Plan a garden to fit your healthy diet

Blue Zones are designated areas around the globe where people often live into their 90s with good health. National Geographic author and explorer Dan Buettner has written many books on his research into the areas and has spearheaded Blue Zone-type living in the U.S. in Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Hawaii and California.

Blue Zone residents attribute their good health and longevity to plant-based diets and growing their own good food. Daily life includes exercise, drinking herbal teas and a sense of community.

Now is the time to use those seed catalogs to plan your vegetable garden. Make sure you have done a soil test for your garden. Most vegetables like a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. The University of Delaware will do a soil test for $15 per sample. Let them know what you want to grow and they will tell you how to amend your soil.

One of the first things to grow in the spring, even before frost has finished, is peas. Start them indoors in 2.5-inch pots or cell trays. They germinate better indoors at a warm 70 degrees, but they can be acclimated to colder weather and then planted in March. Peas will tolerate some frosty conditions. There are bush varieties and climbing types which need support with either netting or fencing.

Amend your garden with a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost like Leaf Grow or your own homemade compost. If your soil test results indicate lime is necessary, add it to your garden as soon as possible.

Another early vegetable that can be started indoors is lettuce. There are early, mid- and late-season varieties. Start seeds indoors in clean trays using a seed starting mix. Lettuce likes cool temperatures—above 75 degrees the seeds may not germinate. Sow about four seeds per inch and cover lightly as lettuce seeds need light to germinate. Transplant into cell type containers or pots using soil-free media. Harden the seedlings off by reducing water and temperature before planting them outdoors. Properly hardened transplants can survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees.

Nothing tastes as good as your own homegrown lettuce or mouthwatering fresh peas, and eating them may even help you to live longer.

Reach the University of Delaware’s soil sampling program: 302-831-1392.