8 reasons to grow your own food

 

Photo: Brian Everett, EVRT Studio

If you’re thinking about starting a vegetable garden, you’re not alone. According to an October 2012 report on garden trends, 53% to 54% of U.S. households with a yard or garden report growing fruit and vegetables – a figure that’s remained constant over the past three years. Although there are no comparable figures for Canada, the consensus is that food gardening is as popular here as it is south of the border. In addition, Canadian retailers of heritage seeds – that is, seeds from plant varieties introduced pre-World War II, before the era of mass-produced fruit and vegetables – are noting increased demand for their products.

Growing some of your own food is a simple way to:

  1. Save money.

Whether you buy a packet of seeds or a flat of plants, what you harvest will cost a fraction of the price you’d pay a retailer for the same foods.

  1. Eat more, tastier produce.

With the many varietals available as seeds and seedlings, you have the chance to sample produce you won’t find at the grocery store. And it will taste better. It’s hard to beat the flavour of beans you’ve just picked from the vine or the aroma of fresh-snipped basil leaves in a pasta sauce.

  1. Shrink your carbon footprint.

Instead of schlepping to the neighbourhood retailer to buy California lettuce or Chinese garlic, collect fresh food from your balcony or backyard. Food miles?  What food miles?

  1. Know what’s in your food.

You grew it yourself, so you know that you didn’t use GMO seeds, load the soil with synthetic fertilizer or spray the plants with pesticides.

  1. Teach your kids about food.

Let them plant a row of carrots or water the blueberry bushes. They’ll have fun and learn that food doesn’t really come from a supermarket or fast food outlet.

  1. Improve your health.

For one thing, gardening gets you outside. For another, whether you’re standing, stooping, kneeling or digging, gardening can burn anywhere from 120 to more than 300 calories an hour, depending on the task. There’s also evidence to suggest that connecting with nature – in particular, with the smells of nature – lowers blood pressure and increases anti-cancer molecules in the bloodstream.

  1. Learn about seasonal eating.

We’re so used to eating whatever we want whenever we want it that most of us no longer recognize that food is seasonal. When you grow your own food, you see that each fruit and vegetable grows at its own rate and is ready for harvest at a particular time: asparagus in June, tomatoes and corn in August, beets and squash in the fall. If you grow enough food, you’ll also be motivated to learn about food preservation techniques like canning, freezing, dry and storing.

  1. Benefit from an activity that doesn’t require a lot of space or pricey equipment.

If you have a back yard, great. But all you really need is a sunny windowsill, a few containers,  and some seeds to get started. If you want to grow more than you have space for, consider growing vertically, or find out if there’s a community garden in your neighbourhood. And remember that there are lots of resources available in the community and online to get you started. Here are a few:

What food do you plan to grow this summer?

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