Whether you’ve been thinking about starting a garden for a while now or if recent events have you thinking about your food chain, a kitchen garden is always a great idea – and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of space!
I grew up with a large garden so I knew of the benefits early on, but you don’t need a half-acre garden to start enjoying the benefits of homegrown food. Even in apartment and urban living I was still able to grow some food in porch boxes and five gallon buckets (that I would drill holes in for drainage), but they worked great!
If you’re a beginner gardener, growing herbs in a container is the easiest place to start. You can find full grown herb plants in grocery stores and can easily repot them together into a larger container – and it looks great, too! Keep it outside, but within reach of your kitchen so you can easily incorporate herbs into your cooking. You can also snip fresh herbs, bundle them together, and hang them upside down to dry for use in the winter. This is a great alternative to dried herbs that you can buy in the store, which are usually stale and less flavorful.
Food that is grown in gardens (or even locally) have such higher nutritional content compared to their counterparts that are shipped from across the country or imported from other parts of the world. People who are concerned with the nutritional content of their food tend to have their own gardens, shop at Farmer’s Markets, and participate in local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs so that their food sources are as local as possible.
Another benefit of growing your own food is availability and convenience. It’s great to just walk out your door to snip some fresh herbs or pick a tomato fresh from the vine whenever you need it. You’ll tend to spend more time outside tending to your garden, which has its own benefits of being in fresh air and getting exposure to the sun, which boosts the immune system by helping the body make Vitamin D.
Unless produce is labeled as non-GMO and organic in grocery stores, you’ll run the risk of ingesting harmful chemicals, pesticides, insecticides, etc. on the food you eat or allowing a genetically modified organism to grace its presence on your plate. A food that has been genetically modified has been artificially altered in a way to help that plant withstand various exposures (like chemicals) or natural elements (like drought). The biggest reason to avoid GMO foods and products is because of the chemicals used, including the toxic ingredient glyphosate used in RoundUp, in alarming quantities, which has been directly linked to cancer and banned in many countries around the world. Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deemed it to be safe, thousands of lawsuits from around the country have been filed against the company from people who have developed non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as a result of its use. Roundup is found in 90% of conventional food tested by the US government – including honey, which is important to note since many scientists believe Roundup is largely responsible for the plummeting numbers of honeybees due to Colony Collapse Disorder. Growing your own food (and buying organic) limits your exposure to these harmful chemicals plus you can get creative and give some of the more forgotten heirloom varieties a try. A really fun place to start experimenting with heirloom seeds are tomatoes! For years, I’ve been buying my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which you can visit at www.rareseeds.com.
Whether you’re gardening out of your backyard garden, a container garden filled with herbs, or a combination of buckets and growing towers, you will reap benefits no matter what. Even beyond the perks mentioned above, it’s also great for mental health, adding in extra functional exercise, and providing a retreat from daily stress. Children tend to get really excited about watching food grow from just a tiny seed so it’s a wonderful learning experience as well.
Depending on the level of your green thumb, I’ve offered some resources below to help you get started or to expand upon what you are already doing. Happy Gardening!