gardening does so much more than provide food

Is there anything better than garden tomatoes?   Twenty years ago, we used to make my sister-in-law, when she was a college student, sing a John Denver song before we gave her any of our garden tomatoes: “Only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and home-grown tomatoes!”

Yesterday, Apr. 5, I planted 1 of my 10 square-foot boxes (this particular box is 5′ x 4′; some others are 6′ x 4′).   In Utah, it’s still cold, nothing’s turning green yet, and we’re 4 weeks off from the date we plan on the last spring freeze.   I describe nutritional properties of, and advocate for planting, quite a few crops in the next chapter of 12 Steps to Whole Foods: Planting a Garden and Using Everything In It.   Of those, you can plant  3 crops  right now:   CABBAGE SEEDLINGS, and LETTUCE and SPINACH from seeds.   That’s what we did yesterday.

Planting a garden is a critically important part of getting an inexpensive, chemical-minimized, disease-preventing, naturally weight-controlling, plant-based diet.   (12 Steppers, although I release this on May 1, if you want to plant now, write me for the draft in its current form.)

Square-foot gardening (the book is by Mel Bartholomew) gets more produce per foot than any other method: 1 cabbage plant per foot, 4 heads of lettuce per foot, 9 spinach plants per foot, 16 beets or onions per foot.   You can even build a grow box on a concrete patio (which I did on the TV show I went on).    

Next week, if you’re in a cold zone like us with a May 1 last-frost date, you can plant onion sets, radishes, beets, and chard.   planting-april-08-35.jpg

Involve your kids so they know where food comes from and so they have a sense of contribution to the meals that will result some weeks or months from now.   I believe they also learn about the law of the harvest (you reap what you sow), and delay of gratification (work now for a reward later)—concepts that far too few modern children understand in the industrialized age of fast food and credit cards.   A sound understanding of these principles lead to children who make better dietary choices, children who obtain education, and children who will teach your grandchildren self-sufficiency someday.


My younger children (10 and 7) love working with me in the garden.   This is Mary Elizabeth (10) learning to plant cabbage and spinach: