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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Spring is finally here! It’s been a long, hard winter for many regions so why not celebrate the season by starting your own vegetable or herb garden! Though it may seem like a daunting task, it is actually quite easy!

Most store bought produce doesn’t come close to the flavor of homegrown. Tomatoes just plucked from the vine are succulent and full of vitamins and flavor. In addition, you can reduce your family’s exposure to pesticides and virtually eliminate the possibility of getting sick because of mishandled bacteria tainted produce. Gardening is great exercise too! It is estimated that you burn about 200 calories per hour gardening!

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Your garden can be as large or small as you want. You can even grow fresh herbs and produce without ever leaving your patio! An easy way to get started is straw bale gardening.   The bales are compact, biodegradable and can be positioned anywhere! They can even be placed in decorative planters which are great for patios!   If you are going to use a planter, I recommend getting one with casters. The bales get heavy once they are wet and casters allow for easy moving. There is no digging or soil preparation required with straw bale gardening, which is an advantage if you live in an area where soil is hard or rocky. It’s also great for urban areas! The bales are biodegradable too! At the end of the planting season they can be added to your mulch pile to get a start on fertilizer for next season’s planting!

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There are a few steps you need to do to condition the bales before planting. It takes just over a week for the conditioning period.

  • Days 1-3: Wet the new bales thoroughly and keep them moist. They will be heavy once they are wet, so be sure they are positioned where you want them before you start. As the inside of the bales start to decompose they will create heat. This is a normal part of the conditioning process.
  • Days 4-9: Add a liquid nitrogen fertilizer to the water on days 4 through 10 to help speed up decomposition.
  • Day 10: Stop adding the fertilizer by keep the bales moist
  • Day 11: Feel the top of the bale for heat. If still hot, check every day until the bale cools down to about 99*F or lower (so it should no longer feel warm to the touch). Still keep the bales moist by watering when needed

Once fully conditioned, the bales are ready for planting.   Create pockets (holes) about 3-4 inches deep by loosening some straw and fill the holes with compost or a quality potting soil. Finally, plant the seeds or transfer seedlings of your choice! It’s that easy! Make sure you check the bales daily as they can dry out quickly!

Here is a great recipe to use all of that succulent produce!! Happy planting!


Vegetable Rosti topped with a Fresh Tomato-Herb relish and a dallop of yogurt

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Serves 4

30 minutes or fewer

A little flour and egg bind together grated vegetables to make satisfying patties. We’ve topped them with a summery relish, but you could easily substitute salsa or sautéed mushrooms.

Tomato-Corn Relish

  • 3 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped (1½ cups)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. chopped onion
  • 3 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)


  • 2 medium white potatoes
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup oat flour (just take some rolled oats and toss them in the food processor to make flour!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

To make the Tomato-Corn Relish, combine all ingredients in bowl and set aside. To make the Rosti: Grate potatoes, carrots and zucchini into a clean kitchen towel (or paper towels).   Wrap towel around vegetables and squeeze to remove excess liquid.  Transfer vegetables to a bowl and stir in onion, flour and garlic.  Fold in eggs.  Season with salt and pepper. Coat a large skilled with cooking spray and heat over medium heat.  Spoon 2 Tablespoons of Rosti mixture for each patty, shaping with a spoon.  Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until bottom is crisp.  Carefully flip with spatula, and cook 2 minutes more, or until browned on both sides. Serve immediately topped with Tomato-Corn Relish and a dallop of Greek yogurt (optional).

Karen M. DiDomenico, B.S. is a New Jersey based Level 2 Certified Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Instructor and an ACE Certified Personal Trainer.  She is also Certified in Applied Functional Science, as well as a Certified Sports Nutrition Coach.  
Want more great tips and recipes like the one above?  You can find her at her website www.FitnessMastered.com or at her blog HERE.  



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