ROCHESTER — As a Master Gardener volunteer, I’m a believer in the health benefits of gardening and the power of working plants into your daily diet. Gardening is one of those things that inspires people and gets them excited about growing, eating and sharing their own food. Whether you only have room for one pot of tomatoes or you have an expansive home plot, growing fruits or vegetables means you’re likely to eat more of them.
A Michigan State University
shows that kids who participate in gardening tend to eat more veggies. And a
by researchers at the University of Texas shows that when kids get involved in school gardening programs and then learn about how to use the produce in meal preparation, they eat about a half a serving more of vegetables each day. That may not seem like a huge increase, but the researchers say getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables may set them up for a future of healthy eating habits.
And one more bit of information to help inspire you to up your intake of fruits and vegetables (and maybe even try growing some of your own) comes from a
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They found that only one in ten U.S. adults eat the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables each day.
So what are the recommended amounts you’re supposed to be eating? The CDC article notes that you should eat 1.5 to 2 or more cups of fruits a day and 2-5 cups of vegetables each day. And that doing so helps prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Just like humans, plants need a balance of nutrients to grow and thrive. Plants get nutrients from the soil, so don’t throw fertilizer into your containers or garden beds willy nilly. In order to give your garden the best chance of producing a lot of fruits and vegetables you’ll want to eat, you need to amend the soil to get the right levels of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K). Those are the three numbers you see on bags of fertilizer at garden centers.
How can you figure out what’s in your soil so you know what to add? Get a soil test. Go out to your garden, scoop out a soil sample and send it to testing centers, such as the University of Minnesota or North Dakota State University. They’ll analyze it, let you know what’s already in your soil and they’ll make recommendations as to the ratio of amendments you should put into it. Get the fertilizer with numbers on the bag that correspond most closely to what they say your garden needs.
I sent a soil sample to the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory. Their
to a University of Minnesota Extension video that explains how to properly take a sample. The process costs $17.00, and it is well worth the investment. Within about two weeks, I received a document explaining exactly what amendments my garden needs to nourish my plants.
Last year was the first time I had ever had the soil in my garden tested. And I must say, it was the most productive year I ever had. So much so that I dragged just about every person who stopped by to visit my garden to look at it, much to the horror of my two boys.
So go get your soil tested and your fingers dirty in garden soil. It’s good for body and soul.
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