As if fresh veggies or flowers aren’t reason enough, there are plenty of health reasons to have a summer garden.
Depending on your weight, you can burn 135 to 200 calories from half an hour of weeding, digging and planting, according to Harvard Medical School, and just a few minutes of sun exposure helps your body make vitamin D, which is critical to good health. (Make sure you apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 before going outside.) There is also a mental benefit of spending time in nature — and away from stress and screen time.
Here are some fun and easy projects to get you growing, plus a summer-fresh recipe to make the most of your homegrown bounty.
Work with your space. Feeling confined by your real estate? Even an apartment balcony has room for a vertical garden, where plants are tucked into pots or pockets attached to a frame on the wall. It’s easy to find premade vertical garden frames in stores or online, but you can also make your own from a wooden pallet. Choose all shade- or light-loving plants, depending on the location, and invest in good potting soil that is designed to retain water.
Sow simple. Get the biggest bang for your buck — and just a little effort — by planting flower seeds you can sow directly into the soil (wait until after the last frost). Zinnias come in a range of colors and sizes, from the tiny Thumbelina to a variety of giant mixes. Give them good sun and a little water, and you’ll have cut flowers all summer long. For a stunning fence or trellis cover, try morning glories, which produce luminous blue, purple or pink flowers — just nick the tough seeds and soak them overnight before planting.
Slice to see you. No need to visit the nursery to grow everybody’s favorite garden veggie. Just cut a ripe tomato into ¼-inch-thick slices, lay them in a bucket of soil, sprinkle with soil to cover, and set the pot out in the sun, watering occasionally. In a week or two, you’ll have more seedlings than you can use, so transplant the sturdiest ones. By the time you have a bumper crop of tomatoes, it will be warmer, perfect weather for an outdoor meal with friends and family.
Wondering what to do with those tomatoes? Try:
Pasta With No-Cook Tomato Sauce
1 pound ripe tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
12 ounces penne pasta (whole-wheat optional)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Combine tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature for an hour. Cook pasta to al dente (not too hard, not too soft) and toss with tomato mixture and Parmesan.
Nutritional Information Per Serving (Serves 4)
Total fat: 10.7g
Sodium: 161 mg
Recipe courtesy of FruitsAndVeggiesMoreMatters.org.
Talk to your doctor about how to improve your life starting with what you eat. To find a doctor who meets your health needs, visit PorterPhysicianGroup.com or call (844) PPG-DOCS (774-3627).