Back to the future: The benefits of growing your own food

As more and more of us have moved farther away from farms over the last century and gotten used to conveniently buying the fruits and vegetables we need at the grocery store, we may have lost a lot of our connection to nature.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama became famous for growing tomatoes, tarragon, figs, rhubarb, broccoli – and even honey – in her White House Garden and even wrote a book about kitchen and community gardens:

“Some kids have never seen what a real tomato looks like off the vine,” she says. “They don’t know where a cucumber comes from. And that really affects the way they view food. So, a garden helps them really get their hands dirty, literally, and understand the whole process of where their food comes from.”

Growing your own food can be beneficial to your health in many ways:

  • Growing fruits and vegetables makes you and your family more likely to eat them – and we can all eat more of those.
  • Fruits and vegetables you buy in a grocery store are usually picked early, meaning they have fewer nutrients than those that are left to ripen longer in your garden.
  • Growing at home means you get to choose the fertilizers and pesticides you’re comfortable using.
  • Gardening is great exercise – and we can all use more of that!

So where do you start? Here are some tips:

If your space is limited – for instance, you live in an apartment or don’t have a back yard, try container gardening. Find a sunny spot (6 hours of sunshine are ideal) on your balcony or a secure ledge and plant some pots or containers or buy a growing kit, which usually has all you need to grow a variety of herbs and vegetables. You might also consider finding a nearby plot of land with some of your neighbors and creating a gardening group.

Careful planning – growing your own isn’t something you should just jump into. You’ll need to do a little research on watering, drainage, soil types, as well as figuring out what produce you’ll want to eat and what will grow in your neck of the woods. Seek out information online, chat with other backyard gardeners or visit a local gardening center for advice.

Protection – wildlife isn’t just in the wild, of course, and your local squirrels, raccoons and insects may see your new garden as a perfect place to nibble. Consider fencing or screening as well as products you can sprinkle or spray to keep unwanted visitors away.

Bumper crops – Some vegetables like tomatoes and peppers can be surprisingly easy to grow. So what happens if you grow too much? Do some meal planning to make maximum use of what you’ve grown, share with your friends or neighbors, or donate your bounty to a local shelter.

Do you have your own kitchen garden or grow with neighbors? Please share your tips and suggestions with your fellow Shop Talk blog community forum members!

Did you know? A great return on your investment

The National Gardening Association calculates that, on average, a $70 investment in a home garden experiences a return of $530 in fruits and vegetables. That’s a lot of savings! (Source)

39 thoughts on “Back to the future: The benefits of growing your own food

  1. Taste better than the hot house supposedly fresh veggies from the store. Also, very cheap and easy to do. Have grown one more than half my life. Never had to worry about special soil or a few other things mentioned. Try it and you won’t waste your money on tasteless veggies ever again. Also, it is true that this is a great opportunity for kids to be involved in even as young as toddlers. It’s a start in ending the obesity in this day and age because they love the thought of eating something they grew and picked.

  2. Great idea been growing one for the last 10 years good workout n the returns r great started this year planting weed late they plants r coming up

  3. Started a garden this year, only a few things but first garden. love fresh veggies. I hope to make my garden bigger next year

  4. I grow tomatoes and basil around the outside of my deck. Easy to tie up that way

  5. Live in small apt. and would love to do “container gardening”.Dont know how to start all suggestions appreciated.please put “container garden” in the heading,so i dont delite by mistake.

  6. I like to grow my cucumbers up a trellis. It takes less space and keeps the cucumbers green all around.

  7. I’ve been apartment gardening for the last 13 years, transforming blah shrubbery to vibrant vegi’s and herbs. There’s nothing w#quite so rewarding as offering a neighbor a freshly picked tomato and lettuce to put on their burger, or fresh salsa relish. When one east salads daily during summer, its far easier to walk outside and pick the greens I want, add a few fresh herbs I’d never find in store-bought, peel a cuke and cut up a free mini roma tomatos, all essentially free. I store my seeds in freezer bags and seeds from 2010 are still germinating! I insist on organic or heirloom and have to replace a few packs each year. I@m composting most of my kitchen waste, grass clippings an the few weeds I encounter, as well as the leaves from the trees.
    My best advice is find someone who had a thriving garden, offer to trade helping hands for produce. Not only will you probably make a great friend, but have a mentor to help you over the rough spots, and a shrinking grocery bill! Plus spending 10-1`5 minutes every day playing in the dirt, will lower you stress levels, and THAT will make you healthier too.

  8. I do have a small space garden and I love it. There is nothing like growing your own food!

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