| Especially for the Monroe News
When it comes to having fresh produce in your diet, there’s nothing like going straight from plant to plate by growing your own fruits and vegetables.
And you don’t even need a garden for this – a container on your veranda or balcony or even a window box inside offer a surprising variety of products.
“Having a garden at home is one of the best ways to get fresh produce,” said Frank Nagle, manager of population health and community relations at ProMedica.
Since its inception in 2017, he has worked with ProMedica Farms on the grounds of ProMedica Charles and Virginia Hickman Hospital in Adrian.
In the grocery store: “You are at the mercy of what is in stock and what is in season. It’s unbeatable to have it fresh off the ground, ”he said.
Now that it’s spring, the time has come to start thinking about opening your own garden or container garden.
You might even be surprised to discover the range of products you can produce in one growing season in Michigan, Nagle said, because vegetables like peppers and onions do well even in colder weather, while tomatoes, shallots, and carrots are among the many vegetables to enjoy which can also be grown indoors in containers.
Where should I start? The idea of creating a backyard garden may seem daunting, but there are numerous resources available to help you channel your inner farmer.
For example, the MSU Extension Service website has everything you need to know about growing fruits and vegetables indoors and outdoors. To do this, visit canr.msu.edu/home_gardening.
A handy calendar provides information on what you need to do to get the most out of your home garden. There are numerous articles covering topics such as planning your garden, repelling annoying insects, hibernating potted plants and explaining where plants grow best.
It is true that a garden requires regular watering, weeding, and general plant care, but what it actually doesn’t need is lots of space.
“It comes down to, ‘How much time do I want to spend on this?'” Nagle said, explaining that a lot of just 8 by 10 feet, or even 8 by 15 feet, is pretty manageable for a person. ”
Time to plant
What should you plant when you have your property ready?
Tomatoes and peppers are pretty easy to grow, Nagle said, but vegetables like kale and Swiss chard can also thrive in a backyard garden. Nagle also suggests trying your hand on cucumber, zucchini, spinach, and even corn.
And if you really want to grow something a little more interesting – especially if you have kids – you can’t beat broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and peas, he said.
At ProMedica Farms, visiting school children are intrigued to see what broccoli looks like when it’s still on the plant, and as for peas, “it’s really cool to watch them grow up a trellis and harvest,” said Nagle.
Don’t forget the fruits too. Your garden can also be home to a variety of berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries, which are quite easy to grow and fairly manageable, he explained.
And if your recipe calls for a sprig of rosemary or a pinch of thyme, there’s nothing better than having it right at hand, be it in your back yard or in a box on the windowsill of your kitchen.
Herbs like this, including parsley, are “low-maintenance enough to be safe to use indoors,” said Nagle, adding that they can be either fresh or dried for later use.
It is important that you plant your new seeds or starter plants with space to grow, make sure your soil has the right additives like fertilizers, and of course, give your garden enough water. In midsummer it may even be necessary to water a few times a day to keep your plants healthy and thriving.
A sprinkler or waterer hose can make this task easier.
No place? No problem
But what if you don’t have a garden to garden or just want to grow a few tomatoes, peppers, or other products instead of having an entire garden?
Containers are a great way to grow all sorts of things on your porch or even your balcony if you live in an apartment. Just make sure the containers are big enough for your plants and have the necessary drainage.
One advantage of container gardening, besides the fact that you don’t need a garden, is that your plants can be brought indoors in colder weather.
With the right lighting – either natural light or special bulbs that mimic natural sunlight – and if the containers are far enough from the windows so that your plants don’t get too cold, you can even have fresh produce year round.
No matter how your garden grows – in the ground or in a container – the benefits of planting vegetables and fruits are many compared to buying them at the supermarket, Nagle said.
“You will get better quality products if they come straight from the vine or straight from the stem,” he said. “And with a little equity and time, you can cut your costs significantly.”
Also, when you have fresh, inexpensive vegetables and fruits on hand, “it is easier to make these healthier choices,” he added. “And it can be done anywhere – in a yard, on a balcony, on a veranda, on a window sill.
“There are so many ways for people to get involved in gardening. I encourage everyone to just give it a try.”
For more information on ProMedica Farms, call 517-577-1020 or email ProMedica.Farms@ProMedica.org.