Gardening is great for your body and your mind. This is supported by research that shows a link between growing of produce, physical activity and good mental health.
On top of all the benefits associated with reduced stress and increased mental well-being, there are more health benefits attached to home gardening. An anti-inflammatory diet consists largely of plant foods rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It goes without saying that it is easier to eat fruit and vegetables when they are readily available at home. A study conducted in the US found that people who grow their own fruit and vegetables are more likely to eat the recommended intake than those who do not, and that fewer suffer from obesity.
Choose plants that are easy to grow on the balcony. Strawberries, kale, tomatoes and herbs are plants that are usually easy to grow in pots. Read more about these plants and how to grow them below.
Consider the weather conditions of your intended growing location. Is it in the sun or in the shade most of the day? That can affect which plants are best suited for the spot. Tomatoes, for example, need a lot of sun, while cabbage does well in partial shade.
Embrace insects! Bumblebees, butterflies, ladybirds and bees can help pollinate, keep away unwanted invaders such as aphids and boost your harvest. To attract more insects, it can be helpful to plant flowers that encourage insect life, such as lavender.
Kale is a nutrient-dense food, which means it provides a lot of nutrition with relatively few calories. 100 grams of kale provides about 21% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) of essential nutrients. For example, kale is rich in vitamins K and C and beta-carotene – an antioxidant that is the precursor to vitamin A. Kale also contains plenty of iron and ALA, which is a fatty acid that is converted into the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Of course, kale is rich in plant fiber which feeds the good bacteria in the gut.
Kale should be propagated indoors about 4–6 weeks before moving it outdoors. It thrives in a sunny or semi-sunny spot, in chalky soil with a high pH value. Kale doesn’t need much attention, just water it as needed. The plant should also be checked for cabbage butterflies and their larvae. To prevent infestation, the cabbage can also be covered with mesh. The kale can be enjoyed all year round – even in winter you can harvest leaves! The leaves are always harvested from the bottom up.
Growing herbs and spices
Herbs and fresh spices are both aromatic and useful in cooking – plus they have many health benefits! For example, rosemary is good for the immune system, blood circulation and a sluggish stomach. Peppermint has long been used in traditional medicine to stimulate digestion and soothe an upset stomach. Parsley is rich in vitamin C and folic acid, which promotes blood circulation.
Herbs are usually easy to grow, either in flower boxes or in pots. Some herbs are more robust than others, and each have their own benefits:
Lemon balm – fragrant plant that attracts bumblebees, is easy to grow and thrives in the sun.
Mint – will spread easily so isolate it in its own pot. Likes sun.
Thyme – doesn’t mind drying out and can take both sun and lack of water. Likes sun.
Rosemary – withstands drought quite well and only needs water occasionally. Likes sun.
Chives – grows nicely and thrives in the sun.
Parsley – grows nicely and thrives in the sun.
Strawberries, like many other berries, are rich in antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which are said to have an anti-inflammatory effect. They also contain plenty of vitamin C (76% of DRI) and the mineral manganese, which are also considered antioxidants.
Plant strawberries straight into the ground, in a raised bed or in a pot. They are relatively easy to care for as long as they get sun and water. However, strawberry plants need plenty of space to grow, so don’t plant them too close together. Also, make sure they have room to hang over the edges (prevents mold) and change to fresh soil every year.
Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, which has been shown to be effective against inflammation in the body. You can heat them up or cook them before eating as the heat releases more lycopene.
Nutrient-rich soil is good for tomatoes, along with plenty of sun and water. Propagate tomato plants indoors and put them out in a sunny spot without too much wind. Tomatoes need to be pollinated, so if you have a glazed balcony, you’ll need to shake the plants once a week. If they are outside, nature takes care of that through flying insects and the wind. Keep in mind that tomato plants need a lot of water! They need watering every day if it’s sunny.
Good luck with your gardening!
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