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Our Blog: April 2, 2020

Planting a Garden for Earth Day

GettyImages-1144977268By Nicole Spain, Registered Dietitian

Earth Day is right around the corner, and with a little planning and preparation, a fun way to celebrate is to plant your own garden.  You could start small with containers or go big with raised beds or in-ground gardening.  Whichever you choose, it will be fun digging in the dirt and watching plants sprout with your kids!  And in a few weeks’ time, you’ll get the added bonus of being able to harvest your own vegetables and herbs!

If you live in a cooler climate, you may want to start with peas or leafy greens.  Peas and leafy greens such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard love cooler temperatures. They grow well in full sun in the spring and fall.  They should be lightly watered because their roots are prone to rot; or, you can plant them in hills or mounds to encourage them to dry out faster.

After the last frost, you can move on to these easy-to-grow veggies and herbs:

Tomatoes: These are not the easiest to start from seed, so I suggest purchasing small plants from nurseries, if possible.  Tomatoes love heat and sun, so pick a spot with full sun.  Place tomato stakes or cages in the soil at the time of planting to avoid damaging roots later on. If your transplants are leggy, you can remedy this by burying up to 2/3 of the plant, including the lower set of leaves. 

Cucumbers – These are easiest planted directly in the soil or in containers outside in early summer.  Plant approximately 18 inches apart or 1 per container. Train your cucumbers to grow up supports such as a trellis, bamboo canes, or strong netting. Keep plants well-watered and harvest cucumbers when they are small (approx. 3 inches).  

Zucchini – Like tomatoes, zucchini plants like plenty of sun.  Plant them 3-6’ apart and always water at the soil level (never on the leaves).  They grow like weeds and soon you’ll have plenty to share with neighbors. If you want to eat them for dinner, pick when they are approximately 6-8 inches in length. If you want to shred and make into zucchini bread, you can let them get much bigger.  Just be sure to slice lengthwise and scoop out the seeds before shredding.

Beans – These are fast growers that like the sun.  Bush beans will grow low to the ground in bush formations whereas pole beans will need something to climb, such as poles, strings or a trellis.

Carrots and Radishes – Literally mix your seeds and plant these in rows together. The radishes will sprout quickly and will push up and break up the soil for the later producing carrots.  As you harvest the radishes the carrots will later fill in the row. 

Basil, Dill and Cilantro –These are all annual herbs meaning they will grow for one season long. I prefer to buy these at nurseries as small plants rather than from seed, but you can start from seed indoors or plant directly outdoors.  If starting indoors, start seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost. A small space is needed to grow an herb garden but you can also plant them in containers. Herbs need at least 6 hours of sun daily. These three herbs are very versatile and can be used in many recipes. I love throwing fresh basil in just about everything starting with scrambled eggs in the morning, a salad in the afternoon and spaghetti sauce in the evening. 

If you're unable to purchase seeds, you can always grow fruits and veggies from scraps! Here's how:

One of my all-time favorite “fresh from the garden” summer recipes is Dilled Cucumber Salad.

Dilled Cucumber Salad

Serves 4-6

Cucumbers                                                                         1 lb

Sour Cream, light                                                              1/2 C

Fresh Dill, chopped                                                         1 Tsp

Fresh Chives, chopped                                                   1 Tbsp

Salt & Pepper                                                                    to Taste               


Cooking Instructions:

  1. Dice the cucumbers (1/4 inch pieces)
  2. Mix the sour cream, dill, chives, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Add the diced cumbers and mix gently.Lightly chill before serving.