Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Few Good Reasons to Grow Your Own Food

It’s almost predictable: When economic times are hard, people head to the garden. It happened in the 1920s with Liberty Gardens, in the 1940s with Victory Gardens, and in the 1970s with increases in oil and food prices. Similarly, with current concerns about food safety, global warming, carbon footprints, and pollution, along with a desire to build a link to the Earth and our own neighborhoods, food gardening has become a simple and tasty solution.

Food gardens aren’t just in backyards anymore. People grow food in containers on decks and patios, in community gardens, at schools, at senior centers, and even in front yards for everyone to see. Food gardens are beautiful and productive, so why not let everyone enjoy the benefits? I describe the advantages to growing your own food in the following sections.

Improve your health
We all know we’re supposed to eat more fruits and vegetables every day. It isn’t just good advice from mom. Many vegetables are loaded with vitamins A and C, fiber, water, and minerals such as potassium. A growing body of research shows that eating fresh fruits and vegetables not only gives your body the nutrients and vitamins it needs to function properly, but it also reveals that many fruits and vegetables are loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants — specific compounds that help prevent and fight illness.

While specific vegetables and fruits are high in certain nutrients, the best way to make sure you get a good range of these compounds in your diet is to “eat a rainbow.” By eating a variety of different-colored vegetables and fruits, you get all the nutrients you need to be healthy.

While eating fruits and vegetables is generally a great idea, the quality and safety of produce in grocery stores has been increasingly compromised. Whether it’s Salmonella on jalapeño peppers or E. coli in spinach, warnings seem to be happening every year. Also, some people are concerned about pesticide residues on their produce. A list called the “Dirty Dozen” points out the vegetables and fruits most likely to contain pesticide residues. Here’s the list: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach, and strawberries. What better way to ensure a safe food supply free of biological and pesticide contamination than to grow your own? You’ll know exactly what’s been used to grow those beautiful crops.

Save some cash
You can save big money by growing your own vegetables and fruits. In fact, depending on the type and amount you grow, you can save hundreds of dollars. By spending a few dollars on seeds, plants, and supplies in spring, you’ll produce vegetables that yield pounds of produce in summer. Instead of having to go to the grocery store to buy all that produce, you’ve got it ready for the picking for free in your yard. It’s your own personal produce department! You’ll save hundreds of dollars on your grocery bill each year by growing a garden.

Here’s just one example of how a vegetable garden can save you some cash. The 20-foot-by-30-foot production garden highlights many favorite vegetables. I also include some plans for succession cropping and interplanting. When I indicate succession crops, I’m assuming two crops in one growing season. I’m also assuming 8-foot-long raised beds with rows with space to walk between the beds down the center.

To show you how the garden saves you money, the following list provides vegetable yields and the price per pound of each crop. However, keep in mind that these are general averages. I’ve erred on the conservative side with many yields. Yields, after all, can vary depending on the location, variety, and growth of your crops. The prices are based on national average prices from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service for those vegetables grown organically in summer. Again, these numbers may vary depending on
the year and location in the country. However, even with all these variables, you can see that you grow more than 300 pounds of produce worth more than $600 just by working your own garden!

If you grew the garden depicted your initial investment of $70 to get started will yield 350 pounds of vegetables. If you purchased the same 350 pounds of vegetables in a grocery store, you’d have to pay more than $600. So, as you can see, you’re saving money and getting great food to eat.

Help the environment
Your tomatoes, lettuces, and melons from the grocery store cost more than just the price to produce them. It’s estimated that the average produce travels up to 1,500 miles to get from farm to grocery store, and that’s just vegetables and fruits produced in the United States. Increasingly, produce is being imported from foreign countries, such as China and Chile. The fossil fuels used to transport these vegetables increases air pollution and global warming. So, one of the big-picture reasons for growing your own produce is to fight these effects on our planet.

Plus, by growing your own vegetables, fruits, and herbs, you also reduce the amount of pollution that’s created on the farm. Regardless of it being a conventional or organic farm, many large operations tend to use lots of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to grow their crops. Unfortunately, some of these additives end up as sources of pollution (and their creation requires fossil fuels). By growing your own produce using a minimal amount of these inputs, you can reduce the amount of chemical and fertilizer pollution that ends up in waterways around the country. For more information on gardening sustainably, check out Sustainable Landscaping For Dummies by Owen Dell (Wiley).

Increase your quality of life
A less tangible (but still important) reason to grow your own vegetables is related to quality of life. Vegetable gardening is a great way to unwind after a hard day. You can achieve a simple pleasure and satisfaction in roaming through your garden, snacking on a bean here and a cherry tomato there, pulling a few weeds, watering, and enjoying the fruits of your labors. It’s an immediate, simple satisfaction in a world that so often is complicated and complex.

Also, if you garden with others in a community garden, you’ll create new friendships and bonds with your neighbors. According to the NGA food gardening survey that I describe earlier in this chapter, more than a million community gardens exist across the country. Often community gardens become a focal point for neighborhood beautification, education, and development projects. When the gardens are sown, people start taking increased interest and pride in their neighborhood and how it looks. Often crime, graffiti, and vandalism are reduced just by creating a garden where people can gather together. And you thought all you were doing is growing a few vegetables!

For more information about starting a community garden or to find one in your area, contact the American Community Gardening Association at

Source of Information : vegetable gardening for dummies

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