This week at Mujeres Unidas, several participants showed up for a bit of a discussion facilitated by Gina Noe of the Madison County extension office. The discussion was based around heart healthy foods; more specifically, reading nutrition labels and eating in a more healthful manner. Most who came to the discussion were already quite savvy about nutrition labels, however the discussion was still very helpful. Did you know that the average american consumes about a tablespoon of salt every day, while the body only needs 1/4 of a teaspoon to function properly? Reading nutrition labels on a food product can help you control health problems such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and, of course, weight gain. Reading nutrition labels will also help you to ensure that you’re eating real foods- not foods full of chemicals and ingredients that you can’t pronounce the names of! Gina and her team also brought a great chicken salad for us to sample, made with whole grain pasta, fresh veggies, and low fat italian dressing. Mmm. Thanks, Gina!

On another note, one question that has come up quite often out in the garden is “Should I water my plants today?” I haven’t quite known the answer to this either- so I figure it’s worth blogging about. Is it necessary to water plants, of is it possible to just let mother nature do all of the work? What plants should be watered and when? Knowing when to water is entirely a judgement call that cannot be made by simply looking at the soil. To know if your plants need watered, you’ve got to get your hands dirty a bit! The soil may appear dry on the surface, but what matters the most is how moist the soil is below the surface, around the roots. You can test this by sticking your finger into the soil near a plant’s roots. If your finger comes out mostly clean, with no soil stuck to it, then chances are the soil around the plant’s roots is bone dry, and in need of watering. You can also use a spade and pull back the soil between 6-12 inches, and see how moist it is. If the soil clumps together fairly easily, then there’s no need to water; if it crumbles and does not stick, chances are your plants are thirsty!
It is most important to check the soil around a plant’s roots because that is where a plant obtains most of the water it requires. This is why, if you find that your plant could use a drink, it is logical to apply water near the plant’s roots. Applying water to plant foliage is not as effective, and may lead to easier spread of disease. Be careful not to drown your plants. Only apply enough water to reach the roots. Overwatering can also be detrimental to plant health. Mulching can be a good way to keep moisture in around plant roots and to prevent weeds from popping up!