Spring is here! Warm yet cool days are lovely. I love nature. Listening to birds singing, the buds on the trees reminding us of a new season that has come. It is time to get dirty!
As a kid, I saw my maternal grandmother always planting something. Growing up in Puerto Rico, that meant ALL year round! She would talk to her flowers, sing, always planting something. My dad has also been the same way. I would watch and enjoy the flowers from a safe distance to avoid getting dirty.
After getting married one of the first things I did was plant some herbs. It was almost like it was engraved in my DNA. After avoiding it for years, it just came naturally. The aroma of fresh herbs to cook, the satisfaction of seeing something you planted grow…it was indescribable. After having kids, it gained importance in my life. I wanted my girls to enjoy it, to be engraved in their DNA.
Everyone should have a garden. It does not matter how big or small or how many plants. The satisfaction you receive after that hard work is immense. No food will taste as sweet and good as the one you grow yourself. It could be tricky, it does involve physical efforts, but it is totally worth it. Gardening is a form of exercise. It brings you closer to nature, it strengthens your hand muscles, it helps the planet. Some studies I have read (I read and research scientific studies A-LOT) say that playing in the dirt could help prevent depression and reduce stress among many other health benefits.
Kids love to play in the dirt. They get to learn first hand that a tomato comes from a plant not a can from Whole Foods. They learn the plant cycle. They learn to work and see the “fruits” of their labor (literally). It increases their chances to eat healthier, fresh and nutritious foods. Most importantly, they get to spend time with YOU! When we invest time in our children (sons, daughters, nieces or nephews) when they are young, they will invest time with us as adults without being asked to.
I have lived in small studio apartments and in homes with a large yard. We can all have our own garden. I will add suggestions at the end depending on the size of your home.
To begin, think of how much space you have and the location of your garden. Make a list of what herbs, fruits and vegetables you like to eat, and what you would like to grow. It doesn’t matter how long your list, you will decide later what is convenient. It is good to have many options. Also, keep in mind that the more flowers you pick, the more insects you will attract. That is great for the environment, but I am just reminding you in case that is something that you dislike. Then look for your planting U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone. Stay with me here, I know it sounds complicated now, but it really isn’t. With a google search bar, who couldn’t find an answer these days?! Here is a link for US residents to find your zone based on your location. https://garden.org/nga/zipzone/ Just enter your zip code and it will give you a number. You will look in the map and match it. You want to be sure you invest in something appropriate for your zone.
Next, decide if your plants are annual or perennial or evergreens. Annual means that the plant will only last one year and you will need to replant in the spring. Perennials means that it will regrow every spring. Evergreen plants are a type of perennial that will keep their foliage all year round. This is important, so you know what to expect and how much effort you need to put into your garden every year.
Lastly, you will be asked to check if your plant is Full Sun, Part shade, partial Sun or shade. Therefore, knowing the location in terms of where in your garden you want to plant is important. Full Sun means that your plant needs or will receive six or more hours of direct sunlight (Keep in mind your summer months).
Part shade or partial shade means the amount of sun is 2-4 hours of sun per day. Part Sun is defined as between 4-6 hours of sun a day. Full shade means less than two hours of sunlight. They prefer some morning light and shade the rest of the day.
For beginners, I will just stay with already potted plants and not go into growing with seeds unless you have had some experience with planting. Many local garden supply stores have already potted small fruits, vegetables and herbs for you to continue to nurture. Ask you local store for ideas, suggestions and materials (like types of dirt). I try to go organic as much as I can but that is a personal choice.
Before you begin, remember to get some gloves (we don’t want to touch something that might harm our skin). Get your hat and I suggest a cushion for your knees. Even if you think that is for old people, trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Click here for a list of some of my favorite herbs, fruits and vegetables to grow. Now get outside, enjoy some sunshine (always protecting your skin – never forget to wear sunscreen) and play in the dirt with family and friends and enjoy some fresh produce! I have also included two recipes for a basic and easy to make drink and dish you can enjoy after harvest. Enjoy!
Have fun and get dirty!!
Pease share with me below or on Instagram pictures and comments of your own stories.
Strawberry and Mint Refreshing Tea
Enjoy while refreshing after a hot summer day
- 10 Ripe Strawberries
- 10 Fresh Mint Leaves
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1 cup Water
- 2 tbsp Sugar (I prefer Erythrirol)
- Ice (As desired)
In a sauce pan, place the strawberries, mint leaves, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, sugar and water.
Boil for at least 10 -15 minutes and keep crushing the strawberries (you could use a fork or potato masher for this step) to extract the juice, remove from heat and let cool completely.
Remove the mint leaves and strain the strawberries to extract the juice. (The pieces of strawberry left in the strainer can be saved for other recipes or deserts).
Chop the ice finely in the blender if you want it as a slushy. Pour ice into serving cups and cover with the strawberry-mint juice.
Homegrown Baked Tomatoes with Fresh Basil and Mozzarella
This recipe could be used as an appetizer or a side dish
- 6 Roma Tomatoes Sliced Lengthwise (Thickness is a preference)
- Olive or grapeseed oil (To taste)
- Balsamic Vinegar (To taste)
- Ground Pepper (To taste)
- Pinch Kosher Salt
- Pinch Garlic Powder
- Freshly Picked Basil Leaves
- Organic Mozzarella Cheese (I use dairy free version)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
Cut the tomatoes in slices, place them into the baking dish, drizzle the top with olive oil and balsamic vinegar then season with sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Lay some freshly cut basil leaves on top and layered with a small amount of cheese.
Place into the oven and roast for 30-35 minutes or until tender and juicy.
Remove from the oven then sprinkle the top again with fresh basil before serving as desired.