Homegrown: Food for the Soul

By Sue Musial Bigelow

Growing your own vegetables is not only a great way to find the freshest produce, but it’s healthy for the spirit as well. Homegrown all starts with the soil and getting down and dirty. While gardening, it’s great to take off your shoes and get grounded; wiggle your toes in the dirt and get your hands dirty—all while soaking up some vitamin D. This is all part of the process that fuels your soul while creating food that nourishes in so many ways!

If you have never grown a garden before, don’t worry because acquiring a green thumb can be a process. If you have a sunny spot in your yard with good soil you can begin by removing the sod and loosening up the soil with a shovel or tiller and adding some rich compost. It doesn’t have to be big. You can grow plenty in a 5-foot by 10-foot plot of land.

A sample of your soil can be sent to your agricultural extension agency for testing to determine what you may need to boost its nutrient value. If your soil leaves little to be desired, then a raised bed may be the best way to go. One can be built simply with four boards or the stacking of rocks to form a boarder and then buying commercial organic soil. If you are on a hill use the grade to your advantage.

Maybe you don’t have land to plant on, but you have a deck or balcony. Containers can be purchased, or made, for raised deck gardens. Vegetable, herb pots or raised containers work well just outside your door. You also can buy pots in many different sizes for a variety of plants. A feed or hardware store has large plastic buckets that hold plenty of dirt, or you may even consider a watering trough as a container.

You can use your imagination to create an artistic garden. Recycling an old acrylic tub could create a colorful garden for growing great goodies. But be careful of using a cast iron tub that may contain lead. My brother turned his hot tub into a nice raised garden. Beautiful “flower beds” can be made from old bed frames. Even an old toilet could pose as a pot!

Where you live on the planet will determine when the best planting time occurs. Traditionally, for those who have four seasons, spring is planting time, while in Florida between October and late spring can be the best season for growing vegetables. Some crops can be planted outside sooner than others. Frost will kill many plants and seedlings so make sure you wait until all sign of frost is over before planting things like cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers directly into the ground. Most cruciferous plants such as kale and broccoli are cold crops and can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked. Spinach and peas prefer to be planted early; they don’t like the hot summer sun.

Finding a friend who also wants a small garden is great for sharing seeds. Think about what vegetables you like to consume in large quantities and plants those. Don’t be discouraged if your garden won’t grow certain vegetables. Plant what the soil prefers. My garden never seems to grow the easiest crop for most: radishes. They go to seed before the root will grow. I can’t seem to grow onions either. So I don’t! But my garden loves to grow kale, squashes, peppers, tomatoes and so much more.

Once your seeds and/or plants are sowed in the soil, make sure to water frequently to promote germination and growth. The soil should be allowed to dry out in between watering because too much moisture can cause seed rot. Then, let Mother Nature do her duty—wait, weed and watch your garden grow. And remember that weeding is essential, especially the first round when the seedlings are just poking through the soil because weeds can overtake young plants if they are not kept under control. Container gardening usually requires minimal weeding. Keeping an eye out for unwanted insects is important as well. However, love those bees, our amazing little pollinators.

Using your own fresh produce in the kitchen is a great reward. It is your own personal accomplished creation. You can start with just one tomato plant in a pot and taste some of the best tomatoes you ever had at your dining table. Are you ready to take the next step to nourish your body and feed your soul?

Susan Musial Bigelow is vice president of Health Coach Connect and a Licensed Respiratory Care Practitioner with a passion for organic gardening. She believes good health starts in the kitchen. Sue earned her Bachelor’s of Animal Science from the University of Massachusetts and worked for many years in the veterinary and pet industries with a focus on animal nutrition, where she noticed that animals’ skin and ear infections often could be cured with dietary changes. Throughout her journey, Sue continued to educate herself regarding health, wellness and nutrition, spirituality and lifestyle improvements, realizing all issues have a root cause. Going through her own personal and career transformation, Sue earned a degree in Respiratory Therapy and later received her Masters of Science in Administration from Saint Michael’s College. After witnessing too many patients dying of preventable chronic disease, she was motivated to pursue a certificate as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Her passion embraces animals, horseback riding, kayaking, cooking, and walks in the wilderness. Visit Health Coach Connect at www.healthcoachconnect.com.


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