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Archive for July, 2016

Opportunities abound for childhood nutrition in any home!

Did you know that you can grow food in nearly any home? Even petite patios will support food production in the summertime in Texas. South-facing, well-lit areas are best, with a minimum six of hours of direct sunlight during the day. Many vegetables will grow through the summer, and with the plentitude of plant nurseries and home improvement stores offering home gardening supplies, access to home-grown nutrition has never been better.

While there is an initial cost in purchasing garden supplies, consider the return on investment: a pound of heirloom tomatoes can cost $3.99 at the grocery store. For less than $10, you can grow ten pounds of tomatoes on one plant for a return of more than $30 in flavor and nutrition. Or you can grow a single cucumber vine and have homemade fridge pickles all summer! Squash plants are especially generous: One or two will do!

Children love to watch the development of plants and their fruits as they grow new leaves, develop blossoms, attract bees and butterflies for fertilization, and then turn into delicious, homegrown vegetables. They can help pick out the containers, fill them with potting soil, and plant seeds or transplant baby vegetable plants. Gardening is a family endeavor!

These are a few easy options for growing peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and more, in a simple container garden:

  • Plastic Buckets: Possibly the most affordable option, a clean 5-gallon food grade bucket (like those used in restaurants and grocers) can grow a pepper or tomato plant with ease.
  • Grow Bags: Slightly more expensive, these fabric bags are made from recycled plastics or simple burlap. They allow for moisture
  • Self-Watering Planters: While more expensive to purchase, the attractive designs available for these planters, combined with ease of maintenance and potential longevity, make for an appealing option.

These are a few recommendations for varieties of tomatoes and cucumbers that grow well in Texas:

  • Tomatoes:
    • San Marzano: An heirloom paste tomatoes, these are similar to Roma varieties and work best in sauces and soups. Prolific and a favorite of chefs everywhere, these are heat-tolerant and tasty!
    • Black Krim: An heirloom beefsteak type, this is an heirloom variety of Russian origin. Heirlooms are typically less bountiful than many modern hybrid varieties. However, their superior flavor and dark purple-black flesh make them a favorite of the tomato aficionado. Consider slicing and serving fresh with sliced mozzarella and homegrown basil, drizzled in olive oil and vinegar.
    • Yellow Pear: These are a fast-growing, prolific type of particularly tasty fruit that serve well as a snack or addition to any salad.
  • Cucumbers:
    • Marketmore 76: An heirloom variety, this bush-type plant produces large numbers of fresh and delicious salad-type cucumbers. Their skins aren’t ideal for pickling, but you’ll have enough for the neighbors, too!
    • Burpless Bush Hybrid: Good for fresh eating or pickling, this is cucumber has been bred into a multipurpose patio-perfect bush variety.

Tips:

  • Potting soil is specifically designed to allow plants to grow in containers, and is a requirement for your container garden.
  • Save money on starting your garden: consider sharing the cost of seed packets or seedling sets with a neighbor or friend.
  • Use online resources to find a seed-swap in your area.
  • Gallon-size plants cost more, but produce faster.
  • Look for plants that are bright green and compact. Don’t buy potted plants whose roots are growing out the bottom of the container.

 

About the Author

Sarah Nielsen is the mother of a three year old. She’s an English teacher, who loves writing about family friendly health, nutrition, physical activity, and community activities.

 

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