Planting our garden is one of my favorite activities every spring. Deciding what we will grow and when we can safely put things in the ground is always exciting.
Except for this year.
This year, we moved dead in the middle of spring. And while our rental house in Connecticut will allow us to add garden boxes, we don’t move in until July. While we could do a fall planting of lettuce, spinach, and kale we will miss many of my favorites. (Strawberries, tomatoes, green beans, broccoli – oh my!)
So, as my fingers are itching for the dirt, I thought I would share some of the reasons I believe everyone should experience growing their own food at least once in their lives. It is core to why our ultimate goal is to own a homestead and something I think everyone should at least try.
If you have never grown your own food, you may not know what all the fuss is about. It may seem like a lot of work. Or you may think you don’t have the space or time to grow what you really need. But the benefits of growing your own food stem far beyond saving a few dollars on groceries. (Though don’t worry, that will happen, too!)
Wondering whether growing your own food is worth it? Here are five great reasons to start a vegetable garden today!
1. Growing Your Own Food is Healthier
As soon as a fruit or vegetable is picked, it begins to lose some of its yummy vitamins and nutrients. Produce loses moisture and ripeness, both of which contribute to a loss of nutrients, as it travels from the farm to your local grocery store. In addition, produce is often picked prematurely and then artificially ripened to improve shelf life. This is a necessity since the average piece of produce has traveled hundreds of miles to where it is finally sold, this can be a big loss!
However, my favorite part of growing our own food from a health perspective is that we can increase the variety of the foods we eat. Mass-market farmers today only grow items that fit a certain standard for travel and appearance. Customers want to see a tomato that is a certain size and redness, all other varieties be damned! Well, there are over 700 varieties of tomatoes, all with slightly different taste and nutrition profiles. With our own garden, we can experience a wider range of foods.
Growing your food at home means you can pick what you need, as you need it. Your food has all the nutrients it was designed to. And that fresh food that you picked at perfect ripeness tastes better too!
2. Growing Your Own Food is Great For Your Kids
The benefits of growing your own food with your kids could fill numerous books. First off, children whose parents have a garden more than double their overall fruit and vegetable consumption. Seriously, watch your snap peas, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, or anything they can easily grab off the vine. Fuss Fish is by far our biggest garden pest. I don’t think my husband or I got a single strawberry last year!
Second, gardening has been shown to help kids improve focus, increase brain function, and calm symptoms of ADHD. The outdoor time and connection with nature can actually center their minds.
At two-years-old, Fuss Fish isn’t super helpful in the garden yet. But we did bring his wagon to a friend’s small farm this year and he loved his “job” of collecting the piles of weeds and bringing them over to the chickens. And he’s an expert worm finder.
Finally, gardening is the jumping off point for hundreds of educational lessons. Your garden can become a classroom for biology, nutrition, ecology, math, and so many other subjects!
3. Growing Your Own Food Reduces Stress
It is no secret on this site that I’ve struggled with stress in the past. I tend to let my mind go in far too many directions and put myself under maximum pressure. In our go-go-go world, I like to believe I’m not alone in this struggle.
Stress is seriously impacting our health. It can cause problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and many other illnesses. As someone who lost feeling on the one side of my body at 23 and was hospitalized for burn out, I know the risks of stress first hand.
Luckily, growing your own food can help push stress out of your life. In fact, my husband has recognized how much more relaxed I am when I get some time outside. So, because we don’t have our own garden this year, he arranged for me to do some planting in a family friend’s small farm. We all went over as a family and it was so much fun!
Studies have shown that gardening for just 30 minutes a day can lower the amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your bloodstream to normal levels. What a good reason to get your hands dirty!
4. Growing Your Own Food Helps the Environment
Our current industrial food system is having terrible impacts on the environment. These massive farms generate huge amounts of food waste due to spoilage, utilize pesticides and herbicides that damage wildlife, and strip soil of their best nutrients. Because large farms are restricted on the types of products they can grow, they can’t follow the general rules of permaculture and crop rotation to keep the soil healthy and productive. This leads to a greater use of fertilizers, which are sprayed into the air and have yet unknown long-term impacts on watersheds, wildlife, and human health.
Maintaining your own organic, pesticide-free garden means you get healthy food that hasn’t had to burn thousands of gallons of fossil fuels to get to your plate. It means you can control how your food is grown, and manage bugs and other pests naturally.
But, even beyond how your food is grown, having your own garden helps you reduce food waste. By understanding and appreciating what goes into the process, you’ll want to see the food you’ve grown utilized.
Our world’s resources are limited and every small reduction in waste helps protect the environment for generations to come!
5. Growing Your Own Food Saves You Money
Alright, let’s get down to some cold, hard financial facts. Growing your own food can truly reduce your grocery bill, even with only a small amount of space to work with.
A study by the National Garden Association found that over half of families that grow their own food do so to save money. But is it working?
The National Garden Association found that an average family spends only $70 a year on their garden but grows almost $600 worth of vegetables! No amount of coupon clipping and discount sales is going to save you that much on fresh food!
Our first year of gardening we spent a good deal more than $70. We chose to do raised beds, so we purchased lumber for the boxes and soil, compost, peat moss, and vermiculite to make a high-quality soil. Then we bought some starter plants and seeds, that portion of which was around $50. However, even that first year we estimated that we made our money back. The garden was lush and we had more tomatoes, lettuce, and green beans than we knew what to do with!
Each year since then we have purchased a few more seeds if we ran out of things the year before, and a bag or two more compost to mix into the soil which would bring us closer to the $70 average. Going forward, we plan to compost ourselves and start more seeds indoors which should further lower our costs.
Start Your Own Garden Today!
If you are nervous about where to start, pick one or two foods that are easy to grow like cherry tomatoes, carrots, or salad greens. All you need is a small planter, some soil, and a porch or sunny windowsill on which to test your green thumb. And if you’re looking for a great book, I highly recommend Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. Papa Fish and I started with two 2’x8′ raised garden beds at our first house and grew much of what we needed in just that small space following Mel’s methods.
You don’t need a tractor, a huge yard, or years of experience to start growing your own food. Our friends over at Fleisher Family Farm started a full-scale CSA on their one-acre property in Colorado! All you need is a desire to improve your diet and your life. And some willingness to get your hands dirty. ?
Do you grow your own food? What is your favorite part? Drop a note in the comments so I can live vicariously through you this year!