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Spring Awakening!

“Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘Let’s Party’.”

Robin Williams



Spring Is A Time For New Life

I always find a renewed sense of energy and positivity as we head toward the Spring season. This year I’m especially grateful since we are approaching the one year anniversary of our world and daily lives being tested...and I know that’s putting it lightly.

My goal for the January and February posts was to begin to acclimate you to the micronutrients behind fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants, polyphenols and phytonutrients all play important roles in overall health and it’s helpful to have a small foundation of some nutritional elements. Plant-based diets are becoming the new gateway to individual health but everyone is different and moves at their own pace. I wanted to sow the seeds of inspiration as we approach spring and summer to help illuminate what you can do to take control of adding more plants and plant-based proteins into your diet and why they are good for you from the inside out (please refer to my January and February posts for more info).

It’s no coincidence that March is National Nutrition Month for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I am emphasizing on building your own herb garden….feel free to add in vegetables and flowers...for some people I know the sky’s the limit when it comes to growing.

I do focus on beginner growers here since I always preach about starting with small changes and beginning with a few favorite herbs is an excellent starting point...who knows you might discover you’re a green thumb after all!


How To Start Your Own Herb Garden

March is the perfect time to start thinking about growing an herb garden. The first thing you want to do is pick a location. Perhaps you have the perfect patch in mind that you’ve been threatening to grow your own tomatoes in for the past 2 years? Or maybe you live in the city and you can only do a small box of herbs outside your kitchen window. Whatever the set up, there is an answer for everyone.

Some of my favorites are listed below for suggestions:

  • Thyme

  • Sage

  • Oregano

  • Chives

  • Mint

  • Lavender


Soil & Sun

Making sure your soil has good drainage and enough room for the roots to sprout is key. Prepare the soil using a garden fork. This will help to break up old soil that has been compressed over time. Not all soils are created equal and some herbs prefer gritty soil such as rosemary and bay. Some herbs will rot in heavier soils but will do better in raised planters or pots. My advice is to know what you’d like to plant first before moving forward.

You will also want to take spacing into consideration when digging your holes for seeds or putting in whole herb plants. Measuring your herbs 1-4 feet in diameter is a good rule of thumb so the roots have some space to settle.

Most herbs will need 4-6 hours of sunlight per day. Summer temperatures do matter and anything above 90 degrees can be harmful for your herbs. If you have a location that gets morning sun and afternoon shade during high temps, that would work best.


Don't let any of the details above deter you from starting all together. Trial and error is best and some herbs are pretty robust. It doesn't all have to be perfect to work, just plant what you want and see what happens. Experiment with them...that's where the fun happens!


Composting And Why We Should Do It

Composting is utilizing several forms of organic waste such as food scraps (e.g. fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, rice/grains and grass/plant trimming) to use as fertilizer for your garden. Many farmers and gardeners use this practice to supplement their soil or in place of soil.

There are so many reasons to compost but the EPA has said it best. Below I have listed the EPA's several benefits to composting. Some might even surprise you!

  • Organic waste in landfills generates, methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By composting wasted food and other organics, methane emissions are significantly reduced.

  • Compost reduces and in some cases eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers.

  • Compost promotes higher yields of agricultural crops.

  • Compost can help aid reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by improving contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.

  • Compost can be used to remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste in a cost effective manner.

  • Compost can provide cost savings over conventional soil, water and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable.

  • Compost enhances water retention in soils.

  • Compost provides carbon sequestration.

(Reducing the impact of wasted food by feeding the soil and composting. 2020, October 29)


How Do I Start To Compost?

You don’t need to own a farm or any land to compost. If you are interested, it’s always best to start off small.You can start with a small 8x6x9 can with a lid next to your sink. All the organic wastes I mentioned above would be thrown into it and when the can is full, there are several things you can do:

If you want to compost but aren’t interested in doing the rest of the work there are several community compost drop off sites in major cities. You can do a quick google search for organizations in your area that accept compost drop offs that use them toward community gardens or have agreements with local farms. There are pick up services available that will pick up your compost curbside once or twice a month for a small fee (usually about $25).

If you have a very small kitchen, you can freeze your compost (and save yourself the counter space) and drop it off at an appropriate site when you get a chance. Having options makes it easy for you to still be part of the solution without much hassle on your end.


Direct Composting

If you have the outdoor space to compost on a larger scale, you can still have that can next to your sink and toss it into a compost bin outside. I recommend looking into one that has a handle on the side so you can rotate the trimmings. It is important that these scraps receive oxygen to breakdown and decompose. Like a fire needs air to breath, the same is true for composting. An 18 gallon compost tumbler will cost approximately $65.00. There are several different size options available depending on what scale you’d like to compost. When all the trimmings have been broken down (this process can take several months) and then you can add it to your soil so your herbs/vegetables/flowers can receive all that nutrients.


Benefits of Growing Your Own Herbs

There are several benefits to adding culinary herbs and spices to your daily meals. Herbs are known for containing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. Frequent consumption of herbs and spices can lower your heart rate and reduce cholesterols levels. Herbs such as basil, rosemary, sage and oregano can have great antioxidant benefits. Let’s not forget about spices such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. These also have individual properties that can aid in fighting inflammation, relieving nausea, lowering blood sugar, and easing pain.

Everyone loves to save money! At the end of the summer season my husband and I always pick the remaining herbs and freeze them in a tight container for winter. A great way to use up the rest of your basil is to make a delicious pesto which is also freezer friendly. Defrost is for a quick and delicious meal sometime in December and it will bring back the tastes of summer. Freezing your herbs is a great way to conserve the plants themselves and save you money on having to buy more of what you grow later that year.

Adding in more fresh (or previously frozen) herbs into your dishes can also help you acquire a new taste for them and you may feel compelled to add less salt to your dishes. Try to swap out herbs and spices instead of sodium.

Fun Fact: Did you know it only takes ten days to re-acclimate your taste buds?! This means you can retrain your buds to crave new foods...even as an adult. This can also help curb sugary food cravings as well as the salty!


Bok Choy Is the Highlighted Vegetable Of March!

Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage. It can be planted in the spring after the last frost and can be harvested in the summer. You can also plant it again in late summer for another harvest in the fall. It packs a powerful antioxidant punch with a healthy dose of Vitamin A, C, B6, folate and calcium.

Bok choy has a soft and mild taste with wide green leaves and crunchy, white stems. It makes a wonderful addition to any salad, stew, soup, or stir fry. To prepare it, rinse first and cut a small section from the base of the stems. You can pull the leaves off and use whole but I like to cut them up as if they were a small head of romaine lettuce and toss the slices into whatever dish I’m cooking.

Before adding any new vegetable to your weekly rotation, it is important to review it with your doctor first.

Spring is a great way to revitalize yourself from the slumbers of the winter and enjoy the sun before the heat of the summer hits. It’s as if the whole earth re-awakens which makes it a perfect time to check in with yourself and set some new healthy intentions. And Remember….Health starts from the inside out….but also from the ground up!

To discuss more detailed information regarding the topics within this blog, or to inquire about customized nutrition plans, please reach out to Cathleen Winter at wellnesswithin.cw@gmail.com


A Little About Me

My name is Mary DeBlasio, and I live in Silver Spring, MD. I am currently a student studying Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of the District of Columbia. I am set to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in May of 2021. I am very interested in mindful eating, and foods that correlate with the seasons. My goal after graduation is to pursue a dietetic internship with a focus on clinical dietetics. I would like to concentrate on patients suffering from gastrointestinal issues. All my information is backed by credible sources cited within the blog.


Sources

Herb garden - growing herbs: Gardener's supply. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/herb-garden/5068.html#:~:text=Most%20herbs%20thrive%20in%20typical,prefer%20gritty%2C%20sharply%20drained%20soil.


Litterless. (2020, January 10). How to compost in an apartment. Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://www.litterless.com/journal/how-to-compost-in-an-apartment

Need help? (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://www.tastefulgarden.com/Herb-Gardening-for-Beginners-d19.htm


Please enable cookies. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/bok-choy/bok-choy-planting-times.htm


Reducing the impact of wasted food by feeding the soil and composting. (2020, October 29). Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/reducing-impact-wasted-food-feeding-soil-and-composting

Simon, J. (2020, April 09). How to compost at home. Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://www.npr.org/2020/04/07/828918397/how-to-compost-at-home

TA;, J. (n.d.). Health benefits of culinary herbs and spices. Retrieved February 27, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30651162/





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