Update from Justine – What do I Grow?

In early June, I wrote about how I decide what to grow in our garden. When planning out our garden this year, I asked my children what they wanted to grow. My oldest son chose to grow four different pepper plants, my daughter chose to grow romaine lettuce, and my youngest son chose to grow zinnias. These choices did not take up a lot of space, so I added two tomato plants and two acorn squash plants. 

My children checked the garden every day and helped with the watering and weeding. Their plants took off and were looking good, but nature had other plans. We left for a few days and, while we were gone, the rabbits helped themselves to the lettuce, pepper leaves, and zinnias. The children were disappointed, but they have worked hard to keep two of the pepper plants and a few zinnias alive.

My children have also worked hard to protect the tomatoes and squash. As you can see in the picture below, that hard work has paid off. The tomatoes and squash have nearly taken over the garden. We have enjoyed watching the flowers bloom and then watching those blooms transform into beautiful tomatoes and squash. My children do not like to eat tomatoes and squash on their own, but they do like both in sauces and soups. So, we are planning to cook and freeze much of our harvest to use for meals this winter.

Justine Hoover

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

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Lettuce Start Gardening!

Silly title -I know – but Spring has sprung here in Iowa and I am so excited to start growing some food on my back patio. Getting my herbs and vegetables planted is such a fun way to celebrate the warmer weather. Fresh veggies from the garden taste so good and growing your own food saves serious money.

I do not have space to plant a garden in the ground, so I use planters and pots on my patio. It is amazing how much food you can grow in a tiny space. There will be a point this summer when I can barely keep up with it!

Salad greens grow very well in containers. Here are some steps to get you started!

  1. Review the Iowa State University Container Vegetable Gardening Guide. It has all of the basics to help you get started.
  2. Choose a large pot (1 gallon minimum) with drainage holes.
  3. Put a layer of rocks or gravel in the bottom and then fill with potting soil.
  4. Use your finger to create a trench about one inch deep and sprinkle seeds about every inch in the trench. Repeat this process with an additional row or two leaving 4 inches between rows.
  5. Put your pot where bunnies and deer cannot get it. They love lettuce and they will eat it!
  6. Water the soil (not the leaves) as often as necessary to keep it moist. It does not need to be soaking wet, but should not get completely dry either. I typically water my vegetable containers every 1-2 days during the heat of the summer.
  7. After about three weeks, you will have leaves to harvest. Clip the leaves, leaving the plant base behind. The plant will grow more leaves!

This month our blogs are all about growing your own fruits and vegetables. We hope you’ll find some good ideas whether you’re just starting out or a certified green thumb. Please comment on our Facebook page or tweet us and let us know your favorite things to grow!

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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