Over the holidays, our children gifted us with a couple starter kits for “funky vegetables.” It had delights such as purple carrots, watermelon radishes, striped tomatoes, rainbow chard, red Brussels sprouts, golden zucchini and more. This inspired us to expand our gardening activities with spring approaching.

We already had herbs like oregano, basil, garlic and rosemary going in addition to our fruit and citrus trees and some microgreens. We decided, however, to build some raised beds for herbs and veggies in our backyard. They arrived from local craftsman and gardeners Collin and Lacey from Gulf Coast Gardens this weekend complete with a full complement of healthy soil with bacterial microbiome for organic fertilization.

Veggie garden is 2 feet by 4 feet, and herb garden is 1 foot by 3 feet. Interspersing herbs with vegetables is even better because you can “companion plant” to keep pests down and help plants thrive. So if anyone wants one smaller garden, combining herbs and veggies is best.

Raised beds are a nice option for those with limited space, an achy back or a limited budget. They are easy to reach and to locate for optimal sun and rain.

Other options include small window boxes, a mini-garden on your steps, potted plantings for herbs, indoor pots with a grow light, or for the adventurous, some hydroponics. It’s a way to stretch your food budget to enjoy the freshest of your produce throughout the year. Galveston has a yearlong growing season, and we can have a garden yielding something all the time.

Gardening is a great way to connect with children and grandchildren. Involving them in planning, planting, watering and harvesting are wonderful life lessons, teaching them their own role in raising food but also in understanding the biology, weather, bugs and other pests, even math as they map out the plantings.

If you’re feeling a little stir crazy with being inside all the time, put a little time into some gardening, miniature, raised bed or if you have space, full row style planting. One of my most favorite Galveston County Daily News columnists is Master Gardener William M. Johnson, who writes on these pages on Wednesdays. His columns are full of timely, seasonal and practical advice for gardens, yards, trees and landscaping. I learn a great deal every time I read his seasoned words of wisdom.

When my was was a child, her family depended heavily on the produce of their 2 1/2-acre truck garden in the rich Illinois soil. She has fond memories of working with her grandfolks, but not so much on the hard labor of canning and preserving.

My family also were farmers and gardeners, and though our little half-acre lot in hot, though dry Phoenix wasn’t nearly as productive as the Illinois farm, I remember so fondly watching and helping my father hoe, plant, water and harvest beans, corn, radishes, squash, cantaloupe and tomatoes.

I still remember with wonder my first venture into gardening when I planted some radish seeds just outside our back door. Miracle of miracles, especially for an impatient 6-year-old child, we had sprouts in less than a week and radishes in under a month.

If you prefer not to garden, you can get seasonal weekly fresh vegetables from Seeding Galveston or the Galveston’s Own Farmers Market. Easy-peasy.

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

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Bailey Jones

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