tomatoes will get black bottoms if they do not have enough calcium in the soil, to help prevent this sprinkle powered milk around the base of the plant when planting or mix directly into the soil, you can also occasionally water with the powdered milk mixed right into the watering can. 

  2. String green/yellow beans, peas. These are the easiest plants to grow and give a good yield. You can plant the seeds directly in the garden on the long weekend in May. I’ve found planting the seeds earlier doesn’t make them spout any faster, it actually delays them because the ground is too cold, be patient and wait for the ground to warm up.

  3. Keep the stems of your plants from being eaten by bunnies or rodents. Save large cans, cut off both ends and put it over top of the plant, this protects its base from animals.  You can water directly into the mouth of the can, water goes directly to the base of the plant and water is saved by not watering the rest of the soil in the garden.

  4. Another vegetable I have had luck with is Kale.  Kale grows quickly and if you just harvest the tops, they keep growing until well into the cold fall weather.

  5. Don’t forget to plant herbs, you can go out to your garden and pick the tops of the plants, you will have fresh herbs all summer.  Don’t forget if you have herbs available at harvest time, pick them and freeze them in little ziplock bags.  Be careful with oregano, if you let it seed it will take over your garden in the years to come, it is very invasive.  Just keep the plant from blooming to prevent this.


Get the whole family involved

Gardening is more fun when the whole family is involved! When deciding what to plant in your garden, remember that your children will have more fun helping you choose if there is a theme involved. Some fun themes can include a “Pizza Garden” or a “Salad Garden”.

A pizza garden would include tomatoes and seasoning for the sauce as well as Swiss chard, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers and onions for toppings. This theme can include anything that will grow well in your climate and taste good on top of a healthy pizza.

A salad garden can include anything you would like to include in a salad with your lettuce options being your first choice. Arugula, romaine lettuce and baby spinach are great options (remember that iceberg lettuce is really lacking in nutrients so shouldn’t be the base of your salad). 

Vegetables that will taste great on your salad may include tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, beans, beets and broccoli.

Letting your children help you decide what to plant will have them vested in your garden and looking forward to watching it grow.

Gardening for Health and Wellness

A family garden is simply a wonderful way to spend productive time together. Not only for organic vegetable and fruit growing, but for exercise and fresh air as well. It’s probably one of the best things you can do for you and your family on a warm spring day. 

Have you planted a garden in the past and have some amazing tips? Let us know your favourite gardening tips.