Carrots, Zucchini and the Beginner Gardener By: Cristina Luibil, MS, RD, LDN of Down to Earth Nutrition
Nourishing New Market is a blog series brought to you by Down to Earth Nutrition in conjunction with the New Market Green Team.
This season the New Market Green Team will be working in conjunction with New Market Grange No. 362 and Grow Frederick Inc. to revitalize the New Market Community Garden! The Community Garden will be available from May 1 through November 1, 2022. You can read more about it here.
Being a member of the New market Green Team and a Registered Dietitian, I have volunteered to write a blog series about the seasonal food you’ll be able to grow in your community garden plot, tying in the nutrition of the food that you have grown yourself!
Before thinking about nutrition, we need to think about planting and harvesting the food! I am a huge proponent of seeking out the expert when I need to know more about something, and I don’t personally have a green thumb. So, I reached out to my local farmer, Ben Sayler of Pleasant Hill Produce to ask some questions that the beginner gardener might appreciate.
Here’s what Farmer Ben had to say: On the Basic Supplies Here are the basics you'll need to start your Community Garden plot:
A trowel to dig holes
A knife and clippers to harvest your crops
A hoe to hoe weeds (this can also be done by hand!)
A bin to carry out your harvest
A bin or bag to carry out any weeds or other trash and debris
A watering can
Ideally, a larger water jug (like a refillable 5-gallon one) that can be refilled at home and brought to and from your community garden plot
Nice, but not necessary: a garden kneeling mat
On What To Do Those First Few Days Utilize the first week or two for plot preparation, which includes:
Working up the soil
Letting the soil rest
Mulch, so water doesn’t evaporate too quickly, and to keep weeds down
On Planning your Garden Planning ahead is key! Remember, you can rent a plot from May 1 through November 1. Check out this Vegetable Planting Calendar for Central Maryland for approximate times to plant your crops for a summer harvest, and then perhaps something else later for a fall harvest. Be mindful that you likely won’t be able to physically fit everything you’d like to eat into an 8x8 plot! Think about the following when planning:
Tie in your favorite foods with the space you have. You will likely have to supplement your garden plot with another source of produce.
If you plan to grow larger crops (like pumpkin, watermelon, or sweet potato), you might only have room for 1-2, but you can plant something new later in the season when the first harvest is over (again, see the calendar for planning).
If you plan to grow smaller crops, you may have room for 3-4 varieties.
Farmer Ben says it’s very important to follow the recommended spacing requirements of different crops. The spacing recommendations are as such to ensure that plants have enough room to thrive and grow to their full potential. If you follow the spacing guidelines, then you will get more food.
On Pest Prevention Nobody likes a pest. Non-chemical weed and pest prevention is encouraged in the community garden, as the use of fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and herbicides (weedkillers) is prohibited by the Community Garden Agreement. Some non-chemical options that Farmer Ben suggests are:
Organic pesticides, etc. (which are made from bacteria, not chemicals)
Physically covering shorter plants with a light sheet, which can help keep out animals
On Watering your Garden While the New Market Grange No. 362 and its affiliates are working on a solution to providing water to the garden and are considering a water collection system, it is in the Community Garden Agreement that each renter will supply water for their own plot.
Remember the watering can and large refillable jug mentioned earlier? It may be super easy get one large refillable jug to refill at home and use it, along with your watering can, to water the plants down at your garden plot.
Mulch your garden plot, so all the watering you do doesn’t just evaporate in the hot summer months. It will keep the soil moist for your plants. Also, mulch will keep the weeds down!
If you've visited Down to Earth Nutrition before on Facebook or Instagram, you may have already heard me talk about sustainable nutrition. It's part of my tagline that I define on my website: "Sustainable Nutrition for Lifelong Wellness" is the act of being able to sustain an enjoyable way of eating for the long term, as a part of maintaining lifelong wellness. Food, nutrition, and eating should not induce apprehension, and should always be sustainable in that we do not have to take a break from our eating habits in order to enjoy ourselves and our life.
Sustainability with food also ties in agriculture, the environment, and a way to ensure our food supply for generations to come. This includes, but is not limited to: eating seasonal and locally procured foods, gardening, and supporting local farmers, bakers, and other local food artisans.
Let's talk sustainable nutrition in our community garden. According to the planting calendar, we can plant carrot and summer squash (zucchini) seeds right in the ground in mid-May, and they’ll BOTH be ready for harvest mid-June through October!
CARROTS Carrots are excellent sources of vitamin A, specifically beta-carotene which give carrots their rich orange color. Vitamin A protects our eyesight, reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means you need dietary fat as a regular part of your eating pattern in order to digest and absorb vitamin A!
Carrots are also good sources of potassium and fiber. Both these nutrients work in their own ways to support our heart health. Potassium, a major mineral, has been known to help reduce blood pressure levels. The fiber in carrots can help the body remove the “lousy” LDL cholesterol from our body, which improves our cardiovascular health. Additionally, fiber also aids in gut health by keeping us regular.
Carrots are also a good sources of folate and vitamin K, and the minerals calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
ZUCCHINI Zucchini, is an excellent source of vitamin C, which is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that once your body gets enough through food, it excretes the rest. Vitamin C is great for your skin, as it is required to heal wounds and to make collagen. Collagen is a protein found in skin and other connective tissue, and provides the skin with elasticity, strength, and hydration.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, so it can protect your cells from free radicals due to the environment (like pollution, cigarette smoke, etc.) or due to normal “wear and tear” of the body's cells. Vitamin C also supports our immune system by helping it to function at its peak level. Who knew zucchini can do all of this?
Zucchini is also a good source of vitamin B6, has a bit of potassium, folate and vitamin A, and a small amount of fiber, too.
As you can see, both carrots and zucchini supply various vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that correlate to keeping different body functions operating normally. I'm super excited that you'll be able to plant these crops yourself this May and will be able to enjoy them with your summer and fall recipes later this year.
Community Garden with new plots and fencing being added at the New Market Grange No. 362.
Don’t forget to read about and SIGN UP for your New Market Community Garden plot HERE! There are only so many and we expect the plots to sell out fast!
Want to keep talking nutrition with Down to Earth Nutrition's Registered Dietitian? Contact Cristina here.
Have other beginner gardener questions for Farmer Ben? Would you like specific summer produce featured? Leave your thoughts in the comments and we will follow up in future volumes of Nourishing New Market.
Blog Disclaimer: While Cristina Luibil is a registered dietitian, she may not be your dietitian, personally. All blog posts are for informational and educational purposes only and may not be the best fit for your personal situation. Information shall not be construed as medical nutrition therapy. Any recipes you try from DTEN blog posts are tried at your own discretion. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. It is not intended to replace individual nutrition care or nutrition counseling with a registered dietitian. Always check with your own registered dietitian and physician or medical treatment team before trying or implementing any information read here.
If you choose, Down to Earth Nutrition would be happy to help you in your own, individualized sustainable nutrition journey.