Here to help you garden your way to better health is Frankie Flowers, Cityline gardening guru and co-author of Power Plants: Simple Home Remedies You Can Grow, a harvesting and homeopathic guide to widely used herbs, vegetables and fruit. He shares his best tips to get your veggie patch started with five popular plants. Happy gardening!1. Tomatoes
Benefits: Tomatoes are high in antioxidants, and a great source of vitamin C, folate and pottasium.
Planting: Plant tomatoes after the risk of frost and keep them away from potatoes. Stay away from shady spots — tomatoes require at least six hours of direct afternoon sun per day. When planting, remove the bottom leaves of the seedling and cover the lower 1/3 of the stem with rich soil.
Tips: Add a handful of crushed eggshells to the soil when planting — they will add calcium and minimize the chances of getting blossom end rot, a common disease affecting tomatoes as they mature. To improve the flavour of your tomatoes, plant them close to basil.
Time to harvest: Summer through early fall.2. Swiss chard
Benefits: Known as an antioxidant powerhouse with anti-inflammatory properties, Swiss chard is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K.
Planting: Swiss chard seeds can be directly sowed into the garden two weeks before the last risk of frost. Unlike most other leafy greens, this annual vegetable will produce more yields season after season, with virtually no work required.
Tips: For a range of colourful Swiss Chard stalks, including white, red, orange and yellow, look for the Bright Lights variety.
Time to harvest: Summer through fall3. Kale
Benefits: Kale isn’t called a superfood for nothing; it boasts high levels of calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A and and vitamin K.
Planting: From pots to plots, this annual plant is easy to grow. It enjoys rich, well-drained soil and while it can be easily grown from seed I recommend that newbies plant kale transplatns, which you can find at your local gardening centre. For best results, kale should be planted in direct sun in early spring.
Tips: Keep your eyes out for green caterpillars and cabbage moths, a species of white butterfly that will eat your leafy greans. Do a monthly spraying of insecticidal soap to prevent and control these creepy crawlers.
Harvest: Kale can be harvested within as little as 6-8 weeks.4. Rhubarb
Benefits: Herbalists have traditionally used rhubarb as a laxative and to treat liver diseases. It also contains significant amounts of vitamins C, K, B-complex and the essential minerals calcium, potassium, and manganese.
Planting: This large leafy perennial isn’t for patios, terraces or even small gardens. It needs lots of space and is fast growing, so is best suited for large gardens with well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Purchase crowns of rhubarb from garden centres in early spring, and plant in full sun.
Tips: In fall, cover roots using 15-20cm of leaves or clean straw. This will act as a protective barrier against snow and frost. Remove the mulch in spring.
Harvest: I recommend waiting until the next spring season before harvesting stalks. This gives ample time for root establishment.5. Mint Benefits: Mint leaves help promote digestion.Planting: Mint should be sold with a warning! It grows almost too easily, so much so it will overtake your garden if planted improperly. I never recommend planting mint directly in the garden. Instead, plant it in a pot and leave it out on the patio. It grows best in sun but will tolerate partial shade.Tips: I recommend slightly larger pots with greater soil mass — they won’t dry out as often. Use potting soil and fertilize regular during the growing season.Harvest: SummerThis story originally appeared on Chatelaine.