What do I Grow?

“What do I grow?” That is a question I ask myself every year when I start thinking about my garden. And the answer is different every year. In my previous home, my garden was much larger, so I had a lot more options. Over the 11 years I worked in that garden, I planted lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, corn, broccoli, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, squash, peas, green beans, potatoes, and flowers. No two years were the same.

Now I live in a home with more shade trees, so my garden is smaller. This will be my third year of deciding what to plant here. Since space is tight, I have to be more selective about what I plant. So, I do three things when deciding what to grow.

  1. I take into account my family’s preferences. I have learned over the years that my family prefers peppers fresh out of the garden, but they prefer it if I make the tomatoes into juice and freeze it for soups and sauces in the winter. This tells me I need to plant several different types of peppers, but I only need to plant tomatoes that are good for freezing.
  2. I ask my children what they would like to plant. I always let my children pick a packet of seeds they want to plant because it makes them more interested in the garden. They do a better job of pulling the weeds when they are motivated to see their little seeds grow into big plants. Some years their choices work out and some years they don’t, and that is ok.
  3. I consider my space. After I have thought about my family’s preferences and found out what my children want to plant, I consider how much space I have left. With my extra space, I may try something new or I may plant something just for me. Last summer I planted a beautiful yellow zucchini plant that was just for me.

Later this summer, when I start to harvest my garden, I will give you an update on my choices for this year.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Benefitting from Our Neighbor’s Talents

Gardening is not my strong suit. Quite honestly, the thought of gardening and planting flowers brings a lot of stress! After years of attempting to garden and losing motivation due to brown flowers and plants, I eventually came to terms with the fact that my family’s produce would need to be purchased from the grocery store or a local farmer’s market. Fortunately, one of our neighbors has a gift and has planted a garden to share with a few families on our street. Like mentioned in the previous gardening posts, our neighbor has done the research to determine what items to grow in her garden. With a lot of trial and error, she has become quite successful!

Although I don’t grow my own garden, my family has been able to benefit from our neighbor’s talents and enjoy the fruit of her labor. Before the growing season begins, she asks for our input on what seeds to purchase and takes donations from neighbors to help offset the cost of seeds, dirt, fencing (to attempt to keep away the bunnies), and additional items she may need to purchase to upgrade her garden space. As part of our contribution, our toddler provides art for her garden space and neighbors help by pulling weeds and planting. As the vegetables begin to grow, she divides up the produce and shares it with those who have made contributions. We have learned a lot from our neighbor over the past few years and gardening has helped us build a new connection with her.

Neighborhood gardens can be a great way to use everyone’s skills and share in some of the costs. We don’t have the time or the space to create a successful garden in our backyard, so having a neighbor who enjoys the work and is willing to share her talents with us has been a great experience. Check out this Neighborhood Gardens blog from our friends over at AnswerLine that highlights additional tips on how to get started!

Later this summer I will be sharing what our neighbor has been able to grow, as well as different recipes we will make at home with the fresh produce.

Cheers to building connections through neighborhood gardens!

Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso is a Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. As a new mom she is always on the lookout for easy, healthy recipes to prepare for her family.

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Growing Vegetables in Pots

This week in our gardening series, I’m going to share the plans my son and I have for doing some container gardening at our house.

Growing up on a farm, I helped my mom with our garden. And one year I even planned the garden out and had it as a 4-H project. Since that time though, the only gardening I’ve done was a few years ago when my daughter was a toddler and my son was 5 or 6 and I tried growing some carrots, lettuce and tomatoes in pots on our deck. It went….okay. The tomatoes were too big for the pot so they didn’t grow that well and the carrots were too bunched so didn’t grow very big. Lessons learned!

Fast forward to this year when my son is 11 and is interested in having a garden. Instead of digging up a space in our yard, we’ve decided to grow a few things in containers on our deck again. We have a neighbor who is a talented woodworker who made some wooden planters for us to use.

My son and I have decided to grow cherry tomatoes, peppers, and some lettuce. I’d also like to grow some basil. To help me do a better job at choosing varieties of these vegetables that grow well in containers, I’m going to use this handout on Container Vegetable Gardening. I’m looking forward to this gardening adventure with my kids! Check back later this summer and see if things are going better than they did the last time I tried growing vegetables in a pot!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Herb Gardening in Small Spaces

Last week we heard about our friend Jill’s experience with gardening throughout her life. She shared some wonderful tips for planning a garden and using the information on seed packets to help you make decisions. I would like to share a slightly different perspective. I live in a small house and I do not have land to till up and plant a garden. I still love to grow some food though, so I do container gardening.

Container gardening is a very simple approach to gardening that allows you to use a patio or porch to grow food in pots or other containers. It is helpful when you do not have land to till up or when you just want to grow a few plants and not a whole garden.

Herbs are my favorite food to grow in the summer in Iowa. They thrive in the sun and warm weather. They are easy to maintain. I just water them whenever their soil becomes dry to the touch. Herbs will even grow inside if you have a very sunny window for them. It is so wonderful to be able to snip a few sprigs to add flavor to my cooking. Herbs are rather expensive at the grocery store and they spoil quickly, so being able to cut them from the back patio is a real treat.

  • Parsley is delightful in salads and as a final topper for things like roasted veggies or fish.
  • Basil tastes delicious with tomatoes and pasta. I also love sliced basil stirred into cottage cheese.
  • Rosemary, sage and thyme are tasty additions to roasted veggies. Toss them with the veggies before cooking and enjoy.

If you have a sunny spot and a sturdy container of soil, you’re ready to get started! For a bit more information, check out Growing Herbs in Containers from our friends in Iowa State University’s Horticulture department. Next week Jody will share about her experience growing vegetables in containers at her house.

Happy Gardening!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Gardening Starts With the Seeds

Each year, as the days get longer and temperatures rise, garden catalogs begin to fill our mailbox and planning for our garden begins once again.  My husband and I each grew up in homes with large vegetable gardens.  His mom had a separate potato garden and my family sold sweet corn and tomatoes at our farm.  I remember dad putting the sign up at the end of our driveway each summer.   My family used the money we made selling tomatoes and sweet corn for a summer vacation just before school started.   As you might imagine, my husband and I have enjoyed planning, planting and harvesting our own vegetable garden through the years.  What we plant and how big our garden is has changed through the years, as the season of our life dictates. Some years, our schedule for the summer hasn’t allowed time for gardening, and what we plant has also changed as our interest in certain vegetables has changed.   

So, what do we grow?  We enjoy growing tomatoes, onions, peppers, several kinds of herbs, carrots, broccoli, kale, lettuce and spinach. 

Questions we ask ourselves as we decide what to grow include: What do we like to eat?  How much space will it take to grow?  Is there another way to obtain this food?  How expensive is it to buy?  How difficult is it to grow?

Once we decide what we are going to grow, it’s time to find the best way to grow it.  You can buy seeds and you can also buy small plants to transplant into your garden.  As seasonal stores open up in grocery store parking lots and at local nurseries, you will find seed displays and often small plants to purchase.  One place you can check with for seeds is at your local county extension office.  They sometimes give away free seeds.  These seeds are typically last season’s seeds—but are still a great source for free seeds.  You can also use your SNAP benefits to buy seeds. 

The next step is to plan your garden.  You will need to consider how much space each item you plant will need, how deep to plant them and how much product you can expect. The seed packet will have information on it to help you answer these questions. Be sure and read both sides to help you be successful with your garden.  It’s a good idea to keep track of when you plant the seed. We write the date on our calendar.  Keeping track of the date will help you know when to expect to be able to harvest the produce.   

The seed packet will tell you:

  • The company the seed is from and how much seed you will get in the packet.  
  • A picture of what you will be growing.
  • The kind of seed and the name of the variety. 
  • How much sun the growing plant prefers and the height of the mature plant. 
  • Where and when to plant the seed.  There are often also brief statements about how to prepare and use the item you will be growing. 
  • How to plant the seed, how long of row or how many hills the seeds will plant. 
  • How many days it will take after planting for the seeds to germinate or sprout. You will be able to find how many days it will take after planting for the seeds to mature and you will be able to harvest a crop.
  •  Conditions the plant will grow in, what the plant prefers.
  • How to harvest and use the produce.

You may think gardens require a big piece of land, but they do not have to. If your schedule is busy, or you don’t have access to a garden plot, consider container gardening.  Tomatoes and peppers grow well in containers on a porch or front step.  Some communities also offer community garden plots where you can rent space to grow your garden. 

If you would like additional garden information, check out this publication from ISU Extension and Outreach.  Want Yard or Garden Information? Ask Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Written by Jill Weber

Human Sciences Specialist, Nutrition and Wellness

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Our May recipe of the month is Lemon Chia Seed Muffins. Since I knew this recipe was coming up, I made these for my family this weekend and they were a hit – I made them on Saturday and they were gone on Sunday.

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins are a spin on a traditional lemon poppy seed muffin. The flavor is similar; though, not as sweet because this recipe uses less sugar. The biggest difference you might notice is this recipe calls for chia seeds instead of poppy seeds. We went with chia seeds for several reasons:

  1. Cost: At my local grocery store a 32 ounce bag of chia seeds costs $7.96. This seems like a high price at first, but when you consider this is about 70 tablespoons of chia seeds, you are only spending $0.11 per tablespoon. Contrast that with poppy seeds which are about $0.86 per tablespoon.
  2. Versatility: Now that you have this bag of chia seeds what are you supposed to do with it? Chia seeds are versatile and can be added to many recipes – baked goods, smoothies, and oatmeal. Or you can sprinkle them on top of cereal or yogurt. Seal your bag of chia seeds and store it in the refrigerator after opening.
  3. Nutrition: Chia seeds are different from poppy seeds nutritionally. The biggest difference is chia seeds have about twice as much fiber as poppy seeds. This is a bonus because most of us can use more fiber.

Find the full recipe: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/lemon-chia-seed-muffins/

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Use a Chair to Move your Body…What?

You probably don’t think about grabbing a chair when wanting to move your body, but with our Chair Workout video, you do just that. With this video you can strengthen muscles and add activity to your day with just a chair and your body – and in less than 10 minutes!

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults do muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week. Strengthening our muscles is important for everyone. As we age, if we don’t use our muscles, they get weaker and we are less able to do normal daily activities. Many people are hesitant to do muscle-strengthening activities because they don’t know what to do. The Chair Workout is easy to follow and doable for a wide range of abilities. So grab a sturdy chair, that doesn’t move, and give it a try!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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What to do with Dried Beans?

I recently bought a bag of dried beans on clearance at the grocery store.  I usually buy canned beans, but it was too good of a deal to pass up.  The problem was that I didn’t know how to prepare them! Years ago, I tried to cook dried beans and they ended up crunchy and undercooked.

I discovered a recipe to prepare dried beans using my slow cooker.  The slow cooker cooked the beans overnight! It was so easy. I froze the beans in containers so I have cooked beans ready to use whenever I need them.

Beans are a great way to add protein to meals and save money on groceries. Beans give you long-lasting energy and help you feel full for a long time.  Here are some of my family’s favorite ways to eat beans:

  1. We top salads with beans. Try black or pinto beans for a taco salad or navy or kidney beans for a Mediterranean salad.
  2. We make dips with beans.  Adding beans to dips makes a quick snack full of protein!  Our favorites are Hummus, Black Bean Salsa, and Cowboy Caviar.
  • We add beans to pasta dishes.  A quick dinner my family loves is a box of cooked whole wheat pasta, a jar of pesto (found in the grocery aisle near spaghetti sauce), and a few cups of garbanzo beans.  We mix it all together and it’s ready in 30 minutes.  We serve it with a garden salad or steamed green beans or broccoli.
  • We add black beans or pinto beans to eggs and wrap in a tortilla for a Southwest breakfast burrito!  Try this recipe for a fun weekend breakfast!
  • We make soups with beans.  Soups are a great way to use up a lot of beans.  We like Vegetarian Chili and Minestrone Soup.

Katie Sorrell is a Registered Dietitian who likes to try new recipes. She meal plans and shops at the grocery store on the weekend for the upcoming week.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Cooking with Lentils

Last week Brianna wrote about our Garlic and Herb Lentils recipe. If you get a bag of dried lentils to try that recipe, you might be wondering what else you can cook with lentils to use them up. Here are some other ways to add them to your meals:

  1. Use them in our Lentil Tacos.
  2. Substitute cooked lentils for meat in chili, stews and stuffed pepper fillings.
  3. Make a pasta sauce thicker and heartier by adding cooked lentils.
  4. Add cooked lentils to rice, salad, or cooked whole grains to make a protein-rich main dish.
  5. Puree 1/2 cup cooked lentils with 2 tablespoons water. In recipes for baked goods like brownies and muffins, substitute half of the fat with 1/2 cup pureed lentils.

My husband and I really like the lentil tacos. And I’ve made muffins with lentils in them that my son and I liked. I think next I will try adding them to rice or a salad and see if my family enjoys them that way. Lentils are inexpensive, nutritious, and can be used in many ways so I encourage you to pick up a bag and try them out!


Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Garlic and Herb Lentils

Personally, I had never cooked with lentils before trying this recipe. Lentils always had a way about them that was kind of scary. Not quite a bean, but not a pea either. What are these things? Well, I am here to tell you that what was once scary is now a household favorite.

After doing some research, I realized that lentils were full of great nutrients like protein, fiber, and iron, while very low in sodium and fat. They were also only 98 cents for a pound, which is a low price for nutrient-dense food.  I figured, why not give it a try? I used this recipe as a side to baked salmon and sauteed sweet peas, and my husband said it was one of his favorite meals.

It required very little prep time (only cutting the onion and rinsing the lentils), and it turned out very flavorful with the seasonings and chicken broth included. I served the meal with fresh lemons, and my husband used the juice to enhance the flavor even more.

So next time you look at a lentil, don’t be afraid. They are packed with nutritious qualities, fit in your budget, and taste great.

Find the full recipe here: https://spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipe/garlic-and-herb-lentils/

Hello! I am Brianna Montross, currently a graduate student and dietetic intern at Iowa State University. Some of my favorite things to do are write poetry, run, and find new ways to incorporate veggies in my cooking.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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