During World War I and World War II when US citizens were urged to contribute to the war effort by growing their own food, an estimated 15 million families turned backyards and abandoned plots of land into victory gardens and produced roughly eight million tons of food to use for relief efforts. Starting a garden in your backyard today can provide some relief, too. Not only can it improve your health, it can also help raise your spirits.

Rita Applegate, one of the Fountain Hills Community Garden managers, told us now is a good time to plant some warm weather plants. Whether you want to re-purpose part of your backyard or just grow a few veggies in pots and flower beds, here’s a basic list of what you’ll need to get started:

  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Gloves
  • Tools for digging and planting
  • Scissors or other type of clippers for trimming or cutting fruits or vegetables
  • Garden soil

“Properly prepared soil is the key to a gardener’s success,” Rita said. “Be sure to amend your soil and fertilize as needed after planting. I like using mushroom compost and steer manure.”

Rita said warm weather plants suitable for planting directly into the ground or in pots and planters include:

  • Pole beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Squash varieties
  • Kale
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Corn
  • Sweet potatoes

If you can’t find seeds locally, try online catalog sources such as Park Seed, Burpee Seeds or Annie’s Heirloom Seeds. Local nurseries such as Verde Valley also carry transplants, soil and gardening supplies.

The process of growing organic food is as healthy as eating it, according to a June 2017 article in AARP. In addition to lifting your spirits, digging in the dirt increases your exposure to Vitamin D, decreases your risk of developing dementia, and combats loneliness. The aerobic exercise of twisting and bending also works muscles that help with strength, stamina and flexibility.

Learn more about the Fountain Hills Community Garden, including how to become a Friend of the Fountain Hills Community Garden for $10, on their website and Facebook page.