Gardening 101 – Final Post, Funding your Project!

March 13, 2015

by Maryam Funmilayo

file8271306993793Welcome back to the final series of gardening 101. I hope you have started brainstorming on what, where, when, and how to plant, as the spring season is fast approaching.  I recently attended the Dig In! Event at the Marbles Kids’ Museum.  Experienced and novice gardeners, farmers, Master Gardeners, school teachers, and various community members, were all attendees at the event. It was a well-attended and successful event.  People shared success stories on how their empty lands became flourishing gardens.

As I mentioned in the very beginning of this garden series, this final part will be about organizations that are involved in giving free monetary grants to new or existing gardens. So, there is no need to worry if money is an issue for starting a garden. Below are 4 organizations that you can tap into if you are interested in starting a community or school garden.

  1. Project Learning Tree –
  2. Kitchen Gardeners International –
  3. Kids Gardening –
  4. Whole Kids Foundation –

There are so many others besides these four organizations. You can also ask community and school members for monetary and in-kind donations. It’s important to remember that not only finances are needed to start a sustainable garden.  For a successful garden campaign, approach and recruit volunteers who are willing to work and maintain the garden. Volunteers can range from elementary school children to senior citizens. You also need adequate humanpower, dedication, interest, zeal, and most importantly, a community of people who are ready to eat smart, move more, and feel good!

Maryam Funmilayo is a Program Assistant with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).  She teaches Faithful Families classes to the adult female members of the Islamic Association of Raleigh (IAR).

Gardening 101 – Part Three

file000940283052Welcome back to the gardening series! I hope you’ve been thinking deeply on how to start a garden with your family and friends. Starting small is always key and one of the best pieces of advice given by the Master Gardeners.  They advised that you start a container garden if you are very new into gardening or if you can’t afford the space or time to take care of a larger garden.

This post focuses on key health benefits that come along with gardening, including how your body, mind, and soul are maintained while working out on a garden. Physically, your body is moving and muscles, bones, and nerves are all at work. The stretches you make while digging, weeding, planting, and harvesting are all good for the body. Gardening is also therapeutic for the mind and soul because it serves as a de-stressor.  The mind and soul are both at ease and focused during gardening instead of being restless.  These are healthy benefits to the body in the physical sense. However, there is much more to know about the health benefits of the foods we plant, and the impact on our bodies.

Here are six simple reasons why we need to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, including three powerhouse herbs that you should know and grow in your garden:

  1. Fruits and vegetables contain some “miracle” substances that help reduce high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, and some cancers.
  2. Fruits and vegetables are known to have low or no calories at all. So, snacking on them makes you feel full and look fit!
  3. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and aid in digestion.
  4. Fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of diabetes.
  5. Vegetables, especially the dark leafy green ones, are good for strong bones.
  6. Not only are fruits and vegetables good for our diets, but they are also great for our outer skin and hair!

As for the three powerhouse herbs you should know and grow, why not start with cilantro, mint, and parsley! There are more powerhouse herbs and spices that one can plant along with fruits and vegetables.  I’ll provide more information in the gardening series part four.

Stay tuned…

Maryam Funmilayo is a Program Assistant with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).  She teaches Faithful Families classes to the adult female members of the Islamic Association of Raleigh (IAR).

Make Valentine’s Day Healthy and Happy

by Lorelei Jones

heartRipplesWhen you think about a special Valentine’s Day celebration, what comes to your mind first?  Was it the chocolate or the dinner?  Probably not.  It was more likely a sweet message from a dear friend or family member, a simple note, a kind gesture, or a fond memory of time spent together.

Rather than load your loved ones up on candy and extra calories, why not give your Valentine a gift they will really remember.  Even on Valentine’s Day, you can make healthy choices that show you care.

  • Write a love note to your child and place it in their backpack or lunch box.
  • Plan to spend time together being active.  If the weather allows, go for a walk or teach your children a game you played when you were their age.  If weather doesn’t permit, plan a special indoor activity that all of you enjoy doing.  It can be as simple as dancing to your favorite tunes.
  • Cook a healthy meal together.  Exchange Valentine notes you make for each other during the meal.
  • Give children stickers, raisins, or pencils for Valentine gifts rather than candy.

 If you would like more ideas to make your Valentine’s Day both healthy and happy, check out these suggestions from the American Heart Association!

Lorelei Jones is the North Carolina Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Coordinator at North Carolina State University.

I heart you.

February 6, 2015

by Debbie Stephenson

i-love-youGo into any grocery store or drug store today and you will find aisles of Valentine’s candy.  You will find everyday candy in red, white, or pink wrappers.  You will see candy shaped like hearts or lips, candy on a stick, candy with writing on it, marshmallow candy, gluten free candy, sugar free candy, cinnamon flavored candy, candy rings and the ever popular, chocolate in heart shaped boxes.  In a 2013 CNN Report on Valentine’s Day, it is estimated that 1.6 billion dollars was spent on candy.  WOW!  Eat a 12-ounce box of assorted chocolates from a well-known candy maker and you will have eaten approximately 1700 calories.   According to, you would have to walk almost 8 hours or jog 3.25 hours to burn off those calories. That’s a lot of money, calories and exercise! It’s time to think “outside the box”!

This Valentine’s Day, why not skip the candy and show someone you love them and their health.  Make your own Valentine “candy” by creating “conversation stickers” (think conversation heart candy) and placing them on fruit.  You could make a fruit basket for your family, your child’s teachers, your office, your neighbors, etc.  Tying a tag on the fruit with your sentiment will work as well.  Some suggestions are:

 ORANGE you glad we met?

Our love is PLUMb crazy!

You’re BERRY special.

I’m BANANAS over you.

You’re just PEACHY.

We make a nice PEAR.

You are the APPLE of my eye.

Another idea is to create an exercise certificate.  Does you child like to ride a bike?  Create a certificate redeemable for a one- hour bike ride, just the two of you.  Does your neighbor invite you to walk and you always turn her down?  Give her a certificate saying you will walk with her (and actually do it!). Does your spouse like to dance?  Sign up for dance lessons for the two of you and present it in a certificate.  Committing to participate in an activity someone else enjoys, shows how much you love him or her.  Plus, think about the health benefits times 2.

Happy Valentine’s Day  and remember to think outside the box.

Debbie StephensonFor more information, Debbie Stephenson may be reached at NC Cooperative Extension by calling 910-893-7530 or

Gardening 101 – Part Two

January 29, 2015

by Maryam Funmilayo

DSC03896Welcome back to the family gardening series. In part one, I briefly touched on the highlights of a family gardening project and its benefits to children, families, and communities. I shared tips on how to embark on one if you are interested in starting a garden project.  I also mentioned the winter seasonal vegetables such as onions, lettuce, radishes, peas, cabbage, most green leafy vegetables, and potatoes. All these vegetables can easily resist the cold temperatures and still blossom beautifully.

Here in part 2, we will learn about vegetables, as well as fruits and herbs that can grow well in a family gardening project. We will also learn about companion planting.

Before I begin, a very good source of information regarding seasonal planting is the Extension Master Gardner program of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service ( Basic information such as a vegetable variety guide, garden care, seeds, transplants, container gardening, garden needs, and supplies can all be found on their website. The website also has additional sources of information on specific topics that might interest you.

As the winter season slowly fades away with the appearance of the cool, breezy, spring season, vegetables such as lima beans, snap beans, cucumbers, eggplant, peas, peppers, squash, and tomatoes, are excellent choices for a warmer season. For those who are new gardeners who prefer to start small, these vegetables can also do well in container gardens which are very easy to start with and they do take up little space.

When the spring season approaches, think highly of the herbs! They can be planted as well without much stress. My favorite ones such as bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, and cilantro, require lots of sunshine and will do well in container gardens too.  Herbs are also great for companion planting. Companion planting involves planting different plants very close to one another. In this way, they provide benefits for one another such as improving the flavor of their companion plants and serving as insect or pest repellants so that their companion plants would not be affected. Basil for example, will go well with tomatoes because its aroma will naturally improve the flavor of tomatoes.

Stay tuned for Part 3…

Maryam Funmilayo is a Program Assistant with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).  She teaches Faithful Families classes to the adult female members of the Islamic Association of Raleigh (IAR).