Bountiful Garden Harvest - Great Food!

By Lynette Streck, Let's Grow Together participant

Starting a garden this year has been a fun and learning experience for the entire family. Having the support and expertise of Earl May Nursery & Garden Center helped in the success of our garden.

Throughout this gardening season, we have learned several things including the importance of good soil and how to prepare the soil. Earl May performed a soil test to determine the type of soil we had and what was needed to make the soil better. The test determined that we needed to add top soil, compost, and structure. Earl May provided a seed guide, which outlined the appropriate times to plant and harvest the fruits and vegetables. Earl May also provided some tips for watering and weed control.

We faced a few challenges this season. The biggest challenge we experienced was the weather. When we were trying to start the garden by building the fence and preparing the soil, we were getting a lot of rain! Then we were hit by a hail storm in June, which damaged some of the plants. In addition, June and July were extremely hot and dry, so we had to water often.

Despite the weather challenges, we have had a bountiful harvest and have enjoyed eating and baking with the fresh produce. I was surprised by how much I liked the fresh green beans having not cared for them ever before. My favorite way to cook the green beans was on the grill. I was most excited for fresh garden tomatoes. Store-bought tomatoes just don’t compare to a fresh tomato from the garden. The girls and I enjoyed baking zucchini bread and a rhubarb dessert that I used to make when I was their age.  

Lynette’s Zucchini Bread


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon  
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder                      
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ cup melted butter


Sift together flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg. Mix eggs, oil and sugar together. Add zucchini, vanilla, and butter. Blend together and add to dry ingredients. Pour into two greased loaf pans (or three small loaf pans) and bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes.

Growing a garden is hard work and takes time, but it is worth it. Fresh vegetables and fruits taste better and are more nutritious than what you can buy in the store. Also, gardening is an experience the family can enjoy together.

The girls have really enjoyed planting the garden and helping bake with the fresh produce. In addition, they have learned to appreciate the value of hard work that goes into growing your own food. The experience has allowed them to see how a small seed or plant can grow and provide so much food. We are looking forward to gardening in the years to come and being even more successful gardeners!

Editor's Note: Joe and Lynette Streck and family of Van Meter are part of the “Let’s Grow Together” campaignwhich encourages Iowans to take try their hand at food and flower gardening (or to spruce up an existing project) while learning firsthand the many similarities gardening has with farming. It’s a year-long journey between Earl May Nursery & Garden Center and the Iowa Food & Family Project!