Anna Henry 11Guest post by Anna Henry, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with Fairview Health Services

Spring is in the air! Birds are chirping, the grass is getting greener and the first flowers of the season are blooming. It’s the time of year we are excited to get outside, enjoy the sunshine and think about planting a vegetable garden.

I love the benefits of growing vegetables in my own backyard. Not only can I walk out my back door and pick fresh lettuce or kale for my evening meal, I also have a closer hand in providing my body with the healthy nutrients that vegetables contain.

Like the idea of a garden but not sure what to plant when? Here are some tips to help you get started.

What can you start planting today?

If you’re ready to get something in the ground soon, it’s best to start with cool season crops like kale, arugula, spinach, beets, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and onions. These can be planted starting in mid-April to ensure they mature before hot weather hits in mid-to-late summer. Other cool season crops include kohlrabi, peas, potatoes and radishes.

A number of vegetables require waiting until the danger of frost is past. These include: celery, Swiss chard, cucumbers, eggplant, parsnips, bell peppers, tomatoes and summer and winter squash. They can be planted starting in mid-to-late May.

Colorful veggies pack a nutritional punch

Colorful veggies provide nutrients like folate, calcium, vitamins A and C, fiber, magnesium and potassium, all while being low in calories and sodium. They also are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients (plant nutrients that may help to prevent disease and keep your body healthy).

To pack the most nutrition into your garden, include a variety of colorful vegetables. Great choices include:

  • Red/purple: beets for folate, tomatoes for potassium, red bell peppers for vitamin C and eggplant for fiber
  • Orange/yellow: summer and winter squash for vitamins A and C, carrots for vitamin A
  • Green: broccoli or Brussels sprouts for folate and fiber, leafy greens like kale for calcium and potassium, spinach for calcium and magnesium and Swiss chard for magnesium
  • White: onions, radishes and turnips for fiber and vitamin C and cauliflower for vitamin C and folate

Why are these nutrients are important for your body? Adequate folate (folic acid) intake supports healthy cell growth and metabolism; it is particularly important for women of child-bearing age. Calcium strengthens bones and blood vessels. Vitamin C helps with tissue and bone growth and repair. Vitamin A supports healthy vision and acts as an antioxidant. Fiber is important for healthy digestion. Magnesium sustains muscle and nerve function, as well as blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. Potassium plays a role in many systems of the body, including the muscles and cardiovascular system.

Once you’ve planted your colorful and nutritious vegetable garden, sit back, relax (between watering and weeding, of course), and reap the health benefits.

Learn more

To learn more, check out these resources: