(BPT) - It's a well-known fact that few Americans actually get the recommended daily dose of vitamins. Many turn to over-the-counter supplements to fill in nutritional gaps. But wouldn't it be better - not to mention tastier - to get needed nutrients from what you eat? This season, why not turn your vegetable and herb garden into a "vitamin garden?"
Fortunately, many vitamin-packed vegetables and herbs are easy to grow. Hardy, bountiful varieties like those from Bonnie Plants make it even easier to claim vitamin victory in your veggie garden. Studies show that gardeners tend to eat more fruits and vegetables than non-gardeners, and nothing beats the flavor and freshness of home-grown veggies, fruits and herbs. In addition to the many health benefits gardening delivers, such as gentle exercise, fresh air and sunshine, growing your own vegetables can help ensure you meet vitamin requirements.
While gardening is great exercise, starting a garden is actually an easy task. With just an hour a day, you can start a small backyard garden, or even grow your own vegetables in pots. Just start with transplants, instead of seed; they'll save time and effort, and provide you with an earlier harvest. Choose a sunny spot with good drainage, and make sure the soil is in shape to receive plants by soil-kit testing, and amending when necessary. Feed your food plants, water regularly and don't forget to patrol for pests.
Ready for your garden? Try these gardener-friendly, high-powered vegetables and herbs that can ensure your diet is full of flavorful, vitamin-rich foods:
* Basil - Low in calories and cholesterol-free, basil is a rich source of many essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins. It contains exceptionally high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin A.
* Oregano - High in anti-oxidants, oregano has both antibacterial and antifungal properties.
* Rosemary - Another antioxidant herb, rosemary is used to fight inflammation. It's a good source of vitamin A, thiamin and magnesium.
* Bonnie Spinach - Spinach contains more than half the recommended daily value of vitamin A and is high in vitamins C, K , E, folate, manganese, magnesium, iron and potassium. Naturally low in calories, spinach grows well in spring, summer and fall, producing high yields of large, nutrient-rich leaves.
* Tomatoes - Considered a super food, tomatoes deliver high doses of vitamins C, A, K and B6, and minerals such as potassium and lycopene. Hugely versatile, they're a great ingredient in a variety of culinary styles, or equally yummy eaten on their own. Bonnie Plants has a range of new, easy-to-grow tomato varieties for 2014, including the Biltmore (which ripens a large amount of fruit all at once), and the San Marzano, producing high yields and keeps producing right up until first frost. Check out the "Tomato Chooser" tool on Bonnie Plants' website to make it easy to find the variety you want. Select traits you're seeking and the tool will list the varieties that match!
* Peppers - Another versatile veggie available in a wealth of varieties, peppers deliver fiber, folate, manganese, potassium, copper and vitamins A, C, K and B6. Many types, such as Bonnie Green Bell peppers, are very easy to grow, and others, like the Giant Marconi, deliver high yield and produce early in the season.
* Squash - Popular and prolific varieties like zucchini and yellow squash require minimal care to produce hefty harvests. Green zucchini deliver vitamins C, K and B6, as well as folate, manganese and potassium. Yellow squash - either crookneck or straight neck - are easy to grow, early to mature and particularly high in vitamin C.
And what's the one vitamin every single veggie and herb in your garden delivers? You can count vitamin D - the true "sunshine vitamin" among the nutritional benefits of vegetables, herbs and gardening. While you're outside working in the garden, your body is turning all that sunlight into much-needed vitamin D.
Added to the vitamin value of veggies and herbs are the exercise and relaxation that derive from gardening. This summer, why not focus on growing your vitamins rather than getting them from a bottle? They'll taste better than anything that comes from the pharmacy, plus you'll reap health, wellness, and the many mental and physical benefits of gardening.
For more information on varieties, how-to's, trouble shooting and even recipes, visit www.bonnieplants.com.