Becoming a Lean, Green, Gardening Machine

National Nutrition Month is here and we've got the best tips to help with creating your very own backyard garden. Read on for healthy recipes, gardening ideas, and more.

In honor of National Nutrition Month, we’re highlighting the fastest, smartest, most cost-effective ways to get your garden going. From where to start and what to grow, to cooking with organic and healthy ingredients handpicked from your own backyard, prepare to dig deep into the mouthwatering world of gardening.

So, you’ve decided to start growing your own vegetable garden just in time for National Nutrition Month? Good! Because “Growing food is very simple,” says Kathleen Frith, managing director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. “It takes a little time, but things like tomatoes, lettuce, peppers — basic kitchen crops — are very forgiving. Really, anyone can learn to grow food pretty easily.” Plus, growing your own food will make you savor it even more thanks to the effort it took to get it onto your plate.

“Backyard gardening can inspire you to take an interest in the origins of your food and make better choices about what you put on your plate,” says Dr. Helen Delichatsios, of the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Not only will you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, but you’ll also have total control over what fertilizers and pesticides come into contact with your food. And because you can wait until your vegetables are fully ripened before picking them, those you do eat will be filled with far more nutrients than any store-bought variety. It’s really a win-win.

Vegetable Garden, Healthy Recipes

What is the first step you need to take towards getting your garden growing? Let’s break it down:

1. Start small. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself right out the gate. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can always ramp up your production each year as you improve your skills.

2. Make sure that whatever you hope to grow will work in your region. This handy site can create a chart based by your zip code.

3. Build raised beds to help create a barrier between your garden and the rest of the landscape. This will slow the onset of weeds, ensure water is going directly to the plants you want it to and ultimately, help produce larger yields. Note: Be sure to not build the beds so wide that you have to step inside to reach the middle.

4. Create a barrier against weeds by removing any grass, tilling the dirt and removing any possible seeds. Next, build the raised bed on top of a layer of cardboard or tarp to prevent any remaining seeds from sprouting through.

5. Fill the beds with a 50/50 mixture of your native soil and standard compost. This will help enrich your garden and dramatically increase its potential yield.

6. Layer on the mulch. A good two inches of shredded leaves should do. Be sure to save any excess shredded leaves in a bag for summer when dead leaves are hard to come by.

7. Pull back the mulch and plant the seeds in rows a few inches apart. Visit this site for the best practices regarding any given plant. A much easier way to start, if you’re a beginner, is to buy plants that have already been started for you. That way, you can just pull back the mulch enough to place the plant, and then focus on keeping those professionally raised plants healthy and productive.

8. Most importantly, have fun! Allow yourself to ride the learning curve and continuously improve. You’ll get the hang of it, and you’ll have your own freshly grown foods to prove it.

Don’t have enough room or vegetables simply not your style? Take our quiz to find out which type of garden is best for you.

Growing your own foods is one thing, but having the pleasure of cooking your own healthy, organic meal with them is the real payoff. Some of the most commonly grown backyard veggies include tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, peas, carrots, broccoli and brussels sprouts. With that in mind, we’re sharing two of our favorite recipes you might soon just be able to prepare without even leaving your property:

Healthy, Organic Recipes Made From Your Backyard
After you've worked planting and creating your vegetable garden, take pleasure in creating wonderful healthy meals with your organic vegetables. Who said eating healthy had to be expensive and unrewarding?

Home Garden Brussels Sprouts via Eat Right

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Pasta with Warm Walnut Vinaigrette

• 6 ounces uncooked whole grain linguini noodles
• 1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced/shaved (about 8 cups)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced

Walnut Vinaigrette

• ¼ cup walnuts, toasted
• 4 tablespoons water
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons fresh chives
• 1 teaspoon maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• Salt/pepper, to taste


• ½ cup walnuts, toasted?
• 1-2 lemons, juiced
• Salt, to taste


1. Cook pasta according to directions.
2. In food processor, combine vinaigrette ingredients until smooth.
3. In skillet, sauté Brussels sprouts in olive oil and garlic for 12-15 minutes, until tender and caramelized. Pour in vinaigrette, toss and take off heat.
4. Combine cooked and drained pasta with Brussels sprout-vinaigrette mixture.
5. Top with toasted walnuts, lemon juice and salt.

Nutrition Information

• Serving size: 3 Cups

• Serves 4

Calories: 412; Total Fat: 19g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Trans Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 212mg; Total Carbohydrate: 53g; Dietary Fiber: 8g; Sugars: 6g; Protein: 16g; Vitamin A: 25%; Vitamin C: 250%; Calcium: 10%; Iron: 25%.

Recipes From Your Garden via Eating Well

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes
A sprinkle of Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil transform tomatoes into the perfect side dish. Or try sandwiching them between slices of your favorite whole-wheat country bread.


• 4 tomatoes, halved horizontally
• 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• Freshly ground pepper, to taste
• 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 450° F.
2. Place tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet.
3. Top with Parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper.
4. Drizzle with oil and bake until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Nutritional Information

• Serving size: 1 tomato

• Serves 4

91 calories; 6 g fat (2 g sat, 4 g mono); 4 mg cholesterol; 6 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; 2 g fiber; 375 mg sodium; 363 mg potassium.

Sound delicious? We sure think so. Take advantage of this mouthwatering motivation and refer back to the list above to get started. Simply by finishing this blog, you’re already well on your way to making your dream a reality. Happy National Nutrition Month, and best of luck from all of your friends at American Home Shield.®

• Eat Right
• Harvard Health Publications
• Gardens Alive
• Mother Earth News
• Mother Nature Network
• Eat Right
• Eating Well

Next > Which Type of Garden is Right for Your Home?


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