10 Reasons to Start Growing Your Own Food
There are lots of environmental reasons to get outside and start growing your own fruits and vegetables. It is one of the easiest ways to shrink your carbon footprint and live more sustainably. We’re of the mindset that sustainability doesn’t have to mean that you are living completely off the grid, nor do you need to grow everything you eat. We think it is just as important to contribute in any way and as much as you can. No militant urban farming extremists here! Whether you have a huge back yard or a small balcony or patio you can grow great produce! The best reward for growing your own food is the satisfaction of knowing what went into your food and feeling safe and secure about feeding your family fresh produce that was harvested that day and mere steps from your kitchen.
There are also economic reasons to start growing your own food. We know plenty of skeptics who’ve told us that there is simply no way to grow everything you need every day. We never said it was convenient to grow vegetables in your back yard. And for some of us, we will never be able to cut out the grocery store entirely. And that’s ok. We want to give you a pat on the back for getting started and for keeping it going. Growing vegetables is a great way to bring down the cost of groceries each week and if you start or attend a community crop swap, you can stretch your produce that much more! We attend and organize several crops swaps and we’re always delighted and surprised by the interesting things that people are growing and willing to swap. It can definitely be a relief to trade some overachieving kale or peppers in your garden for something else. And you won’t have to hear your family moan “Kale, again?”
If you are just getting started, try easy to grow vegetables — carrots, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, summer squash, basil or spinach. These crops tend to grow well and in abundance. Set yourself up for success. Growing vegetables is fun!
Here are a few other things to consider:
- Save money on groceries. A packet of seeds can cost less than a dollar, and if you buy heirloom, non-hybrid species, you can save the seeds from the best producers, dry them, and use them next year. Also learning food preservation techniques is also a great way to extend your harvest. Start canning and pickling. They make great gifts and you’ll get more brownie points when you tell your friends and family it all came from your backyard!
- Your food will be more delicious. Have you noticed how all the hot restaurants are featuring farm-to-table menus and highlightingthe farms where your food comes from? There’s bragging rights for top chefs to show how healthy and in turn, how delicious their food is because it was grown organically, locally and seasonally. Make these your bragging rights. Fresh vegetables that you can harvest that day and put in the skillet that night is a true luxury but is accessible to everyone. Cooking seasonally ensures you have the tastiest, juiciest and brightest colors that make your meals something you and your family look forward to.
- Improve the health and wellness of the whole family. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that preschool children who were almost always served homegrown produce were more than twice as likely to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day—and to like them more—than kids who rarely or never ate homegrown produce. Eating greater amounts of fruits and vegetables will also help improve many health issues such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.
- Reduce your environmental impact. Urban agriculture reduces our reliance on fossil-fuel supported calories — no more trucks and planes carrying your vegetables to a grocery store that you have to drive to, then drive home to make dinner. And thereby reducing your overall carbon footprint. Organic gardening also eliminates toxins that would otherwise end up in our bodies, but also find their way into run off into sewers which contaminates our oceans. Organic gardening encourages bio-dynamic ecosystems and polycultures to flourish. Polycultures are ecosystems whereby many large organisms and micro-organisms live together to create a balanced garden. Beneficial insects and bacterias are drawn to the garden and help create natural protection of your crops from unwanted pests, without the need for pesticides and herbicides.
- Get physical. Getting out in the garden is better than any gym! You are lifting, digging, planting, weeding and harvesting. And being in the outdoor air is a great way to spend a weekend. Gardening with children can be a fun way to keep kids engaged with the food their eating and get them moving too! For many, gardening is a fun way to get outside, get some exercise and de-stress.
- Kids love it! Give your kids a reason to love fresh fruits and vegetables. Give them some ownership in the garden. Put them in charge of 1-2 vegetables. Pick the easy growing varieties. Make them successful by letting them see and participate in the entire process from planting to harvest. Then let them help you cook up those vegetables. Peeling carrots or washing the vegetables to prep or chopping for the big kids. It’s a great way to get the whole family involved and coming back for more!
- Be the envy of your neighborhood. It used to be that garden boxes and containers were tucked in the back of the yard away from the sweeping lawns, where the real backyard activity happened. Not anymore! Vegetable gardens are becoming a source of pride for many. You are single-handedly feeding your family with your garden. And edible landscapes can also be a great way to create showy gardens that serve the dual purpose of producing edibles but also looking pretty.
start seedlings in small containers before transferring them to garden beds or larger containers, particularly in harsh weather
lettuce grows great in almost anything!
edible landscapes offer beauty and food
Start small in a plot you know you can manage.
Crops can also be positioned with companion crops who may need greater shade from the sun
Mix edibles with ornamentals
- Reduce food waste. Americans throw away about $600 worth of food each year! Start a compost pile. When we started Sow Swell Urban Farm, we reduced our food waste by 60% by composting! Composting is one of the best ways to keep your food waste from making its way to landfills. When you compost you are creating one of the most important and organic components of rich, healthy soil. And a compost pile does this magically with the help of millions and millions of strains of bacteria and worms. You are responsible for a little elbow grease of keeping it properly and frequently turned but a 3’x3′ compost pile can fully turn to compost in about 6-9 months. Great news when you are getting your garden beds ready for a new season of growing.
- Herbs are easy and make a great gateway crop. Keeping a kitchen herb garden in a window box or on the kitchen counter is a great way to start small. Herb gardens are often the way many gardeners first get started. Be sure your herbs are in a container that has good drainage and there is a means to catch any water overflow like a tray or saucer under your container. The last thing you want is for all your soil to run out all over the counter. Plant sage, basil, cilantro and thyme. Having it on your kitchen counter is a great reminder to keep it watered. On top of counter keeps it top of mind! It also makes for easy harvesting and use when cooking.
- Container Gardening is great for beginners. Keep in mind that when you first start, it’s ok if not everything lives or is big and bountiful. Sometimes we forget to keep things watered or there isn’t proper drainage or we simply get busy. There are a lot of reasons we fail in the garden, so keep failure to a minimum by starting small and graduating your efforts as you gain new skills. Perhaps even start in containers. Container gardening is a great way to keep crops small and contained. It makes portability easier and you can move your containers around to take advantage of where you get the most sun. There are also irrigation systems specially made for containers that will make watering easy and consistent. Tomatoes, berries, lettuce and peppers all do great in containers. Give it a try!
There are many benefits to gardening, but you’ll never reap these rewards until you get started. Remember, start small. It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. You may be eager, but set yourself up for success. Get the whole family involved. You’ll be healthier, happier and a better steward of the environment.