Christmas Tree

What’s In Our Garden This Year

At Chain Effect, our certified nutrition counselors often grow their own gardens.  Here, our expert dietitian Mariel Gampe shares what’s she’s growing this year.

At Chain Effect, we love helping people learn where food comes from and having a hand in growing our own food at home. I personally try to do a garden each year. These gardens have varied a lot from season to season. Even though space, materials, and hardiness zones have changed, I value taking the time in spring to plan out a garden. This year, we are doing a blend of various sized pots, one raised bed, and two herb planters. I wanted to walk you through our line up:

Our Garden Health Foods

Bush Beans

Bush beans, with their compact growth habit, are perfect for small gardens or containers. They’re easy to grow, producing an abundant harvest in a relatively short time. Our plants are already flowering!  Whether you prefer the classic green beans or the colorful varieties like yellow or purple, bush beans are a delightful addition to any garden. They are also cold tolerant, which has been ideal with the crazy fluctuations we have seen in North Carolina recently.

How to Grow Bush Beans

To grow bush beans, ensure they receive ample sunlight and well-drained soil. Plant the seeds directly in the ground, spacing them according to the variety’s recommendations. Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged, and watch as your beans flourish and thrive. Since we started ours in small trays, it was easy to move them from indoors to outdoors based on nighttime temperatures. I would bring them in if it dips below freezing while they are young.


Nothing beats the crisp, refreshing taste of homegrown cucumbers straight from the vine. Whether you’re slicing them for salads, pickling them for crunchy snacks, or adding them to refreshing drinks, cucumbers are a staple in many kitchens. These are going in the raised bed this year.

How to Grow Cucumbers

For a successful cucumber harvest, provide them with full sunlight and fertile, well-drained soil. Consider using trellises or stakes to support the vines and encourage upward growth, maximizing space in your garden. Regular watering and mulching will help retain moisture and keep the soil cool, ensuring a bountiful harvest throughout the growing season.


Tomatoes are perhaps the quintessential garden crop, prized for their versatility and flavor. We are trying to cover both ends of the tomato spectrum this season. We have juicy big beefs and mini cherry tomatoes in our mix this season. These are going in the bog pots on the south facing side of the house this year.

How to Grow Tomatoes

To cultivate tomatoes, choose a super sunny spot in your garden with nutrient-rich soil. Plant seedlings deep in the ground to encourage strong root development, and provide support as they grow using stakes or cages. Regular watering, mulching, and occasional fertilization will promote healthy growth and abundant fruit production. You will notice the tiny hairs on your tomato plant. You can plant your tomatoes deep, up to the first leaves, and these little hairs will grow into roots.


No garden is complete without a selection of fragrant herbs to elevate your culinary creations. Having fresh herbs at your fingertips adds depth and flavor to your dishes. Herbs can enhance flavor and support efforts to reduce sodium. Ours are going in the rectangle shaped planters this year.

Growing Your Own Herbs

Herbs like basil, parsley, mint, and rosemary thrive in sunny locations with well-drained soil. Consider planting them in containers for easy access and maintenance. Regular harvesting encourages bushy growth and prolongs the harvest season, so don’t be shy about snipping off a few sprigs as needed for your recipes.


Another cold resistant group are the greens. This year we are doing spinach, collards, and I believe some sort of unique asian green. Our spinach took a long time to pop compared with the other two varieties but now we have seedlings for all three. Greens are great to grow because I find that they offer more flavor this way. Also, there are so many different types of greens out there that it’s fun to even just familiarize yourself with a category I used to find kind of boring. This year we are doing these in pots and in the raised bed. Pretty standard conditions as above, well drained soil, sunshine, you get the picture 🙂

Ground Cherries

Like any seasoned farmer, we did try our luck this year with a new crop. At this time, I do not have much to report on our ground cherries, as they have not popped yet. The best part about doing a garden is being reminded to ditch perfection, have fun and enjoy the process.

Building Your Own Garden

Planning a garden is a great activity. I have fun sharing this activity with others because it almost becomes a game in the beginning of constantly monitoring weather patterns to keep your seeds alive. Tuning into our natural environment can boost moods and shake you out of the mundaneness of everyday life. There are so many reasons to enjoy planting a garden each year. If you’re interested in giving it a shot, I would suggest ordering seeds from Sow True Seeds (out of Asheville) or Rare Seeds (out of Missouri) or Johnny’s Seeds (out of Maine).

Happy Planting!

To learn more health and fitness tips, check out the Chain Effect Health & Fitness blog.

For personalized nutrition counseling, book an online appointment with a registered dietitian, like me!


Headshot of Chain Effect's Mariel Gampe, MS, RDN, LDN.

Authored by:
Mariel Gampe, MS, RDN, LDN

Mariel Gampe began practicing as a dietitian in 2019, completing her bachelor’s, master’s, and dietetic internship at Appalachian State University. Recognizing that nurturing a wholesome relationship with food is a deeply personal journey, Mariel focuses on creating a welcoming and comfortable environment for her clients.