Eating Tip of the Month

Give Gardening a Chance

Give Gardening a Chance

As many of you might have known, March was National Nutrition Month. Though March is now behind us, it is important to think about how we can continue eating healthy throughout the entire year. A great way to do this is by gardening. While growing a garden may sound daunting, there are many great reasons to give it a try:

  • More nutritious – The process of freezing and canning produce can degrade some of the plant’s nutrients, and the “fresh” produce you find at the grocery store is often harvested before it is ripe (read: before the produce is at peak nutrient level), which means that home-grown, vine-ripened produce is the most nutritious way to go!
  • Organic – If pesticides concern you, a number of the highest-pesticide-containing fruits and vegetables can be grown easily in your own garden at much less cost than what you would pay for these “specialty” items in the grocery store. Such vegetables include sweet bell peppers, strawberries, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.
  • Great family activity – Gardening is a great opportunity to spend time together as a family.  Let your child help you pick out seeds or seedlings, then make them responsible for watering, weeding, and harvesting one of the plants. Their excitement for the growing process might just make them excited for eating those plants too! 

Did you know that April is the perfect time to start your garden? Here are a couple of tips:

  • Seeds & Seedlings – If there’s still a chance it will frost, stick to planting ‘cold-season crops’: seeds for radishes, peas, lettuce, and other greens and seedlings for broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Potatoes can also be planted. Once there is no risk of frost, plant seedlings for ‘warm-season crops’, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Other seeds, such as those for corn, green beans, squash, and cucumbers, require warmth to germinate and should be planted later in the Spring.  
  • Prepare your soil – You can buy a soil-testing kit at your local farm supply store to see if your soil is lacking certain nutrients and whether fertilizer is necessary. It may also be necessary to mix rich topsoil in with your existing soil, if planting in the ground.
  • Small space? No problem. – Plenty of plants grow well in pots on patios or balconies, especially plants that will “climb” if you include a trellis in the pot. Examples include snap peas and tomatoes. Non-climbing plants can grow well in pots too, though, so don’t count them out!

If you still have questions, reach out to your local Cornell Cooperative Extension ( They can answer your questions and sometimes offer gardening classes for the public. Happy Gardening!

Jennifer Messing, Dietetic Intern