Dallas County Master Gardener volunteers at the Raincatcher’s Research, Education and Demonstration Garden of Midway Hills share your concern for eating healthy during these uncertain times. We’ve put together a short list of ways that you can start growing and harvesting seasonal crops over the next few weeks and months. Here are some gardening (and recipe) suggestions to help supplement your meals with freshly harvested herbs and vegetables.
If you do not already have a designated vegetable garden, try one of these options:
1) Find an open place in your flower bed that receives around 6 to 8 hours of sun, preferably from morning until mid or late afternoon. Give your soil a boost by adding compost. Good quality compost can be purchased at most local garden centers. Make sure you have a water source close by, and position the garden where you can keep a daily watch to head off any potential pests and weeds that could create problems if left unchecked.
2) Create a simplified version of a raised bed using cinder blocks. Place cardboard directly over a grassy spot in your yard that receives ample sunlight, then place cinderblocks in a rectangular shape around the cardboard, starting with 5 on each side and 3 at each end. Fill the enclosed space about 6 inches above the bed border with a commercial raised bed mix, and water thoroughly to let the soil settle. Space plants or seeds according to directions. Water as needed to maintain even moisture within the bed.
The cardboard method, a good way to smother weeds
A large cinder block garden bed
Start with 4” to 6” edible plants spaced according to label directions. Seasonal plants, including cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes, are currently in stock at many local garden centers, but don’t stop there.
Try the following options in your new raised bed or in your existing landscape as borders and ground covers, or plant a bay laurel to grow as a shrub or small tree.
Arugula (Eat fresh in salads, or use in dips.)
Spinach (Eat fresh in salads, sauté with scrambled eggs, or use in omelets, quiches and vegetable dishes.)
Kale (Eat fresh in salads; sauté for kale chips.)
Lettuce (Many different varieties provide texture and color in the landscape.)
Radish (Eat fresh in salads; slice thinly and serve on buttered bread for sandwiches.)
Carrot (Eat fresh in salads, roasted, or in soups and souffles. Use carrot tops to make pesto.)
Beet (Serve roasted, or grate for a cake.)
Swiss Chard (Eat fresh in salads, use leaves as a “wrap” for fresh chopped vegetables, sauté for turnovers, or add to soups.)
Dill (Leaves can be added to salads, potatoes, meat and fish at the end of cooking.)
Fennel (All parts of the plant are edible – leaves and stalk make a wonderful flavoring for fish.)
French Sorrel (Can be cooked or used fresh like lettuce. Makes a good soup; adds zip to salads. Great on roast beef sandwiches.)
Nasturtiums (Harvest the leaves, buds and flowers anytime, and use fresh. Excellent in salads. Leaves make a great pesto.)
Artichokes (Excellent vegetable served roasted, sautéed or steamed—a beautiful and majestic plant for your garden.)
Thyme (Strip small leaves from stems and use to enhance the flavor of baked or broiled fish dishes or fish sauces. Thyme Cheese Roll: Combine 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 1 tablespoon chopped thyme, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, ½ teaspoon minced garlic. Roll into a log and refrigerate. Serve with toast or crackers for a quick and easy snack.)
Sage (Flowers and leaves are edible; flowers are nice in salads and for making tea, and the leaves are great for cooking and making herb butters.)
Rosemary (Use with foods rich in fat such as roasted meats, poultry and fish. Add to soups and stew. Use stripped branches as skewers for your favorite grilled meats and veggies.)
Chives (Snip the leaves at ground level when harvesting. Chop and serve with salad, potatoes, pasta and cabbage.)
Oregano (Sprinkle on fresh tomatoes or use to make a sauce; adds flavor to stews and soups.)
Marjoram (Rub leaves on all kinds of meat, chop into egg dishes, stir into soups and sprinkle it over vegetables)
Basil (Plant mid to late April. Use leaves for salads, pesto and sauces. Combines well with zucchini, beans and mushrooms.)
Watercress (Harvest and use fresh in salads, soups and sandwiches.)
Purslane (Use in early spring salads. Leaves can be cooked like spinach.)
Sweet Bay/Bay Laurel (Use the leaves of this evergreen plant in soups, stews and other simmered dishes. Cook a leaf or two with dried beans.)
We hope you will be inspired to start gardening with your family and experience the joy of bringing fresh, flavorful food to your table.
How about a healthy robust minestrone soup using fresh garden ingredients. Picture by Linda
Click here for the recipe.
Linda Alexander and Lisa Centala with comments by Jeff Raska, Horticulture Assistant, Dallas County
Follow these planting guides: TAMU Vegetable Planting Guide
Northaven Garden Spring Planting Guide
New to gardening? Read this pamphlet, pages 13-15 have specific recommendations for veggie gardening.
Pictures by Starla Willis