There Are Lots of Reasons To Grow Your Own Vegetables
Cultivating a back yard vegetable garden is a great spring and summer project. There are many reasons the USDA encourages home gardens and many reasons why 43 million American households (including the White House!) are now growing their own fruits, vegetables and herbs.
One of the most obvious reasons to grown your own produce is the potential cost savings. Seriously, have you bought fresh herbs lately? A pack of herbs from the grocery store can cost between $3 and $6 for a small bunch or pack, which may take you through one or two meals before being wilted (or gone). If you buy small potted herbs from the nursery and plant them, then can last easily six to eight months, particularly in our temperate Southern California climate. And some herbs, like rosemary and thyme, can keep going for years. If you start with seedlings, herbs are even cheaper to grow.
Growing your own produce allows you to pick just the amount you want to use rather than buying bulk quantities that may go bad before you use it. No more mushy cucumbers or squishy tomatoes. Of course, who could let vine-ripened garden tomatoes go to waste?
Which brings us to the next reason to grown your own…
Taste and Freshness
Farmer’s markets and delivery services like BeachGreens are terrific if you can’t grow your own produce — and for the things you can’t or don’t want to grow. But nothing tastes the same as a sun-kissed tomato you’ve just picked from your back yard, a fresh sprig of basil you’ve pinched off the bush, or a sweet pepper you’ve plucked and sliced right away. And if you’re enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor, you just may eat more of them and you’ll have more control over the quality. Which leads us to the next reason to grown your own vegetables
It isn’t just about the food and land – your mind and body will reap benefits from the farmer lifestyle as well! Perhaps one of the most obvious advantages of growing your own vegetables is the freedom to know, choose and/or avoid the use of chemicals. You’ll dramatically decrease the chance of your produce becoming contaminated by eliminating their exposure to corporate farms, manufacturing plants and the planes, trains and automobiles necessary for transportation. By planting organically and avoiding the use of hazardous chemicals altogether, you protect yourself from the harmful effects of carcinogenic pesticides. And studies have shown that homegrown produce straight from the stem has more vitamin content than store-bought produce.
What to Grow
Now that you’ve decided to start growing your own produce, you may be wondering what to grow. What you start with depends on your space and your ambitiousness. If you’ve never done much gardening, you might try starting with herbs. Choose the ones you use the most before you start buying them all. Rosemary, thyme, parsley, and basil are common choices. Fresh herbs are great in almost any dish.
Homegrown tomatoes are another great choice because of their exceptional flavor. They can sometimes be a bit temperamental, so you may want to start with cherry tomatoes. Zucchini, squash, bell peppers, and lettuce are also good additions to your vegetable garden. But remember to only plant the vegetables that you use frequently. You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.
How to Begin
Decide if you’re going to start with plants or with seeds. Starting with seeds is the cheapest way to go. Don’t make the mistake of using all of the seeds in the packet; only a few are needed. Ideally you should use quality-potting soil for planting, but it’s not necessary. If you don’t want to deal with waiting for seeds to sprout, buy seedlings, which offer immediate gratification. Whether you start with seeds or seedlings, make sure your plants go into cultivated soil that you’ve enriched with organic soil conditioner or compost. Choose a sunny spot.
The trick to keeping your vegetables healthy and thriving is consistent water and some casual management. It doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process. Every once in awhile, take a look at your plants, check the soil to see if it’s moist, pull a weed here and there, and if you see a bug just hose it off. Sometimes a little water is all the pest control you need. If you don’t have space for a full-fledged vegetable garden in your yard, potted plants and container gardens work just as well.
Looking for more tips and information for planning and planting your vegetable garden? Here’s some resources for you:
Old Farmer’s Almanac: http://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-dates/CA/Los+Angeles