Saturday, January 22, 2022

Calendar for starting indoor seeds

Hydroponic seed starting

Saturday, January 22, 2022

It may seem like spring is a long way away this time of year.  Luckily for us gardeners, we get to start spring early!  End of January into February is prime seed starting time indoors.  I have outlined by month the plant seeds to start indoors between now and April for our Zone 7 garden.  It is wonderful to see the little green sprouts shooting up with promise of a bountiful gardening season right around the corner!  Our daffodils are up with flower buds.  It won't be long now......

Many big box stores begin getting in their seeds as soon as the end of December these days.  The variety available in big box stores continues to expand as more and more of us are growing our own food.  If you are wanting something unique, try on line seed companies. Some of my favorites with a good selection of unusual, organic and heirloom vegetables, garden fruits and herbs are Abundant Life Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Renee's Gardens, Seeds of Change, Territorial Seed Company, Seeds from Italy, Botanical Interest.   

Demand for seeds is huge right now.  Many are selling out of some varieties and the wait to get seeds can be as along as 3 weeks for others.  Order early to be sure to have them in hand when you want to get them started.

Using indoor seed starting is a great way to accelerate your harvest by up to two months.  Seed packets tell you how far in advance of your last frost date to start your seeds indoors or when to plant outdoors for "direct sowing" in the garden.  Just look on the back. Here is a web page to look up your last frost date: Frost date look up

January and February are primarily cold season crops seed starting time.  There are a few summer lovers that require a long growing season to produce that you start this early.  Cold season crops include your greens, broccoli, cabbage, strawberries and peas.  What is a four season garden?   For more on cool season crops for your spring edible garden, see Spring edible garden

March and April is the time for warm season veggie and herbs to get their indoor start.  Summer veggies include beans, tomatoes, beans, basil, eggplant, peppers and squash.  For more on your summer edible garden, see A summer edible garden  In general, you want to start your seeds as close to the time as you can to putting out into the garden; sooner is not necessarily better.

Here is when to start seeds indoors for your edible garden.

10-12 weeks prior (end Jan/beginning of Feb in our Zone 7 garden)
Artichokes
Arugula
Bay
Broccoli
Cabbage
Catnip
Celery
Chives
Edamame
Endive 
Escarole
Fennel
Fenu
Horseradish
Leek, if starting from seed
Lettuce
Mache
Mint
Mizuna
Onions, if starting from seed
Parsley
Peas
Rhubarb
Shallots, if starting from seed
Strawberries
Summer savory
Sorrel

8-10 weeks prior (mid-February in our Zone 7 garden)
Bee balm
Celeriac
Eggplant
Kale
Kohlrabi
Lavender
Lovage
Marjoram
Mustard
Oregano
Rosemary
Scallions, if starting from seed
Spinach
Thyme
Turnips

4-6 weeks prior to last frost (March in our garden)
Artichokes
Broccoli
Chamomile
Chard
Cilantro
Comfrey
Fennel
Lemon verbena
Okra
Peppers
Raddichio
Sage
Summer squash
Tarragon
Tomatoes

April
Basil
Beans
Cucumber
Melon
Winter squash
Stevia

You can find more crops seed starting times in this blog  Indoor sowing/outdoor planting dates

Another trick is to do succession seed starting.  For continuous harvests of veggies like broccoli, spinach and lettuce, start new seedlings every 3 weeks and plant out every three weeks in the garden.  For the early seedlings, use varieties that are described as cold hardy.  When you get to April, start seedlings that are heat tolerant.  Heat tolerant varieties will resist bolting and bitterness at the first sign of summer.  Get the most from your space-plant intensively!

You can start perennial flowers and veggies indoors as well.  For any plant, look at the seed packet for when to plant outdoors according to your frost date.  Then back up the time from there on when to start indoors.  Typical seed starting is 6-8 weeks prior to the plant out date.  For more on perennial fruits and veggie gardens, Perennial veggies in the Midwest garden

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Indoor seed starting tips for beginners

Hydroponic indoor seed starting
Sunday, January 16, 2022

Are there tricks to successful seed starting?  The most sure fire I have found with a gadget is the Aerogarden with the seed starting tray.  I have almost 100% germination rate with it.  I also start many seeds in the basic seed starting kits you get from the big box stores with good luck.  It took some time to figure out how to have success with these kits.  Here is what I have learned.

With the Aerogarden hydroponic seed starting system, I don't even have to worry about using a heating pad for the warm season crops.   It is easy to take the seedlings and just plant into larger pot or directly into the garden when they are the right size for transplanting.  There are a couple of  drawbacks with this system-the unit is pricey and the plugs you need to buy each year are about twice the cost of peat pods.

For any system, you need to make sure everything you use is sterilized.  I have an older Aerogarden seed starting system.  It has a styrofoam seed starting tray.  Even using a bleach solution did not remove the mold.  Last year, I put the tray in the summer sun and that removed all the mold stains.

For other seed starting approaches, I have had the best success using a heat mat and grow light that I leave on during the day and turn off at night.  Many cool season loving plant seeds won't even germinate at the high temperatures the heat mat provides.  By turning off the heat mat at night, it gives the cool season crops the temperatures they need to germinate.  The warm temperatures during the day give the summer lovers the higher temperatures they need to germinate.  The best of both worlds!

Another key learning I had was that you don't want your seed starting medium to be too wet.    You want the medium to be moist.  Sopping wet soil can cause the seed to mold instead of germinate.

Here are some ideas on making your own seed starting systems  Make your own peat pots  

Seed starting steps
The key is starting with sterile seed starting mix, pots, containers and trays.  For the trays and containers, sterilize with alcohol or bleach solution.  You can make your own seed starting mix with peat moss or coir (renewable), compost, and vermiculite.  Just be sure to heat the compost to at least 150 degrees to kill any pathogens before using to start seeds.

Place the seeds in the starter mix in the pots after wetting the soil or coir thoroughly from the bottom (watering from the top can dislodge seeds).  Make sure to eliminate any air pockets in the soil before planting.  You can lightly press down on the soil with your finger or water overhead before planting the seed.  You don't want your soil mix to be completely wet, but nice and damp.  Seeds need oxygen to germinate.  Waterlogged soil can result in moldy seeds instead of seedlings.

After fully moist, they are ready to put in a catch pan.  Make sure any catch pan that you use has been thoroughly sprayed with alcohol or washed in a bleach solution so all pathogens are killed.  Rinse well after sterilizing and before using for seedlings.

Make sure you label your seedlings as soon as you plant them; you may think you will remember 2 months from now what was where, but likely not!  Now is also a great time to start keeping a gardening journal.  Start tracking what you planted when so you can review next year what worked well to repeat and what didn’t work so well to tweak.

I put my seed starts in a plastic tray in a sunny window or under LED grow lights that I have had for years that you can buy at any big box store.  Using two T8 fluorescent bulbs or grow light bulbs for 16 hours per day should provide enough light to grow sturdy seedlings.  

Keep moist, but not wet, until seedling emerges.  Water from the bottom so as not to disturb the seed/seedling.  Pour off any standing water to discourage fungal disease.  You can use a spray bottle to keep the seedling and soil damp as well.  
Peat pods and Aerogarden on heating mat
Use bottom heat during the day to encourage speedy germination (turn off at night).  As soon as the seedlings have sprouted, discontinue the heat.  Additional heat helps speed germination and reduce the chance of mold or fungal disease.  By only using heat during the day and discontinuing heat after emerging, that has eliminated the dampening off of my seedlings.

Once your seedlings have sprouted, gently run your hand over them.  This encourages the stem to strengthen.  I tried this for the first time last year after hearing from an Extension Agent and Master Gardener that she had done studies using this technique.  I did see a difference in stem strength doing this.

Some swear by using a small fan to blow on your seedlings to strengthen their stems to make transplanting safer.

Whatever you do, handle the seedling by its leaves and not its stem.  This reduces the risk that you will bend over or break the stem which kills the seedling.

Your seedlings will need diluted liquid fertilizer starting 3 weeks after planting.  Using a weak fish emulsion is said to help prevent dampening off.  It should be no greater than half strength as these are tiny plants that don't need as much food as a full size plant.

For larger seeds, and seedlings, either start directly in the garden at the recommended time on the seed packet.  I always start peas and green beans directly in the garden bed.  Other larger seedlings like cucumbers, squash and tomatoes, choose a larger pot to start them in or transplant from the small peat pods to a small pot before transplanting to the garden.

Your seedling’s first leaves are not “true” leaves, think of them as baby teeth.  The second set of leaves are their true leaves.  They are ready to be hardened off when they have their first set of true leaves.  Seedlings must be hardened and not just thrown outside.  You take them out a little at a time, gradually increasing their exposure to sun and cold, only during the daytime.  I try and plant when there is a warm spell and there are clouds forecasted to minimize the shock.

Once the seedling is up and going, spacing them a couple of inches apart helps the plants to grow sturdy stems instead of spindly.  When crowded, the seedlings race to get to the light.  If they are still leggy, it is likely insufficient light.  Make sure you are keeping your artificial light as close to the seedlings as possible.  

Don't be too worried if you have leggy seedlings.  Once hardened off outdoors, they will strengthen up.  You just have to be extra careful in handling them as their stems will be very fragile.  The best time to transplant is when recommended on the seed packet and when the seedling has nice roots that you can see throughout the soil.  Always harden off before planting.  Make sure the soil is moist and the seedling is fertilized when you plant so it has everything it needs to get growing.

It seems I grow more and more varieties from seeds, from flowers to herbs to fruits and veggies.  There are just so many fun varieties out there!  I also have saved seeds from store bought veggies that I thought were cool and tasted great.

There are great selections of herbs and veggies at nurseries and big box stores nowadays so you have many options, including heirlooms. You can wait until spring is officially here and pick up what looks good at your nearby store in a couple of months.  Your local gardening centers will also carry the varieties best suited for your area.  This is also a great back up if your first seed starting adventure goes a little awry...........

Saturday, January 15, 2022

What to plant in the January 2022 edible garden

Starting seeds in peat pods and Aerogarden
Saturday, January 15, 2022

In January, there are things you can plant and seeds you can start outdoors if you have a hotbed.  For most, January is the time to get started sowing seeds indoors for a head start on spring and summer harvests.  

Hot beds have been around for hundreds of years.  Before there was electricity, hot beds were heated by 18" of fresh and dried horse manure, covered by 12" of soil.  A pit was dug down so that the manure and soil were below ground level to keep the heat in.  It was covered by a wooden box with a glass angled to the sun.  Today, the same can be done.  Folks also use a light bulb or heating pad to keep the temperature above freezing and below 55 degrees F.

There are cole crops that can be placed in hot beds and seeds sown even at this time of year.  Winter gardening in hot beds is successful even Zone 4.  For more on cold season gardening, see Cold season crops for your edible garden and Winter edible garden.

January outdoor hot beds
Winter hardy lettuce transplants
Cauliflower transplants
Strawberry transplants
Cold hardy lettuce seeds
Carrot seeds
Radish seeds
Spinach seeds
Austrian winter pea seeds

January yard, garden bed
Bare root fruit trees and bushes

For more on edible gardening in cold weather, How to extend the garden season.  

More popular is to start seeds indoors in January.  There are many seeds that can be started this time of year.  Take a look at your frost date and seed packet for the best time to plant.  Earlier is not always better!  If left indoors too long, the seedlings just get spindly and weak.  In our Zone 7, the last spring frost date is typically April 3, which is 13 weeks from now.  Find your frost date

January edible plants-indoor seed starting
12-16 weeks before last frost
Cabbage
Celery and Celeriac
Corn Salad (Mache)
Onions
12 weeks before last frost
Artichokes
Parsley
Peas
10-12 weeks before last frost
Endive
Escarole
Leeks
8-12 weeks before last frost
Eggplant
Kale
Kohlrabi
Mustard
Spinach
Sprouting broccoli

There are many flower seeds that can be started in January as well.  Butterfly weed, Chinese lanterns, Drumstick flower, Angel's trumpet, Delphinium, Sweet William, Foxglove, Eucalyptus, Blanket flower, Helianthus maximilliani, Hollyhock, Lisianthus, Lupine, Pansy, Petunia, Prince's feather, Black-eyed Susan, Snapdragon, Stock, Verbana, Yarrow are a few that can be started indoors in January. 

I find this planting calculator helpful Planting calculator  to see what crops and flowers to start seeds indoors, outdoors and when to transplant.  You just plug in your last frost date and it will calculate the dates for you.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

January 2022 Edible Garden Planner

It's seed catalog season!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

January is the time of dreaming and planning for your spring and summer garden.  Seed catalogs are in full swing and big box stores and local nurseries have seeds and seed starting gear on the shelves.   It is an exciting time for browsing the magazines and making the garden plan for the upcoming year!  Seed companies are highly recommending that you order sooner rather than later again this year.  They are expecting another record year of demand.

Grow what you love!
The easiest way to fall in love with gardening is growing what you love to eat and look at.  There is nothing like strolling out to the garden to see what's ripe and tasty for dinner, gathering blooms to bring inside.  If you have ever wanted to plant a kitchen garden, but weren’t sure if you had the space or skills, you may be surprised.

We grow all we need for fresh eating and putting away for the winter in our flower beds.  Just mix in greens, herbs and veggies.  It looks great, flowers attract beneficial insects for more veggie production, and is so easy to run out and get what you want to eat that day right outside your door.

If you aren't sure you can grow veggies, start with herbs.  Herbs thrive on neglect so are a great choice for dipping your toe into the edible gardening arena.  This is how I transitioned from a purely ornamental garden to integrating edibles into my flower beds.  A bonus is many herbs are perennials so only have to be planted once and come back year after year.  

Herbs come in all different sizes as well.  I love growing creeping thyme between stepping stones and around the perimeter of the garden.  Oregano and tarragon are taller and have a tendency to fill out a space so better for the back of the garden.  And there are many in between.  Pick herbs that you use a lot in cooking and use those in your flower bed as a start.

You can grow a lot in a small space
It is common for Italians and French to have a small kitchen garden where they grow herbs, greens and vegetables year round.  It is amazing the amount of food you can grow in a very small space!  How to decide what to plant for small spaces?

If you have only a 6’ x 6’ space, a Mediterranean kitchen garden could include the following:
Herbs (1 each)-thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and flat leaf parsley 
3 basil plants (for pesto and seasoning)  
2 tomatoes-1 small fruiting and 1 slicer type 
2 sweet pepper plants  
1 zucchini (look for “bush” types as they are more compact)  
1 eggplant 
8 red bunching onions 
8 garlic plants 
Arugula, spinach and lettuce scatter sowed  

For more details on a compact French garden:  Small space French kitchen garden
For an Italian garden:  Heirloom Sicilian kitchen garden  To entice the little ones, an Italian garden can also be called a "Pizza or Spaghetti Garden"!  Pizza garden for the kids

Use your patio to grow edibles with flowers 
If you also have room for pots on the patio, you could grow the zucchini, eggplant, and cucumber in pots  (only 1 plant in each pot) and add 3 bush or 6 pole bean plants in the garden bed or pot with a trellis for them to grow up.  Traditional bush beans would be lentils, Romano, Capitano, Cannellini, fava; pole beans-Roma, Helda, Supermarconi.  Personally, I would stick with the beans you eat whole as shelled beans you do not get as much food per plant, and less food per space in a small garden.
If you have more room, you can add almonds (yes, they survive Midwest winters), beets, chard, fennel, chickpeas, figs (grows well in a pot too), asparagus, cardoon, chicories, radicchio, endives, broccoli, cauliflower, or annual artichokes.  

If you are just beginning a garden, do start small.  You want the garden to be fun and relaxing, not overwhelming.  Don't be afraid to begin.  The force of life is strong and really doesn't need much from us.  Buy a few plants in the early spring and just put them in the ground with a natural fertilizer and you will be amazed at how they just go to town all by themselves!
Vintage WW2 poster
For seed catalogues, the ones that have the best chance of thriving in your garden are the ones that do their trials in your area of the country.  The seeds and plants they carry are the ones that have performed the best for them in their trial gardens.  Baker Creek is fun because they specialize heirlooms and rare seeds from around the world and are here in the Midwest.  Territorial Seeds has a good summary in each section of growing tips and their seed farms are mainly in the Northwest.  I have had very good success with both.

My favorite catalogs are the ones that the links are on the right.  I have ordered from them all and been happy with their selection and how well the plants did.


Still having trouble deciding?  Well, you have some time before the season starts.  Heck, you can procrastinate all the way to June..........  It is not too late to start a garden in June!  You can use this time to make your plan based on what you eat this winter.  Use this winter to figure out what to grow in the ...

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Reflecting back on the 2021 edible garden, planning for the 2022 garden


Sunday, January 9, 2022

I am late in reflecting back on the 2021 garden.  Ideally, I would have done this in October while the garden season was fresh in my mind.  But, better late than never!  I always try to take a look at my garden successes and not so great things to make improvements for the next season.  I like to capture what varieties did well, what I planted too much or too little of, including the specific names before I forget.  I am forever trying to make the garden more productive and enjoyable.  I also like to make notes of what I want to learn more about over the winter.   

Here are my reflections on this year's garden............

Overall
In general, the garden did well in the spring, was very slow to start producing summer veggies, and my fall and winter seed starting was not stellar.  We actually had a real spring for the second year in a row.  Usually, the season changes from winter to summer like a flick of a switch.  This year, we had a couple of months of actual cool temperatures before the 80's kicked in making it a banner greens season.  

This year, I was gardening exclusively in the back ornamental bed because we are having an addition put on the house.  This garden is in mostly shade so it was interesting to see how well sun loving crops would do.  It is likely one of the reasons my summer veggies were slow to get going. 

I had wondered if you could garden in the shade and get enough to eat fresh and put away for fall and winter.  The answer was "Yes".  I'd say the  

There were high points and not so great turn outs for the season.  Just your typical edible garden season!  

The good
  The cultivated dandelions, figs, strawberries, raspberries, tarragon, sage, bay laurel, lettuce, Chinese Hilton cabbage, sorrel, eggplant, peppers, Egyptian walking onions, Genovese basil and celery including the new pink variety did well.   Greens were the standouts in the spring and New Zealand spinach, Red Malabar spinach, and eggplant in the summer.  Butter King and Bronze Beauty were stand outs in the lettuce category.

I planted Hilton, a Chinese cabbage, for a second year in the garden.  It has large leaves that you can use in place of bread or tortillas and it is sweet enough to use in place of lettuce in salads all summer long.  

I had many eggplants that showed up that I did not plant and vining squash and cucumber for a second year in a row.  I pulled the vines in the garden bed and transplanted the volunteer eggplants to pots.  Definitely had a bumper crop of eggplant this year!  I made baba ghanoush, a dip kinda of like humus, and froze it to preserve the extras.

The Ancho pepper plants and sweet pepper plant from saved seed both did fairly well in pots.  I was able to make a pint of chili powder to use for cooking over the winter and many pints of frozen peppers to use in salsa for game days.  The chili powder was much milder than in the past.  Likely the effect of being in a shadier, cooler spot than years past.

The okay
Green beans and cucumbers did okay.  I went with Blauhilde purple pole beans that are resistant to fungal disease this year.  I also tried a couple of Kentucky heirlooms.  The Purple Podded did well, the heirlooms produced very little.  I had enough to put up several quarts of frozen beans.

One cucumber vine is all I need to have enough for snacking and to make pickles.  I'll stick with one vine from here out.

I learned that hickory trees have the same effect on vegetables as walnut trees do.  Their roots exude a substance that kills other plants.  Guess what I have shading my back yard ornamental garden?  Yep, you got it, hickory trees.  

The bad
The garlic and tomatoes did not do well this year.  I didn't even get enough garlic to pickle this year.  Almost none of the cloves I planted came back in the spring and the cloves that did did not grow very big.  There are a few things working against the garlic-shade, hickory trees and voles.  

I only had one tomato plant that was in the garden bed produce well and it was a Chocolate Pear tomato.  It was also the one that got the most sun.  I replanted tomatoes that I purchased at Lowes into pots around the 4th of July.  They did okay on the northwest side of the house, but this location is not the best for summer, sun loving vegetables to thrive.  I got plenty of tomatoes to put up around 60 quarts of frozen tomatoes to use in recipes and make the rest into sauce next fall.

The squash plants in the garden bed got disease from squash bugs.  I didn't keep a close enough eye out for them and treat for them in time.  There were volunteer squash that showed up in the garden bed that we transplanted to potato boxes.  We did get several winter squash fruits from them.  They shredded like spaghetti squash so I will use them in place of pasta this winter.

I didn't have the best luck in starting lettuce and spinach in pots this summer and fall.  I think the slugs got them.  They would sprout and then something would come and eat them to the ground.  I had a few lettuce I was able to transplant into the pots that I'm covering in the portable greenhouse to keep the salads going into spring.

Next year's garden
We are hoping to finish our addition before summer this year.  We will be putting our mixed edible and ornamental garden bed back on the south and west sides of the house which gets much better sun and is well away from any hickory trees!  We saved the garden topsoil so we could put the organic rich soil back so we are not starting from zero.  Fingers crossed!

Here is my garden plan for next year:
Blauhilde pole snap beans and Christmas speckles lima beans around one trellis
Red Burgundy and Heavy Hitter okra
5 tomato plants-large paste (Italian Pear), slicers(Cherokee Purple and an orange/yellow), a small fruit (Chocolate Pear) and a storage tomato (Yellow Keeper)
3 eggplant-Casper, Rosa, and a green variety
1 pickling cucumber
1 summer squash-Trombetta since it is resistant to vine borer
1 winter squash-Spaghetti
Perennial onions-potato onion type
Potatoes in the potato boxes
Snow peas in pots with peppers and eggplants
Dragon Tail radish in pot
Hilton Chinese cabbage (1)
New Zealand and Malabar spinach in pot (1 each)
Lettuce (Royal Oakleaf, Grand Rapids, Butter King, Bronze Beauty, Celtic, Forellenschluss, Giant Blue Feather) and spinach in pots
Greens that stay sweet in summer-Orach, Amaranth, Chard-Perpetual Spinach and Fordhook, Chinese Multicolor Spinach, Purple Stardust Iceplant, Komatsuna
Herbs-Dill, Basil (Nunum, Genovese, Cardinal), Cilantro, Lion's Ear, Rosemary
Sweet and hot peppers-check at end of winter to see if I need any
No cantaloupe, watermelon, beets, heading cabbage or broccoli
Flowers-zinnias, alyssum, marigolds, Cock's Comb, peach hollyhocks, Pride of Madeira, blue morning glory

I have to be stern with myself about what I will not plant.  This past year, I planted much less than usual and had plenty for fresh eating and preserving.  My eyes are always bigger than my space or need!

Monday, January 3, 2022

Eat well, be healthy


Monday, January 3, 2022

Contemplating what to have for your New Year’s resolution?  How about adopting a new way of eating that will slow signs of aging, help prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, you name it!

This is what Dr. Weston Price found when he went around the world in the 1940's looking at the diets of the last indigenous people left in the world because they had no tooth decay and no degenerative diseases (like cancer).  If you want to learn more, here is a web page   http://www.westonaprice.org

All studies today show the same thing as Dr. Weston Price found when studying indigenous people.  Eating a low carb, organic diet with lots of leafy greens, multi colored veggies and natural fats is the best diet in the world for slowing signs of aging, avoiding cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, you name it.  Get rid of processed foods and anything with sugar added is a great step in the right direction for your health and how you feel and look.

Eat food grown the way God intended, without chemicals, with great soil (to get your vitamins and minerals), and absolutely no GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms).  To know for sure this is how it is grown, grow it yourself or buy from a farmer you have visited and trust.  Join a CSA (to find one near you, visit http://www.localharvest.org).  Local and organic at the store is the next best thing.  Difference between organic and all natural?

With a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), you pay the farmer before the growing season starts so she can buy all her seeds and supplies she needs.  Then, when she starts harvesting in May/June, you get a share of what is harvested each week through October.  If you calculate how much you are spending on produce each week, it is likely more than you are now.  What we found is that our overall grocery bill went down dramatically as we planned all our meals around the produce we were getting each week.  A CSA is a great deal as well as motivator to eat really well!

You can grow in small spaces and pots.  You don’t need much room.  It is amazing how much you can grow in a small amount of space.  How to decide what to plant for small spaces?  It doesn’t take more time than grocery shopping or eating out to grow your own.  Seeds are cheap (you can even get them for free from friends, neighbors or the veggies and fruits you get from the store).  You can make containers out of almost anything, too.  A 6’ by 6’ plot, planted right, will grow most of what you need for produce for most of the year.  This small of an area will grow $500 worth of produce if only doing a traditional 2 season garden.  Mediterranean diet garden  Stretch it to a 4 season garden and the benefit goes up.  You can garden year round in small space

Eat "as close to the root as possible".  As soon as you pick a vegetable, it begins to die.  Some vegetables lose 90% of their nutritional value in a week, about the time it takes for produce to be picked, washed, packaged, shipped across the country and put on the store shelf.  Cooking also destroys the enzymes in food.  The most nutritious will be that which is just picked, grown in soil that is rich in organic matter and minerals. Fresh is best!  To increase the minerals in you, increase them in your garden soil. The next step in garden production and your nutrition-soil minerals   

Here is what "organic" means in raising and growing food Basics of organic gardening  If you want to go a step further, What is biodynamic farming?   Permaculture-companion planting on steroids   Biodynamic and permaculture promote a closed loop system where no outside inputs are used.  You do things like make your own fertilizer.   When choosing seeds and plants to buy, this blog explains the different terms of heirloom, hybrid, and GMO  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

Truly, God created the heavens, the earth and all living plants and creatures perfectly.  He created the plants and animals to sustain us and give us everything we need.  We should remember that and eat a variety of foods that are as close to its natural, fresh state as possible to feed our bodies the perfect nutrition.