Garden: Backyard Medicines
My favorite thing about Spring: starting the garden. This is hands down, the most therapeutic, joyful, vibrant and healthful activity I know of, and the best part is that almost anyone can do this themselves with or without major gardening space. I have to admit, when I moved into the city of Richmond, my dreams of homesteading and having massive garden spaces with chickens and goats and bee hives wavered quite a bit…and I’m amazed now at how much is possible for a relatively small, urban backyard.
I’m lucky now to have a backyard space devoted almost entirely growing tasty and medicinal things. We inherited rosemary, lavender, apple and pear trees when the bought our house last summer, and made good use of the sunny yard by installing 2 raised beds and tilled out a good portion of the yard to expand even more. I was fully ready to plow through the entire front and back yard and turn the whole space into a full on production, but I was vetoed by the one who balances me, and agreed to “everything in moderation”. We wanted to maximize our vegetable crops in a relatively “confined” space, so planting as much color as possible was key to getting the largest spectrum of nutrients. We both have undergraduate degrees in Horticulture and Landscape Design, so it would be pretty embarrassing if we couldn’t successfully implement a small scale vegetable garden. Planning was critical to any success.
This Spring, we tried to plan ahead as much as possible by starting our seeds early, installing extra rain barrels to utilize free water, and working on our compost since last August. (We took full advantage of the free compost at Ellwoods from their juice bar!) We had to bring in a considerable amount of organic matter to fill the beds and be careful not to be too anxious to plant things too early (with some of those random warm days that were immediately followed by freak snow storms). We knew that once summer comes, we wanted plenty of extra beets and carrots for juicing, and lots of tomatoes to can and save for the fall and winter. I personally eat broccoli and onions like it’s my job, so plenty of space for those was crucial for my tastebud happiness. Kale and collards are almost a nightly staple, and it wouldn’t be a real meal without something containing loads of garlic (which we planted back in the fall). That’s not even mentioning the broccoli rabe, rhubarb, chard, potatoes and lettuce that we also had to fit in there too…Squash and zucchini got the boot really fast and were cast off to be planted into the flower beds to take up all the space they need. So, now that we had our choices made, ordering and starting seeds were the next task.
We tracked down organic seeds from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Johhny’s Selected Seeds and also purchased a couple from Ellwood Thompsons. We saved our cardboard egg cartons to start the seedlings and even built some shelves to put on our radiators (under our windows) so they would get lots of sunlight indoors. Watching them grow is always the sweetest part, seeing them thrive as the weather gets warming all the more increases the anticipation for warm weather and spring. Once they’re big enough, we put them outside during the day and take them in at night so they get acclimated more gently. At this point, we have planted potatoes, broccoli, broccoli rabe, kale, collards, chard, garlic, onions, carrots, lettuce, beets and rhubarb. That’s a ton of soon-to-be colorful nutrients that will take plenty of tending to and care to keep alive and healthy until they’re ready to harvest. Here’s a glimpse of what all that color will provide:
Purple Vegetables– Nourish the blood; Tones cardiovascular system; Contains anthocyanins to strengthen capillary tone; high in antioxidants
Examples: eggplant, red onion, purple cabbage, beets, blueberries
Red Vetetables – Contain lots of lycopene, great for the heart and cardiovascular system
Orange Vegetables – Contain beta carotene which is important for immune system and essential for cell-to-cell communication.
Example: Carrots, golden beets
Green Vegetables – Especially dark leafy & brassicas are important for multiple organ system detoxification; useful in hormonal imbalance; increases liver detoxification (gets rid of excess hormone supplies); LOADED with vitamins and minerals.
Examples: kale, broccoli, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, spinach, swiss chard, beet greens
White/Green Vegetables – Extremely nutritive to immune and lymphatic system.
Examples: garlic, onions, leeks, chives
Now we just wait and nurture. It’s the best thing ever to come home form working indoors and immediately going outside to check on and garden and get my hands (and feet!) in the dirt.
That’s some therapeutic medicine right there – in the backyard.
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN | HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com