Eat Your Veggies: Farmer’s Market Produce to Stock Up On

Guest Post, Clara Beaufort of Gardener Gigs

Summertime is in full swing and so is your local farmer’s market. Colorful vegetables are on display, promising delicious, high quality taste and healthy meal options for you, your family, and friends. All the produce is locally grown, ensuring you are only getting the best quality grown with extra love. The best part? They are packed with vitamins and minerals that boost your health and immune system. The following are a just a few of the vitaminsand mineralsthat can be found in the vegetables for sale at the farmer’s market:

●     Calcium (strong bones and nutrient absorption): bok choy, brussel sprouts, squash, celery, broccoli, kale, swiss chard, turnips

●     Iron (improved cognitive function, energy, and immune system): bok choy, brussel sprouts, squash, kale, leeks, swiss chard

●     Magnesium (bone health, cell creation, and nutrient absorption): squash, swiss chard

●     Potassium (heart function and water balance): bok choy, squash, swiss chard

●     Vitamin A (skin/eye health and infection protection): cabbage, carrots, celery, collard greens, lettuce, spinach

●     Vitamin C (teeth/gum health and wound healing):broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, collard greens, green beans, radish, spinach

●     Vitamin E (muscle repair and protection against cell damage):spinach, swiss chard, turnips

●     Vitamin K (bone strength and blood clotting):broccoli, brussel sprouts, collard greens, kale, lettuce, swiss chard, turnips

Getting Your Hands Dirty

Dreaming of walking out the back door to pick a basket of fresh herbs and vegetables? Not only is it possible to grow vegetables in your own backyard, but it’s fairly easy too. Here’s how to get started.

First, you need to choose a site. Vegetable gardens need at least six hours of full sun per day and do best in loamy, well-drained soil. The site you choose should have convenient access to water. Your choice will also depend on how large of a garden you want. If you’re just growing kitchen herbs and a handful of cherry tomato plants, garden boxes along your home’s perimeter should do the trick. However, growing a summer’s supply of fresh vegetables calls for a larger area. Today’s Homeownersuggests 100 square feet per family member. 

You can construct a garden bed a number of ways, but the easiest is to dig straight into the ground. Raised bedsoffer a more manicured look and are a popular option. Your choice will determine your garden’s layout; while large in-ground gardens rely on rows and walking paths to make the space navigable, in a raised bed you can use the entire space and grow upward, rather than outward.

Before you start planting, you’ll need to amend the soil. High-quality soil is essential for growing high-quality vegetables, and for most growers, compost is the amendment of choice. Compost conditions soil and adds the organic matter and microbial life that feeds plants, as well as prevent weeds. For best results, apply 1 to 3 inches of compost over garden beds and lightly mix it into the topmost soil layer. Then, rake to create a smooth soil surface free of rocks and dirt clods. Now you’re ready for planting!

 

The crops you can grow depend on the season, so you should prepare a basic crop plan before getting carried away at the garden center. Here are some crops that are popular to grow in each season:

 

Spring: Arugula, beets, carrots, celery, chard, chives, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, peas, radishes, and turnips.

Summer: Basil, beans, corn, chilies, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, oregano, peppers, summer squash, tomatoes, and winter squash.

Autumn: Beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cilantro, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, parsnips, radishes, spinach, and turnips.

 

Certain crops are best direct-seeded, which means sowing seeds directly into the soil. These include root crops like carrots, beets, and radishes, as well as beans, peas, and corn. However, other plants offer the highest yields when they’re transplanted. That’s because when you grow seedlings indoors, you can start your plants before the weather outside is warm enough. Since the plant is more mature at transplant time, you enjoy a longer harvest period before the season ends. Many crops can be transplanted successfully, including peppers, tomatoes, and brassicas. Seed packets tell you whether a crop is best direct-seeded or transplanted.

 

Some crops are only in the garden for a few weeks before they’re ready to harvest. That means certain garden areas can be planted multiple times in a single season. Any time you replant, you should rotate your crops. That doesn’t mean digging up plants and moving them to a new position. Rather, crop rotation refers to alternating which crops you plant in which space. Rotating crops compensates for the fact that some plants are heavier feeders than others; for example, you might choose to alternate corn, which demands high nitrogen, with beans, which fix nitrogen into the soil. Crop rotation also prevents the transfer of diseases and pests between crops in the same family so you don’t have to rely on chemical fixes. If you do notice crop issues, use Purdue University’s guide to vegetable insects and the University of Tennessee’s guide to vegetable garden disease control to diagnose the issue and develop a treatment plan.

 

Now that your garden is built and planted, all you should have to worry about is garden maintenance until you enjoy your first harvest! As long as you stay on top of tasks like watering and weeding, you should enjoy a vibrant bounty and lots of fun as you tend to your new vegetable garden. If you don’t have a green thumb, stock up on all your favorites at the farmer’s market for a delicious summer and healthy lifestyle.

Jan Kozak