When Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine physician Sally Williams, DO, is not busy in her clinic, you often will find her in her garden, making sure the chard and spinach are thriving and that the weeds aren’t choking the cucumbers. It’s likely her children are nearby helping out as well.
Williams gardening experiences began when she was a child, and what was once a chore is now a passion – one that gets her out in nature, sure, but one that has a delicious ulterior payoff as well.
“I love salads and there’s nothing better than a fresh salad with produce you grew from seeds,” said Williams, who is gearing up for this spring. “It’s nice to see the development of living things, to be outside and then to enjoy eating something you yourself have grown. Plus it tastes delicious.”
Williams said that you don’t need a lifetime’s experience in growing plants and getting your hands in the dirt to do well with gardening. In fact, you don’t even need a backyard or a big plot. You’re more than likely better off starting with a few small pots and going from there.
“It’s easy to get overwhelmed and if I was advising someone new to gardening, I would tell them to start small, because every year, it does seem like I tend to go too big, and the work – watering, weeding, pruning and harvesting – adds up,” she said. “You can also just focus on what you like to eat. If you love salsa, you can start a salsa garden in a few small pots if you have a sunny spot around your home.”
Vegetables don’t need a tremendous amount of fine-tuning or expert horticultural skill to start, and since spring is unfolding around us, the time to start is now. Start small, as Williams mentioned, pick a few “test subjects” and then get planting.
“You can find a wide range of choices in terms of seeds or seedlings, and all you’ll need to start, in a number of locations around our region,” she said. “Once you have your plants or seeds, you’ll just need soil, sun, water and some time to keep them going well.”
Small Spaces Can Work
The work to keep a big veggie patch can be daunting, and having family – especially kids, who love to be outside and can be coached on the finer points of pulling weeds and harvesting – to help you pays off. But a small herb garden that lets you infuse your cooking with fresh basil, chives or other herbs you crave doesn’t require much assistance.
“The heirloom varieties around Sioux Falls are pretty easy to find, so if you want something you cannot find in the grocery store, I recommend them,” she said. “My husband’s not a big fan of Brussel sprouts, but I really like how the plant looks and so we still grow them. You can plant a wide range of lettuces and other leafy greens early in the year and enjoy them throughout the early summer as well.”
Online and local gardening classes can also help, but since the work is pretty uncomplicated, the only thing holding you back is your willingness to have a fun hobby that relieves stress and pays off with delicious salads, salsas and ingredients you might not find elsewhere.
“I like to mix in companion plants that help ward off some of the bugs and beetles, but if you’re starting with a few pots, you might not need to take that step,” she said. “Weeding can be a nice way to relieve stress, too, and one important factor is finding a sunny spot you can fit your starter garden, even if it’s just a pot or two, so you can make sure those plants do well.”
Spinach, Strawberry and Cucumber Salad
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 1½ cups strawberries, sliced
- ½ of one medium cucumber, sliced
- ¼ of one small red onion, sliced
- 6 ounces baby spinach
- The juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 3-4 tablespoons honey – adjust to sweetness preference
1) In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients and mix until consistent.
2) In a larger bowl, combine salad ingredients.
3) Drizzle dressing or serve in small ramekins for fork-dipping.