July 11, 2019

Best Vegetables to Plant in Late Summer

Show Notes

On this episode, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and health coach, plus Sue Hudnut, general manager of Greening of Detroit, to discuss the dos and don’ts of late-summer gardening.

“A lot of vegetables like a cooler type weather, and it gets really hot in July and August in Michigan. Some vegetables tend to bolt, where they start flowering and they start tasting bitter. So, it’s really a good thing to plant later on in the summer.” – Sue Hudnut

In this episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, we explore:

  • The importance of soil and sunshine
  • Different types of seeds
  • Vegetables that last from summer through fall
  • The benefits of composting
  • The nutritional value of garden-grown vegetables
  • How insects can help and harm crops
  • How to avoid under or overwatering

Transcript

Chuck Gaidica: This is A Healthier Michigan Podcast, episode 32. Coming up, we discuss late summer vegetables and how to grow them and whether or not you have a garden.

Chuck Gaidica: Welcome to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. This is the podcast dedicated to navigating how we can improve our health and well-being through small healthy habits we can start implementing right now. I’m your host Chuck Gaidica. Every other week or so we will sit down and we’re going to do this with a certified health expert from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. We’ll do a deep dive into topics covering nutrition and fitness and a whole lot more. And on this episode we’re talking about vegetables. I mean, I know summer started officially about three weeks ago or more is it now? Yeah, I guess it’s about five weeks ago. But we want to talk about this idea of it’s never too late to get started growing vegetables even when you live in Michigan. That’s right.

Chuck Gaidica: And if you’re hearing this outside of the state of Michigan, you get a lot of summer weather all year long. Well, good for you. Don’t rub it in on us. Today, we’re joined in by general manager of Greening of Detroit, Sue Hudnut and registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Grace Derocha. Good to see both of you.

Grace Derocha: Good to see you.

Sue Hudnut: Thank you.

Chuck Gaidica: I want to tell everybody a little bit about you because Sue Hudnut is a master gardener. She’s the garden manager for the Greening of Detroit. She works with this organization. She manages the operations on Lafayette Street, the gardens, Lafayette Greens Garden in downtown Detroit. She plants it. She plans it. She’s got volunteers that come in. Other master gardeners. Personally she’s into yoga. She’s building a bee house, ouch. She also loves to be a guest speaker talking about relevant topics, gardening, native bees, butterflies. We’ll talk about caterpillar’s too I think. Health, wellness topics are right in there as well. She loves the outdoors as you can imagine. She’s got what, three kids?

Sue Hudnut: Yes, I do.

Chuck Gaidica: Three kids and her husband and she really into the outdoors and she loves to eat things low to the ground. That’s a good way to look at it. Grace Derocha is here. She’s back.

Grace Derocha: I’m back.

Chuck Gaidica: She’s from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. She’s a registered dietician as I mentioned, she is a lover of food, a lover of life and all I know is when Sue walked in before we started this broadcast, she handed Grace what, garlic snipes.

Grace Derocha: Garlic scapes.

Chuck Gaidica: Scapes.

Grace Derocha: Yes delicious.

Chuck Gaidica: I’ve had them, they’re wonderful.

Grace Derocha: Their my favorite thing to grill and then put it in salads.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh man, she’s a graduate of Michigan State with a bachelor of science degree in dietetics and a bachelor of science degree in psychology. She’s also earned her master of business administration from Wayne State. So, it’s good to have you back and Sue good to have you with us.

Sue Hudnut: Thank you.

Chuck Gaidica: So, let’s talk about this idea of growing vegetables. We sometimes think it’s too late. So we get past this as airing on July 11th, we’re about five weeks or so… The rear view mirror of summer. Well, summer didn’t seem to start in Michigan on time, right?

Sue Hudnut: That’s right.

Chuck Gaidica: But even when we get to this point, we forget, summer just started the third week in June. So is it ever too late to grow in Michigan?

Sue Hudnut: I don’t think so. I mean, maybe if we were talking in October it might be a little too late, but I think right now you can still get a vegetable garden into the ground.

Chuck Gaidica: Okay. And so when you think about this idea of even what Sue handed you-

Grace Derocha: Yes.

Chuck Gaidica: I mean you were so excited. You were like a kid in a candy store, right?

Grace Derocha: I was. I really love garlic scapes. They have such great flavor.

Chuck Gaidica: What about other vegetables? You’ve talked about them before, but here we’re talking about growing things. Do you grow a lot of stuff. You have a garden.

Grace Derocha: I do. We do. We have two pretty large garden boxes. We allow our two kids to say that one is Tommy’s and one’s Kahlea’s. So, we get them involved in the process. Big Fan.

Chuck Gaidica: You have a favorite vegetable? Do you have something you like a lot?

Grace Derocha: I love Zucchini and Zucchini blossoms.

Chuck Gaidica: And they love you back. So, that’s good. I mean that’s a really nice one, right? I’ve never had a Zucchini blossom.

Sue Hudnut: You haven’t?

Chuck Gaidica: No. How do you prepare them?

Sue Hudnut: Well, you’ve got to pick them very early in the morning when they’re open and you want to know what is a female flower and what is a male flower.

Chuck Gaidica: Come on.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah.

Grace Derocha: And I know this from her. Sue taught me this. So, I used to pick both and now I know that it was a mistake and now I don’t do that. And then you can enjoy them in salad. You could stuff them.

Chuck Gaidica: My son and I, my one guy who’s the outdoor adventurer, we’re walking along one day in Ann Arbor, open field. There are dandelions. “Hey, sit here dad, have one.” I wasn’t that impressed.

Sue Hudnut: Really?

Chuck Gaidica: What’s the taste of a Zucchini flower? Is it bitter? Is it sweet? Is it just-

Sue Hudnut: It’s a little bit sweet, but it depends on what you put in them. I think when you’re putting flowers in salads, it just looks so beautiful that you’re just like having a-

Chuck Gaidica: Oh, I see. So there’s, part of it’s aesthetic then.

Sue Hudnut: Oh yeah.

Grace Derocha: Burst of color, definitely. Good nutrition obviously.

Sue Hudnut: Don’t you like eating pretty food?

Chuck Gaidica: Oh, I do. Yeah.

Grace Derocha: So, it’s kind of fun and I think too with like adding flowers to different foods or salads, there’s definitely an aesthetic play. It enhances sometimes some of the other flavors that you’re adding to it.

Chuck Gaidica: So, you’re a master gardener Sue, so you forgotten more than I know about gardening but let’s talk about this idea right now from where we are early to mid July, we’ve already said upfront, it’s never too late to start. Seriously though, if you haven’t started, we could start a garden in the back yard.

Sue Hudnut: We could. If you have a space in your yard, I mean number one, you’re going to have to have a really sunny space. So, one of the first things you have to think about is I need sun and I need eight to 10 hours of sun to have a good vegetable garden. So, you’re going to have to scope out your yard first and pick out that great spot, clear a little patch of land there, and then you’re going to need some good soil. And you can still buy soil at the Ace Hardware Store. One of the big box Home Depots, they’ve got raised bed, garden soil, top soil, all types. Just get a couple bags and bring it in and then you’re going to be a little too late to buy any plants from your neighborhood plant guy. Usually after the 4th of July they pretty much close down. So, you’re going to have to plant some seeds. But there’s still plenty of stuff to plant such as carrots, radishes, beets-

Chuck Gaidica: Lots of varieties of lettuce.

Sue Hudnut: Lettuce is a great one. Kale, collards, things like that-

Chuck Gaidica: Too late for tomatoes.

Sue Hudnut: It’s a little too late for tomatoes because they have a long growing season and you’ve got to really get those in the ground at the beginning of June. Same with peppers. You can even start bush beans, green beans now. So, there’s plenty to start with. I think really your most important part is getting that sunshine and really good soil.

Chuck Gaidica: And when you say really good soil, did you think about this idea Grace that like what makes really good soil? Are you adding stuff or are you just buying good stuff to begin with?

Grace Derocha: So, again I learned a lot of this from Sue, topsoil, do you need fertilizer? Do you not need fertilizer?

Sue Hudnut: You know, it depends on where you get your soil from. Say you are going to get two yards of soil from your landscaping guy, you have no idea where that soil came from or what’s in there. But if you were buying bag soil from a big box store, a lot of those have fertilizers in them already. So, you’re pretty good to go buying those types of soils if you’re starting this late in the game.

Sue Hudnut: Personally, I would also like to have a compost pile in my backyard, so I’m throwing all my leafy greens and things that-

Chuck Gaidica: Banana peels, wood chips, whatever.

Sue Hudnut: Yes.

Grace Derocha: Absolutely.

Sue Hudnut: Sure that go in there and then every year you want to amend your soil with that good healthy compost. All that good organic material that’s in there, that’s what you really want.

Grace Derocha: This is my first season composting, so I’m excited and nervous. I feel like even just talking about this, like gardening is a good metaphor for life.

Sue Hudnut: It is.

Grace Derocha: You need some sun, you need some soil, which is like the food. You need some water.

Sue Hudnut: I love that metaphor.

Grace Derocha: You’re building roots and grounding yourself. I like that.

Sue Hudnut: And your reusing everything. It’s a sustainable lifestyle.

Chuck Gaidica: I love you two. My whole day has been made now because I-

Grace Derocha: Really? I feel like-

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, And last month I went out with my daughter, we didn’t plant vegetables, but we planted a garden. We had my grandson with me, we walk into a… Actually it was a Walmart. We were on our way to another big box. And I said, “I bet you they have it.” So, we go in and we walk in and he sees the topsoil and my eight year old grandson sees these bags of cow manure, he goes, “Ew!” He said, “What do you need that for?” Do we need to add? Do we need to get that into it or really just getting a good topsail that’s got a little peat moss in there and everything is okay.

Sue Hudnut: I think for a home garden, if you had a compost pile and you were adding your organic material into the soil that you already have, that’s probably good enough. I think adding some little chicken manure at… That really does help. It really does help boost the nutrients in the soil. And I’ve always been told, and I don’t have an opportunity to get it too often, but adding chicken manure to your garden is just really a great way to go.

Chuck Gaidica: That’s what I’ve heard, I know that, that’s the case for my brother. He uses it throughout his garden and he’s got raised beds and you said this and it kind of flew past me. Why do I see people either using concrete blocks or wood to raise the bed except for the fact that the bunnies can’t really jump that high to eat all the stuff off the top? What’s the point?

Sue Hudnut: It could be that the land that you’re on has a lot of clay or a lot of sand. So, I mean you want really dark loamy soil and that is a combination of clay and sand and good organic material. But it’s in the right proportions and a lot of people have really just bad soil. Like where I live, I live in the old black bottom neighborhood, so there’s a lot of rubble in my soil. So, we really had to build it up a lot. And that’s why people do raise beds.

Chuck Gaidica: So, if we were to plant some of the things you were talking about now what, and I know it’s going to vary, we’re planting by seed. When would I start to see stuff that I could eat?

Sue Hudnut: If you planted lettuces, those come up really quick and you could be eating within 30 days. Radishes, the same thing. Carrots take a little longer, beets take a little longer. There are vegetables that you can grow, especially things like leeks and kale and spinach that will go into October. A lot of vegetables like a cooler type weather, and it gets really hot in July and August in Michigan. Some vegetables tend to bolt, where they start flowering and they start tasting bitter. So, it’s really a good thing to plant later on in the summer. And so now you’re into September and things just are happy.

Chuck Gaidica: What’s been your biggest discovery with even some of the things you’ve learned from Sue, Grace? I mean what-

Grace Derocha: I’ve learned so much from her. And I know we’re going to get into this a little bit, but I might be jumping the gun, but I think talking about cold weather and warm weather plant, like vegetables that grow better-

Sue Hudnut: Right, we have hot weather vegetables and cold weather vegetables. The hot weather vegetables that we were talking about earlier, like peppers and tomatoes and things like that. So, a lot of these cool weather vegetables you can plant early on in the spring and then do a second season again later on.

Chuck Gaidica: And what is a cool weather veggie, what is that?

Sue Hudnut: Your lettuces, your greens, your radishes, your carrots, your beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, things like that. The warm weather vegetables are more like eggplant, tomatoes, peppers.

Chuck Gaidica: And Sue says this with a summer flourish. If you could just see it. I guess you can.

Sue Hudnut: I mean and I want to think, “Oh what one’s my favorite vegetable?” But I think I have too many.

Grace Derocha: I’ve picked zucchini just because I love zucchini so much. But like we planted early. We have eggplant, we have tomato. I was telling you guys, I do have like this big pot where I grow my greens so I can make salad whenever I want. I just did that the other day. It’s super fun.

Chuck Gaidica: But if you’re growing all this stuff isn’t the instant pot one of the greatest inventions you could use because all this stuff…

Sue Hudnut: I don’t use an instant pot.

Chuck Gaidica: You don’t.

Sue Hudnut: No I feel so embarrassed.

Grace Derocha: No.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh why? Well you should get-

Sue Hudnut: Gosh, I just cook.

Grace Derocha: So, for people an instant pot is a pressure cooker. It’s a pot, it’s a specific brand. It’s funny because I do use it sometimes but I feel like I tend to use a slow cooker more probably because I’m more familiar.

Chuck Gaidica: My wife too, we got one and she still wants to use the crock-pot and of course it’s a convenience issue because you can be out all day. But what I like about the idea with any way you’re going to do this is handfuls of great vegetables can all turn into a recipe that you didn’t even imagine before you started.

Sue Hudnut: Well, I’m going to have to check it out because I do use my slow cooker quite a bit because I leave early in the morning and I’m gone all day. But that instant pot I have not tried yet.

Grace Derocha: I feel like it’s worked for me, especially with the instant pot like a pressure cooker to cook something fast. Maybe I didn’t thought out the chicken and then I can just cook it still in about 20 minutes. I keep snapping my fingers, sorry.

Chuck Gaidica: That’s all right.

Grace Derocha: But I think that is a good thing. But then of course the grill, the grill is so great. In the summer-

Sue Hudnut: Oh yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: We were just talking about grilled veggies before we started. I’m getting hungry for lunch. So-

Grace Derocha: I Know. Grilled veggies are my favorite.

Chuck Gaidica: Can I tell you one little thing that I loved? My grandfather was a gardener. I mean he was a farmer and he would teach us different tricks of the trade. But one of the things when I was a kid, I know so, I think I would still be impressed today. I love when I would watch planting seeds. To me, one of the biggest aha moments was when something would grow. And I finally knew I could figure out what the difference between a weed and a carrot. You get to that point where you’re like, “I know it now.” I mean it was a little achievement but it really is a great thing that hits you.

Sue Hudnut: And I think those are the two easiest things to start, if you’re afraid to start this, radishes are easy and they come up fast and you know exactly what they are and you’re eating them in 30 to 45 days.

Grace Derocha: And I feel bad for radishes because I feel like-

Sue Hudnut: They’re having a bad rap, don’t they?

Grace Derocha: They do get a little bit of a bad rap. People aren’t as familiar with them so they don’t want to try them or they try the pickled ones so they don’t know what a radish, radish tastes like. Radish, radish.

Sue Hudnut: Well and another good thing about doing seeds like that is there’s so many different varieties that you don’t get in the grocery store. So, if you pick up a seed catalog, especially like an heirloom seed catalog.

Grace Derocha: Watermelon radishes.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah, I mean there’s so many different varieties that you don’t see ever in a grocery store, ever.

Chuck Gaidica: Now, let me ask you a dumb question for both of you because I’m not growing a garden currently, how do you know the difference between like a zucchini, a watermelon? I can see it. I know when it’s done. There’s no popup timer on a radish or a carrot, like how do I know under there-

Sue Hudnut: When it’s done?

Chuck Gaidica: … that the beets are done?

Sue Hudnut: You should write down the date that you planted it.

Chuck Gaidica: That’s it. It’s that simple.

Sue Hudnut: Yes.

Chuck Gaidica: I shouldn’t be digging around to see if my carrot is the size I was hoping it should be.

Sue Hudnut: It’s really hard not to pull them out sometimes just to look.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, can you put the back?

Sue Hudnut: No.

Grace Derocha: No.

Chuck Gaidica: Okay.

Grace Derocha: I learned that the hard way, so my kids will go into the garden when we had carrots and they were pulling them and they looked like little bit. I’m like, “You guys, what did you do?” And then they’re like, “We’re just going to replant them.” I was like-

Sue Hudnut: No.

Grace Derocha: … “Kahlea and Tommy, you can’t do that.” They’re like, “We’re just going to eat them then.”

Sue Hudnut: So you should keep a little diary and look on the package of the seeds that you’re planting it will tell you how many days to harvest.

Grace Derocha: Or like sometimes we read it, you know those plants markers.

Chuck Gaidica: On the sticks, yeah.

Sue Hudnut: Little plant marker, yeah.

Grace Derocha: Like we’ll put the date on there of one, we put it in and then it’s kind of there.

Sue Hudnut: A lot of times on radishes though and beets and turnips and things like that, they are starting to pop out of the ground in their little tops-

Chuck Gaidica: So, you know?

Sue Hudnut: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah. All right. So, let’s talk about the nutritional value. We instinctively know this stuff is good for you, but if we’re going to grow like you want us to healthfully then what kind of nutrients are locked up in all these veggies that we can access?

Grace Derocha: So, one of the beautiful things if you do grow a garden is that you know what you used, you know that you didn’t use pesticides, you know that you’re pulling it with the most nutrition at that time, and then you get to take it right into your house. It is just very cool to know that you can feed your family and feed yourself with your garden at home. So, lots of things. Obviously people always talk about carrots and eye health. So, we have beta carotene and vitamin A, which is definitely good for eye health to help prevent things like macular degeneration and other issues that might come up. So yeah carrots, of course our cruciferous vegetables, which we talked about. Broccoli has a lot of calcium, which I think people forget, so if anyone is lactose intolerant or not getting enough calcium in, great way to get some, and I have to say this, so we need vitamin D to help absorb calcium from our broccoli that we’re going to grow well when you garden, guess what you’re doing? You’re out in the sunshine getting, the best way to get vitamin D really is the sun.

Chuck Gaidica: Well and think about this, it’s been going on forever and I see various studies about chugging down vitamins every day. Vitamin D works, it doesn’t work. I saw that headline this morning, vitamin C, you should take vitamin whatever. And when you’re eating like this low to the ground, aren’t you kind of fulfilling that mission? Without going out and buying vitamins you don’t even know work.

Sue Hudnut: Yes.

Grace Derocha: Yes. I always say vitamins are called a vitamin supplement because they’re supposed to supplement the diet. You want to try to get it from your food. That is the goal. What else? Oh, of course. Leafy greens, kale. You could make kale chips. You could add it to a salad. You could stir fry it. You can add it to your soups, your stews. I’m getting excited.

Sue Hudnut: And at less, when you harvest kale, you wash it and you can put it in your vegetable crisper and it lasts.

Grace Derocha: I feel like it lasts longer than some of your other greens for sure.

Sue Hudnut: And when you’re harvesting it out of your garden, you’re obviously taking it right there into your kitchen. Whereas if you bought it at the grocery store, it’s gone through some distributor with all these hands handling it and who knows how long, it’s been a truck and been sitting in the grocery store. So, it’s really fresh.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. And when it’s that fresh, that’s when you get the biggest bang for your buck with the nutrition. Not that when you’re at the grocery store you shouldn’t still get kale, but just want that to be very clear because people will be like, “Well Grace said if I don’t have a garden…” But definitely, having that time in that garden and having it in your backyard is such a-

Chuck Gaidica: Isn’t it funny how the phrase farm to table becomes something a lot of people only think about in terms of a restaurant that they think is cool and we should go to.

Grace Derocha: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chuck Gaidica: When most of the meals you probably are getting likely in your life are at your own home.

Sue Hudnut: If you have a garden.

Chuck Gaidica: Right?

Grace Derocha: Absolutely. And then all of these vegetables are filled with fiber, which I’m kind of going generally across the board, but the average American is only getting about five to 10 grams of fiber a day when we’re supposed to get closer to 25 to 40 grams a day. That’s good gut health, for your digestive track, obviously good nutrition for good heart health helps keep you regular.

Sue Hudnut: And it doesn’t take up a lot of time. I mean getting the initial garden in the ground. Yes, spend a Saturday afternoon doing that, but once you’ve got it in the ground, you’ve got the seeds in the ground. You only have to water, really water it really well once a week here, this fall or the spring has been crazy. I haven’t had to water much at all because of all the rain, but it really doesn’t take up a lot of your time. I found that when I get home from work, I just kind of drag the hose out there, check things, pull a few weeds, see what’s ready to harvest. But it really-

Chuck Gaidica: Well, it’s a small patch for most of us. It’s not going to be like-

Sue Hudnut: It’s not like you’re farming.

Chuck Gaidica: … it’s not like lawn either.

Grace Derocha: When I think about Sue and how she’s calm and balanced, I think it’s really important to stress that gardening helps you de-stress. It can help reduce symptoms of depression, help level off cortisol levels, which is a hormone that causes stress or like a stress hormone, helps increase happy hormones. So, talk about a benefit all around. You’re getting good nutrition from the ground. You’re helping your mental health, your de-stressing, enjoying the outdoors.

Sue Hudnut: What could be better?

Grace Derocha: Nothing.

Chuck Gaidica: And if you don’t have that patch in your own backyard, not everybody has the back 40 right?

Sue Hudnut: Right.

Chuck Gaidica: I just want to point out, like in Livonia for instance, my sister and brother-in-law live in Livonia. They rent a little patch of ground through the municipality. They get it. It’s really inexpensive. I don’t know. It’s like 35 bucks or something. They get their patch, they bring their tools, they provide water from the city and my brother-in-law plants a ton of stuff. Well, they don’t have the place in their backyard.

Sue Hudnut: Not everybody is going to have a space in their backyard. And we’re lucky that we have a lot of communities that do, do community gardening like that.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. Tell us a little bit about that.

Sue Hudnut: Well, the garden that I manage downtown, which is next door to Lafayette, Coney island is not like that. Unfortunately, we do have 39 raised beds, but it’s open to the public. I give away a lot of the food. If you engage in a conversation with me, I’ll more than likely be sending you off with a bag full of food. But there are other community gardens I know in downtown Detroit, I know there’s one in midtown and they’re scattered about.

Chuck Gaidica: There’s one in New Center too right off of West Grand and uhh… it’s a fairly large one.

Sue Hudnut: MUIOF.

Chuck Gaidica: Is that what it is?

Sue Hudnut: The Michigan Urban Institute of Farming, I believe, or something like that.

Chuck Gaidica: Right off of Woodward Avenue.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah. I don’t know exactly how that works, but I would call your local municipality to find out if they have something like that. Or you can get involved and start your own.

Grace Derocha: Yeah. I volunteered at them before, which is great. Usually earlier in this season but you can still always go. I love it.

Chuck Gaidica: Well when you think of a salad, when I think of a salad, I love the textural look. And you were talking about the aesthetics of a flower. So, if you’re throwing in blueberries or strawberries, you’re talking about all these great benefits, antioxidants are in there.

Grace Derocha: Yes, there it is.

Chuck Gaidica: All that colorful stuff is helpful.

Grace Derocha: I’m glad that you brought up… So, antioxidants only come from food. You can’t get that in that supplement that I want you to eat the food anyways please. So antioxidants-

Chuck Gaidica: What do you mean you can’t… All these things that are marked antioxidant.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: What?

Grace Derocha: Like when you’re talking about a supplement.

Chuck Gaidica: Right?

Grace Derocha: No.

Chuck Gaidica: You can’t.

Grace Derocha: Yeah, like Fido Chemicals, which is plant chemicals in a positive way, that you get those from the food. Those are not really-

Sue Hudnut: Wow, I didn’t even know that.

Grace Derocha: Those are not really coming from… Because then that’s not truly coming from-

Sue Hudnut: Another reason to eat low to the ground. And when I say that, I mean you’re pulling out your food from the ground or you’re trimming your food from the ground. You’re not opening a can or opening a box.

Grace Derocha: Less process. People ask me this all the time. What is the one tip, if you had one tip that you could give all people, and I say eat whole foods. I’d rather have people eat whole foods rather than processed. That’s my number one. And then drink water.

Chuck Gaidica: Drink lots of water.

Sue Hudnut: Drink a lot of water, yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Well that’s a good idea to take out with you to the garden too because you can get a little worked up, especially early in the season.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah, absolutely. If you’re not used to being outdoors, always have your water with you.

Chuck Gaidica: But you talked about keeping your garden healthy. So, how do we do this? Because I know you don’t want to use pesticides, right?

Sue Hudnut: Nope.

Chuck Gaidica: Okay. So I want to keep my garden healthy. We’re starting with good soil. We’ve got that part. What else do we need to consider?

Sue Hudnut: Good soil, sunshine and seeds, really. Those are the three major things that you need. And again, your seeds could come from a variety of places. A lot of people like to do organic seeds or heirloom seeds, but you could choose to do just johnny’s own seeds from the hardware store and you could even collect your own seeds, which I do quite a bit of, I don’t want to go down that path because it gets a little more complicated. But those are the three main things you need for a healthy garden. And then just to maintain it, you want to maintain your soil, have a compost pile, start a compost pile.

Chuck Gaidica: So, is it good? Do I need to bring in like a box of ladybugs? Is there any natural way for me to add to-

Sue Hudnut: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh now we got two, Oh my gosh I didn’t even know.

Sue Hudnut: Well, we don’t want to use pesticides or insecticides, and there are bad insects out there like aphids that might start eating up your plants. So, what we want to do is if we have bad insects, we have good insects and the good insects eat the bad insects.

Chuck Gaidica: So, lady bug is a good one.

Sue Hudnut: Lady bugs are great. Also praying mantis are wonderful for your garden and-

Grace Derocha: This is my favorite.

Sue Hudnut: You can actually, you can order them online. You can order a praying mantis like egg sack or-

Chuck Gaidica: Come on.

Grace Derocha: That’s real.

Sue Hudnut: Or you can go out and find them. You can go out in early spring and go searching for these little nests and you just, you’ll find them on brush. You need to know what you’re looking for, but you just break them off and you bring them home and stick them in your garden.

Chuck Gaidica: Can you see people listening to this and they’ve seen the movie Arachnophobia, I think you’d be kind of worried you’re bringing home the wrong pest.

Sue Hudnut: Well, you’re going to put it in your garden not your house.

Grace Derocha: So, Sue taught me this. I told my husband and he was googling all the things. He’s like, “Next spring I’m finding one and I’m going to bring it into our garden.”

Sue Hudnut: Did he find any?

Grace Derocha: No, we haven’t found but he just looked it up so he could figure out what it looks like. So, when we go on the hunt we’re going to find them.

Sue Hudnut: Maybe we should go out hunting together because I have a great little patch to go.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh that’s good.

Grace Derocha: She has a secret spot.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah, the secret spot. But each praying mantis egg case could have up to 300 praying mantis.

Chuck Gaidica: But when you bring these guys into your… you fly in a box of whatever, when you release them, how far out are they going to go? Because the neighbor’s got a yard and they may have a garden, but you don’t care.

Sue Hudnut: Well, you don’t really care, you want-

Grace Derocha: Because their helpful. Their helpful bugs.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah, they’re helpful. And hey, maybe your neighbor needs some help too. So, you want to spread the wealth.

Chuck Gaidica: All right so beneficial bugs we’ve talked about, weeding out. So, I talked about this idea that this was one of the biggest, coolest aha moments. And again, it’s just me, so temper me. It was just this idea that I could recognize the part of a carrot coming out, if we’re going to plant a seed, and sometimes we sprinkle them and they start to grow. What’s the healthful distance between each plant that we want them to be.

Grace Derocha: That’s great question.

Sue Hudnut: That is a great question, especially with carrots and radishes because if you don’t thin them out, you’re not going to have a nice healthy plant. So, you should really look at the package again. But when you plant a row of seeds, you’re going to plant a lot of seeds, and you’re going to end up wasting, I say waste, but you’re going to end up pulling out at least 70% of the sprouts that come up because you’re going to have to thin those out and then you can just take those seedlings and put them in the compost pile. Or you can chop them up and put them in your salads.

Chuck Gaidica: But when their seedlings we couldn’t move them to a different bed at that point. They’re still not transplantable.

Sue Hudnut: I have found if you’re doing root vegetables like radishes and carrots-

Chuck Gaidica: Don’t worry about it.

Sue Hudnut: … once you disturb that root, not going to happen.

Chuck Gaidica: Not like in tomato seedling where you can transplant.

Sue Hudnut: Absolutely. So, you do have to thin those things out. If you don’t thin them out, the vegetable won’t properly produce. It’s just not going to grow. So, you do have to do that. You’re also going to have those seeds in a nice long line, so, you’re going to wait for those seeds to pop up and they’re going to get their first leaves, their first true leaves before you start thinning those out, anything that’s outside of that line is probably weeds and you want to get rid of those.

Chuck Gaidica: And then wherever your next line is, what? Five, six inches apart.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah.

Chuck Gaidica: And the same thing in the line then, just thin out.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah, thin those out. If you are using compost or fertilizer and all your water, you’re feeding those weeds too. So, you want to get rid of those.

Grace Derocha: I have two questions and I’m going to ask because I feel like the people need to know, when and how much do you water?

Sue Hudnut: Well, if you listen to MSU and I do.

Grace Derocha: Go green.

Chuck Gaidica: Uh-oh.

Sue Hudnut: They say a a vegetable garden needs about two inches of water a week. So, how do you measure that?

Chuck Gaidica: You’re going to put a little rain gauge there.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah, you could. You want to water in the morning if you can.

Grace Derocha: When you first taught me that, I thought that was really eye-opening because I often, like even when I was growing up, we had a large garden and my parents would get home from work and then water, like that was a thing, you know what I mean? But that was the evening.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah and I mean that’s probably when it’s convenient for you. And even last night it started, it rains at night. So, you don’t want to practice watering at night because you’ve got water sitting on leaves, and that’s when fungus could start growing and pathogens might start coming in. So, just as a general practice, you’d like to water in the morning, just doesn’t happen all the time.

Chuck Gaidica: But you know, two inches of water that’s about double what is the typical recommendation for your garden in general? Anybody that gets an inch of water, natural or otherwise from your sprinklers. That’s about all you need every week. So, this is a little more water.

Sue Hudnut: It is, but you’re growing vegetables, so everybody’s garden is different. Everybody’s soil’s a little bit different. So, you want to use your visual cues. Is the soil like cracking and dry on top? You probably should water it. If you can grab some of that soil in your hand and make a fist and it’s still a…

Grace Derocha: It kind of makes sense because most vegetables are 85% water or more so they obviously need that water to grow. And then sustain-

Chuck Gaidica: So, you had another question. You don’t have to raise your hand like, “Oh, Mr. Kotter, Mr. Kotter.”

Grace Derocha: Ms Hudnut. I’ve asked you this before. Deer and rabbits and squirrels, they want to eat all my food.

Sue Hudnut: I don’t have any of those downtown.

Grace Derocha: Well maybe we need to move our garden.

Sue Hudnut: Bunnies and squirrels and things like that. You’re going to have to fence in your garden. And if you have a problem with deer, you need a high fence.

Chuck Gaidica: Deer will eat ficus tree. I mean they would eat your taxus hedges right down to the nub, is that really?

Sue Hudnut: Yeah, they do. And you’re just going to have to fence it in.

Grace Derocha: So yeah, last year, thanks to Sue, we did start to fence in a bit and it was better.

Chuck Gaidica: Does any of that natural repellent you hear about using stuff like even dried blood around the perimeter of your beds or your gardens? Any of that work?

Grace Derocha: I heard my hair for my hairbrush I was supposed sprinkle.

Chuck Gaidica: Really?

Sue Hudnut: Exactly yeah. Someone just posted that the other day on how to get rid of the squirrels because squirrels are so damaging, they just rip, they don’t eat it. They just rip it out of the ground and then walk away.

Grace Derocha: Sassy little squirrels.

Sue Hudnut: But someone did post that the other day that you need to put hair around your plants. I’ve tried using a plethora of stuff in it – no. Fence.

Chuck Gaidica: A fence, okay. And the raised bed idea actually does help, because they can only jump so high those little guys.

Sue Hudnut: It helps with the bunnies.

Chuck Gaidica: But not to the squirrel.

Sue Hudnut: Not the squirrels and not the deer.

Chuck Gaidica: My brother’s got blueberry bushes up north and he’s got the netting across the top to prevent the big birds from coming in.

Sue Hudnut: Oh yeah, birds.

Chuck Gaidica: But that’s stands for a little garden. I would take it.

Sue Hudnut: Well actually that’s a good point-

Grace Derocha: Birds are sassy too.

Sue Hudnut: Yeah. Birds tend to eat the tender little sprouts that come up. They peck at them, especially lettuces and spinach and things like that.

Grace Derocha: I did have strawberries for a second.

Chuck Gaidica: The birds got them?

Sue Hudnut: The birds got them?

Grace Derocha: Yeah. Someone got them and it wasn’t me.

Chuck Gaidica: So, let’s go back and talk for everybody as we start to wrap things up about where we are and how we can get started. It is not too late to start.

Sue Hudnut: It is not too late to start.

Chuck Gaidica: And starting means we need good soil.

Sue Hudnut: We need good soil and a place in our backyard or where we’re going to be gardening that gets eight to 10 hours of sunshine a day. If you’re-

Grace Derocha: That’s tough in Michigan.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, it has been this year.

Sue Hudnut: It has been this year but if your yard is full of big trees, it’s going to be a problem.

Chuck Gaidica: Sure. Okay. And then watering.

Sue Hudnut: And then watering. You have to have access to water. So, I’m assuming you’re going to do this in your backyard and not out in some field.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, like I have to share with you this funny conversation from last month. We’re getting the soil for my daughter’s yard and I decide to pop… I’m helping her. I decided to pop for the $2.25 cent a bag. Stuff that has good stuff in it, but I’m overhearing a conversation from a senior and his wife. Well, should we get the buck and a half bag of top soil and you can feel it’s just kind of clunky. Or should we get the stuff that’s got some peat in it and I’m thinking it’s 75 cents for a giant bag. That’s the difference. Go ahead and splurge a little bit. Right?

Sue Hudnut: I would.

Chuck Gaidica: I mean, if you’re going to get good soil just go for it.

Sue Hudnut: I would. Especially if it’s your first garden and it’s the first time you’re laying down some soil and you don’t have a compost pile to mix in all that good organic stuff.

Chuck Gaidica: And Grace, what is your advice beyond this idea of good soil, sunshine, watering? What about fertilizing? Are we doing anything? Is that just natural though, right. Whatever’s in the soil and then forget it.

Sue Hudnut: Personally, I like to use the organic matter out of my compost pile, every year I’m going to be amending my soil with big shovel foals and mixing that all together.

Chuck Gaidica: So, no stuff you’re putting in your watering can or don’t do any of that.

Sue Hudnut: Personally, I don’t do that.

Chuck Gaidica: Yeah, okay.

Grace Derocha: Yeah, I definitely piggyback on try, try to do something, oh we don’t really touch on this, but I think herb gardens, if you’re like a little timid or nervous, maybe start there. I love wild flowers for the bees of course, and to help pollinate your garden, so we do have wild flowers too, but start somewhere.

Sue Hudnut: Bringing up herbs too. There’s so many herbs that are really easy to grow and they go crazy. Mint, chamomile.

Grace Derocha: I had to put mint in a separate place because it was taking, it’s like a weed, delicious.

Sue Hudnut: Definitely want to put mint into a pot.

Grace Derocha: Yes. We did, because it was taking over, but I think herbs are another great way to season your food in a healthy way to avoid extra sodium or extra fat and you’re getting some really great flavor.

Chuck Gaidica: And if you want to relax, I’m just saying, after you’ve worked in the garden, if you grab a handful of mint and just crush it in your hand-

Grace Derocha: Or basil.

Chuck Gaidica: …. and just smell it while you’re sitting back.

Sue Hudnut: Or lavender.

Chuck Gaidica: Oh yeah. Right.

Grace Derocha: Or lavender.

Chuck Gaidica: Okay. I’m getting excited now. I’ve got to go out and start. It’s not too late. We’ll Sue Hudnut thanks. Good to have you here.

Sue Hudnut: Thanks for having me.

Chuck Gaidica: And Grace always good to see you.

Grace Derocha: Thank you both.

Chuck Gaidica: Good luck with your garden this season as well. Listen, if you are looking to start a garden, just remember it’s not too late. Don’t be afraid to start. We want you to get going because it’s a good time this time of the year. Thanks for listening to A Healthier Michigan Podcast. It’s brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Chuck Gaidica: If you like the show and you want to know more, check us out at ahealthiermichigan.org/podcast. You can leave reviews there, or you can leave a rating on Apple Podcast or Stitcher and you can get new episodes on your smart phone or tablet. Be sure to subscribe to us. I’m Chuck Gaidica, have a great rest of your season.