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Gardening Does So Much More Than Provide Food

Robyn Openshaw - Apr 06, 2008 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

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:



Posted in: 12 Steps To Whole Food, Gardening, Tools & Products

13 thoughts on “Gardening Does So Much More Than Provide Food”

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  1. It doesn’t get any better than that! Your tomato story is amusing, so many people miss out on what a home grown fresh tomato tastes like.

  2. We’ve been living in rental units with little to none backyard space. The past 4 summers we have successfully grown a few veggies in container pots. Enough for a few salads anyways. Ha ha This summer we will have a bit more space in the back yard and would like to build some square plots to grow even more produce. Thing is, we’d like to be able to take it with us when we are done renting. Are plots easy to build and then move? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Love your blog and website!

  3. http:// says:

    We built a new home and moved three years ago. We brought our square foot boxes (and some really nice metal trellises bolted to them) with us. So, yes, you can move them pretty easily. Too bad the builder ran over them with his backhoe and we had to build them all over again. 🙁


  4. Loved the photo’s and your smmothie advice.I’m 74 and have been getting more and more into raw vegies and fruit. Cooked meals upset my stomache

    I have a vegie gaeden and love to eat from it. I buy smoothies from my “Burgers fruit veg shop $ 5.00 dollars for a large one which makes 2 meals with somefruit or yugurt as well with it. I usually get carrott, celery, apple and ginger. Good on you. I belong to the Church of CHrist of Latter Day Saints which the headquarters and temple of is at Uata, Nancye

  5. Anonymous says:

    Jaimie Oliver’s Food Revolution showed what children are eating in our schools. French fries and catsup count as vegetables. He showed a classroom of children fresh vegetables and fruit a piece at a time and asked what they were. They could not identify even the most basic of items. To not know what a tomato or peach looks like is sad.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dear Robyn,

    Thank you for your interesting e-mails. I read your info on Salba (Chia) last week. Unfortunately it would be too expensive to ship it to South Africa. I would very much like to see what it looks like. Could you kindly mail me a small sample of seeds in an envelope to:

    Rous Pienaar, Suite 84, Private Bag X34, Somerset West, 7129 South Africa.

    Have a splended spring and summer, and happy gardening.

    Kind regards


  7. http://areem says:

    how i can goot thet food i am from maldives

  8. Anonymous says:

    oh, the square foot gardening – did that with my kids – they loved it – they had their own space in the garden that they could plant anything they wanted – and got to eat it as well – good for soul – life long lesson

  9. Anonymous says:

    My husband wants to plant our tomatoes in the same spot as last year. I’ve told him everything I’ve read says this invites disease to the plant, however all the other possible spots end up in the shade by afternoon. Is there a way to amend the soil enough that planting them in the same spot is ok??? Thank you so much!!! Diane

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      Diane, I don’t know. That would depend on your soil. But YES, it’s a very good idea to rotate different crops in your garden so they’re taking different nutrients from the soil. If you amend it with good compost, you might be okay–I don’t know (you can have soil tested at your county extension service but that’s a pain).

  10. Anonymous says:

    Robyn, can all green leaves of garden plants be used for green smoothies?

    1. Robyn Openshaw says:

      No, but many can. Strawberries, squash/zucchini, grape, those leaves I know are edible. Plus the greens from beets, turnips, radishes, etc., of course.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It might be a good idea to research which green leaves we cannot or should not eat. I planted parsnips in my garden and thought I could throw them into my smoothies, but decided to check first and found out they were poisonous, according to the website I used. So now I would really like to know what NOT to consume.

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