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Feature Article How Does Your Garden Grow?

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It’s time for spring planting! Whether you’ve been collecting seed packets since Christmas or you just picked up a few at the grocery store, growing your own food is a great way to get outside, reconnect with where your food comes from, and maybe even introduce some new vegetables to your diet.

“In terms of nutrition, the best plants to grow and eat are cruciferous vegetables,” said Sara Lee Thomas, a dietitian at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis. “Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and collard greens are recommended for preventing many kinds of cancer.”

If you don’t have a large yard, most plants will grow well in a pot. The container should be at least two feet tall and wide, drain water from the bottom and be made of a non-toxic material no treated lumber. Some plants such as tomatoes, beans and cucumbers can be trellised to save space. Vegetables also need at least six hours of sun a day and regular water, so be sure your garden is in a spot where you can take care of it easily. 

The Oregon State University Extension Service is a great online resource for beginner and experienced gardeners, with tips and area-specific growing information throughout Oregon, including when to plant your broccoli.

Whatever you decide to grow, start small. One or two items will seem like enough to take care of as you’re learning, and the whole family will benefit from the effort. Gardens are a great place to let kids help. Weeding, watering and watching the bees, bugs and worms work all create good learning opportunities and a chance to spend time together.

Once you harvest your bountiful crop, enjoy a side dish of roasted Brussels sprouts with your meal and swap cabbage for your lettuce on tacos and burritos for a boost of cancer-preventing nutrients. You’ll probably appreciate that crunchy cabbage more after watching it grow. You might even decide to try a bigger garden next year.

Want to learn how fresh food stands up to frozen or canned for your health? Find out.  Or check out That’s My Farmer classes, a nutrition series for cancer survivors that teaches healthy shopping and the impact of fresh, wholesome foods on your health.