Beginning Gardening Tips

Spring is arriving, which means it’s time for planning and preparing gardens. With the rebirth of healthy eating, many want to grow their own vegetables. However, there's a science and an art to it so I’ve asked 85-year-old master gardener, Robert Taylor, to share a few tips with us. He earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Purdue University’s Agricultural and Horticultural programs; and has spent most of his life successfully growing all varieties of plants, and professionally teaching and helping others do the same. Welcome to Onlyourhealth, Mr. Taylor.    

      

What’s the first thing to consider when starting a garden?

Make sure the location is sunny, and the top soil is highly organic without pollutants such as mercury and lead. Most every county in the US has a County Extension Office directed by the agricultural university of that state. For a nominal fee, soil samples can be taken to them for testing and recommendations. 

Urban and suburban developments have a lot of clay soil, so most likely black top soil will need to be purchased. Many landscaping companies can haul truckloads of garden soil for a fraction of the cost of bagged soils bought from stores. However, if space is limited, and soil is poor quality, it's best to grow plants in containers filled with bags of potting soil.

 

What’s next?  

At the county extension office you can also pick up a garden planning guide, because it’s important to plan your garden before purchasing seeds and/or seedlings. You can purchase packs of seeds from most any store, including grocery stores. However, I highly recommend buying seeds from reputable garden catalogues such as Burpees, Gurneys, or Henry Fields. Seeds from nurseries are the best as they have been tested and dated for quality germination. To help avoid diseases such as tomato wilt and cucumber wilt, select hybrid seeds that are disease-resistant. They cost a bit more, but are worth the investment. Now is the time to be placing orders for seeds. 

A new product this year from several catalogues is a seed starting kit. Each kit includes a cell growing tray, humidity dome, water reservoir tray, and 55 grow plugs. This combination allows each seedling to take in the proper amount of water for healthy root development and uniform germination of the seeds. This is a great tool for beginning gardeners.

 

In a few weeks, after seedlings are started, Mr. Taylor will discuss tilling, gardening tools, when to plant outdoors, spacing, staking, composting, and controlling insects, diseases and fungus. Also, if you enjoy the aesthetic beauty of flower beds, you can grow vegetables right along with flowers that require full sun. Some gorgeous combinations are spring lettuces and pansies, tomatoes and marigolds, peppers, Swiss chard, kale, and eggplants. 

Enjoy your gardening endeavors!  

 

image credits: chiotsrun.com; coopext.colostate.edu

Antioxidants in almonds keep your arteries clean

Nuts are nutrient-rich – they contain a spectrum of micronutrients including LDL-lowering phytosterols, circulation-promoting arginine, minerals - potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and antioxidants including phenols, resveratrol, tocopherols (vitamin E), and carotenoids.

Nuts, and almonds in particular, are some of the most beneficial foods for decreasing heart disease risk: 

  • A 2009 meta-analysis confirmed that almond consumption of at least 25 g per day (about 1 ounce) is associated with a 7 mg/dL decrease in total cholesterol.1 
  • Collectively, the data from the four most recent U.S. studies estimates that Americans who eat five or more servings of nuts per week have a 35% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.2 

There are many potential mechanisms by which nuts might exert these beneficial effects on heart health – the dramatic decrease in heart disease risk from nut consumption can’t be explained by cholesterol lowering alone. Scientists are now investigating the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of nuts for their potential cardioprotective effects.

Almonds may have powerful antioxidant activity, in addition to their cholesterol-lowering activity. As well as their vitamin E, the skins of almonds contain a large and varied collection of phenol antioxidants. 

A study of hyperlipidemic individuals fed either almonds or a snack with a similar fatty acid profile each day for 4 weeks compared markers of oxidative stress in these two groups. The subjects fed almonds showed reductions in markers of oxidative stress.3 

This alleviation of oxidative stress was reflected in reduces serum levels of oxidized LDL.4 Since oxidation renders LDL more likely to be taken up by inflammatory cells, oxidized LDL is more dangerous in relation to atherosclerotic plaque formation. The synergistic effects of the healthy fats, antioxidants, and surely many other phytochemicals in almonds help to prevent this early and important step in the development of atherosclerosis. Though this study was reported on almonds, other nuts and seeds have similar marked effects that protect the heart.   

 

References:

1. Phung OJ, Makanji SS, White CM, Coleman CI. Almonds have a neutral effect on serum lipid profiles: a meta-analysis of randomized trials. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 May;109(5):865-73.

2. Kris-Etherton PM et al. The Role of Tree Nuts and Peanuts in the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease: Multiple Potential Mechanisms. J. Nutr. 138: 1746S–1751S, 2008.

3. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, et al. Almonds Reduce Biomarkers of Lipid Peroxidation in Older Hyperlipidemic Subjects. J. Nutr. 138: 908–913, 2008.

USDA/Agricultural Research Service (2008, November 4). Antioxidant Effects From Eating Almonds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 25, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2008/10/081031213057.htm

4. Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Marchie A, et al. Dose response of almonds on coronary heart disease risk factors: blood lipids, oxidized low-density lipoproteins, lipoprotein(a), homocysteine, and pulmonary nitric oxide: a randomized, controlled, crossover trial. Circulation. 2002;106:1327–32.