Plant now and you'll be picking your own five-a-day
Being creative brings with it many benefits, and gardening is the perfect pastime to produce wonderful floral displays and relaxing outdoor spaces, with opportunities to nurture crops and watch plants grow to perfection.
Gardening is a rewarding outlet for individual creativity, connecting us to plants, the soil and surroundings, and health experts now agree that these are all beneficial to our health and wellbeing.
Whether you’re creating summer patio displays, sowing crops on the veg plot or allotment, or planting a cutting garden to produce beautiful flowers to pick and bring indoors, there are plenty of exciting projects to start this month.
Now’s a great time to sow and plant flowers, veg, salads, fruits and herbs to enjoy over the months ahead. Gardening outside in the fresh air is a good way to get some gentle exercise while nurturing crops and patio displays to perfection.
By growing your own you’ll pick the freshest, healthiest, nutrient-rich produce possible – from plot to plate in minutes!
While ‘five-a-day’ has become a mantra for many, experts at Imperial College London say most people still aren’t eating enough fruit and veg, and should be eating more. Fruits and vegetables provide a rich variety of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fibre. These help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, boosting the immune system, reducing cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as well as providing many other health benefits.
One of your five-a-day is defined as an 80g (3oz) portion, and the most beneficial crops to grow at home include apples and pears, salads and green veg such as spinach and lettuce, yellow sweet peppers, and cruciferous crops including cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
For a healthy balanced diet, aim for a rainbow of colours on your plate too – both raw and cooked – as different coloured fruits and crops contain varying beneficial ingredients. For instance, it’s anthocyanins that give beetroot, blackberries, red cabbage and purple and blue crops their colour, while the distinctive orange/yellow colour of carrots, peppers and squash comes from carotinoids, used in our body to form Vitamin A.
Gardening and growing your fruit, herbs, crops and cut flowers are beneficial to health and wellbeing in many ways. It’s rewarding and productive, provides exercise and helps feed the family with freshly picked, organically grown produce – the perfect way to keep you healthy and save money too!
Did you know?
Perhaps gardening and growing your own could reduce the million prescriptions for anti-depressants issued every week.
Picking your own fruit and crops can give you a harvesting high! Researchers have found that seeing, smelling and picking fruits and berries can release dopamine from the brain’s reward centre, resulting in a feeling of mild euphoria and wellbeing.
Eat the rainbow with colourful crops
For flavour and freshness grow a rainbow of colourful and nutritious fruit, veg and salads in your kitchen garden.
RED: Tomatoes, red onions, rhubarb chard, sweet peppers, chillis, strawberries, rhubarb.
ORANGE: Carrots, squash, pumpkin.
YELLOW: Golden courgettes and tomatoes, sweetcorn, yellow beans and sweet peppers.
GREEN: Asparagus, spinach, peas, beans, mangetout, rocket, lettuce and salad leaves, kale, romanesco, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cucumber, pak choi.
PURPLE: Beetroot, broccoli, aubergine, purple beans, purple asparagus, red cabbage, radish, kohl rabi, plums.
WHITE: Cauliflower, celery, leeks, onions, garlic, shallots, spring onions, potatoes, parsnips, celeriac, turnip.
Plants of the moment: for summer displays and crops
Now is the perfect time to plan and plant for bright, colourful displays and productive plots. Flowers attract bees and insects into our gardens, vital for the pollination of many fruits and crops. Hoverflies feeding on the pollen and nectar will be encouraged to breed, with their larvae eating greenfly to keep plants pest free.
Flowering plants available now for immediate colour include Nemesia, poppy varieties, pinks (dianthus), polemonium, and shrubs including berberis darwinii AGM, choisya, ceanothus, weigela, lilac and many viburnum.
Young plants of many crops including tomatoes, peppers, chillis, cucumbers, strawberries, courgettes and squash can be planted directly into large pots or growing bags in the greenhouse or on a warm, sunny patio. Dozens of other crops such as salad leaves, beans, rocket, spinach, beetroot and carrots can be grown from seed, so check the full range at your local garden centre now.