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Planning your Garden for Homegrown Meals

Back before we had a yard, we dreamed of the day we’d have room to grow our own produce. As soon as we bought our first house, we learned everything we could about permaculture and hopped right into converting our yard into a food factory. Since little man was born we’ve been slacking on the yard/garden/house upkeep, but we are grateful for the little seeds we planted a few years ago because now those little seeds (just like our little kiddos) are becoming fruit-bearing trees.

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Unlike the more complex task of growing children, sunlight, water and good soil are all you need to set the ground for your backyard veggie factory! A home garden is not only economical, but it’s also a fun way for your whole family to truly appreciate fresh produce. The nutritious fruits of your labor will have abundant flavor that’s superior to anything you pick from the grocery bins.

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To plan your vegetable bed well for meal prep, consider which foods your family loves. A personalized garden is the ideal “marketplace” for any family coping with food allergies or conditions, or simply interested in promoting healthy eating. If you plan right, you can create a brilliant, low-maintenance garden with a high return and healthy yield of yum!

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Down in the South, we are able to plant winter veggies long after the rest of the U.S.. Here are some ideas for vegetables to put in the earth and cultivate now in order to make fulfilling and refreshing meals later on:

Winter squash: Some of the most versatile veggies around, winter squash are a must-plant item. Remember to leave enough room for their long vines and large leaves to creep across your plot. Or affix a sturdy trellis near the shoots and they’ll wind upwards as they grow. Kids love to watch the spiraling vines!

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Roots and tubers: Root vegetables are the basis for many satisfying family meals. Carrots grow in sweetness as the weather cools down. Onions pair well with carrots, both underground and in your kitchen. Parsnips boast a gentle sweetness that tastes great mashed or in soups, and with their vibrant color, beets are just as delicious as they are beautiful! Pile mulch over root vegetables after you plant them in order to keep the ground insulated, and harvest as soon as they’re big enough to eat.

Peas: Sow pea seeds in winter for enjoyment in late spring. With dainty white blossoms and pretty leaves, peas also add decorative flair as they spread around a tepee or mini-fence.

Leafy greens: Check out the range of winter lettuces, which are extremely hardy and can tolerate lower temperatures. Spinach is also a great garden addition that’s packed with nutrition and perfect for tossing into your salad.

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Beans: All types of beans can be combined with grains to create a whole balanced meal. They’re easy to grow from seed, germinate quickly and produce abundantly.

Cabbage: Savoy cabbage is a favorite type to grow, but all cabbages provide delightful crunch in fresh salads and add flavorful texture to cooked dishes.

Cruciferous goodies: Cauliflower heads are easy to grow in the winter and tend to supply an ample harvest. If your family is aiming to eat low-carb, cauliflower is a good substitute in many potato-based recipes. Broccoli, or as kids call it: “little green trees”, is fond of cool weather, full of taste and nutrients, and undemanding to nurture.

In addition to enhancing your meals, a kitchen garden is fertile ground for fantastic bonding with your kids. As you dig, plant, and weed together, you’ll reap the health benefits of outdoor exercise. The bonuses continue after the plants are grown – when you eat the ripe, nutrient-rich produce. You’ll also be left with many amazing memories of time spent together planning, planting and harvesting your produce. We’d love to hear your favorite tips for planning your garden for homegrown meals!

– The Gardners

All photos taken by Patrick Engman, long before our little man came around!

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