Ready, set, plant!

Cornstalks fill a backyard garden, another ideal crop choice for the arid temperatures of the Southwest region.
Courtesy of Denee Bex

It’s almost time for planting season. Imagine right outside your home, growing and harvesting fresh greens, carrots, squash, tomatoes, and other vegetables. There’s nothing like a sweet and savory tomato picked right off the vine. You can have this in a few months if you start planning right now!

Start thinking about what you can do to prepare for the upcoming growing season. As Native people, we have long been growers and harvesters to help us survive and thrive. Let’s strengthen our ties to the land by growing our very own fruits and vegetables for our loved ones. Starting up your own garden will also encourage your family to start eating healthier too.

Having a garden is a great stress reliever after a long day, and it helps us stay physically active. It teaches our young ones about where food comes from and helps us appreciate the hard work that goes into growing food. For me, having my own garden is also about the satisfaction that comes from being able to say, “I grew this, and I want to show my family love by giving them my hard-earned work.”

The autumn harvest can yield some impressive results; pictured here is a variety of squash and zucchini, which traditionally grow very well in the Four Corners region.

It is similar to when you bead your own jewelry, or make your own blanket and you give them as gifts to family. There’s a certain happiness we have about things we put our hard work into and we want to share that love and happiness. Growing our own fruits and vegetables can be the same way.

Another reason why you should have your own garden is that you will know exactly where your food is coming from! Sometimes the fruits and vegetables in the grocery store come from very far places and industrial farmers may put things in the soil that aren’t too good for our health or the environment.

Eating a traditional diet full of home-grown veggies is good because it helps us to become healthier. As Native people we have gotten away from growing our own food and sharing our harvest with our family. It is so easy nowadays to drive up to a window, pay for food, then drive off.

A lot of us have forgotten how hard it was to grow that tomato and lettuce in our burger, butcher the cow that made the patty, and milk the cow that made the cheese. By taking part in the process, we can fully appreciate how our food came to be, instead of simply opening a fast food bag and gobbling it up!

Our diets have become high in processed foods and fast foods – and it’s making us sick. Often, those processed foods can be high in salt, fat, and sugar, and it can lead to problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Let’s say no to easy food that makes us sick and go back to the land that once made us healthy and thriving. We’ll feel better in the long-run!

So, you may ask, “what can I start growing?” There are many vegetables that should grow very well at our elevation in the Four Corners region.  At the start of April, you can start planting cold weather crops such as lettuce, spinach, and radishes. These are fast growers, so you can be harvesting by the end of April. Imagine being able to harvest your own spinach right outside your door and sauté it with some onions and garlic. This is a great side dish for any meal.

If you don’t have access to land for a bigger garden, you can also grow in containers, such as five-gallon buckets. When it warms up a little, in about a month or so, you can even grow a tomato and squash plant in that five-gallon bucket.

Just think, a few months from now, you will have the satisfaction of saying I grew this, and the love that it shows to your friends and family. Now is the time to decide what you would like to plant!


Denee Bex is a Registered Dietitian and advocate for healthy traditional diets and home-grown foods within Native American communities.  She can be reached at

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