My long-term goal is to be completely self-sustainable. While I don’t envision myself achieving this for at least 25 years, I like taking baby-steps towards this goal. Of course, the biggest thing that you need to consider when aiming for self-sustainability is food. Everything else I could live without – internet, electricity, money, even clothes…but to LIVE we need to eat. Everything else is just a creature comfort.
I have been fond of gardening since childhood, and since moving out of home I have always had a garden of sorts. At the moment, my garden is a collection of styrofoam boxes housing my summer crops – watermelon, tomatoes, basil, lettuce, cucumbers. While gardening today, I was thinking of some reasons why gardening is the way of the future. Why we should all be gardening. Even if it’s just a few pots of fresh herbs!
1. Save Money
Growing your own food is very cost effective. If you grow from seeds, a packet of seeds may cost you a few dollars and provide you with enough seeds to grow many, many plants. If you then save some seeds from your crop, you can effectively grow your own food for free. For example, a bunch of basil from the supermarkets costs around $3. For $3, you can get a packet of around 100 organic seeds – which could grow into 100 basil bushes, providing several hundred bunches equivalent in size to the $3 bunch of basil from the shop. Talk about value for money!
2. Gardening is Exercise
Gardening is a great way to work some incidental exercise into your day. Work those arm muscles by watering with a watering can and pulling well-rooted weeds. Your leg muscles will get a good workout from squatting and walking around your garden. And when the garden bed needs a dig, that will give your body some strenuous exercise too!
3. Get In Touch With Nature
Spending time in the garden is a great way to forget about the stresses of modern life and get in touch with nature. Digging into the soil with your bare hands, watching seeds turn into tiny seedlings and then into large fruit/vegetable-bearing plants, watching the cycle of nature…getting in tune with nature can bring peace and perspective, and let you focus on what is truly important.
4. Know What Goes Into Your Food
What we don’t often think about when we buy our food from the shops is what chemicals actually go into growing them. Unless you buy certified organic, you can be sure that there are various chemical residues still lurking in your fruit and vegetables (and nuts, seeds, grains and legumes…). Conventionally grown food is grown with the aid of artificial fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Growing your own produce will ensure you know exactly what chemicals (if any) you use. You can take full responsibility for your growing methods. Personally, I use a seaweed fertiliser to help my plants thrive, and I either manually remove pests or spray on a homemade insect deterrent (I have recently found water mixed with a little detergent and neem oil to be useful at keeping the bugs away from my kale!). And of course, it’s not difficult to pull out weeds – no need for a herbicide in my garden!
5. Grow Varieties Which Aren’t Commonly Available
A huge benefit of growing your own produce is that you are able to grow foods which may not be available at your local greengrocer. This point is of particular interest to me as an advocate of daily green smoothie consumption, as it is important to rotate your greens to avoid toxicity. However, at my supermarket I can generally only find about 5 different leafy green vegetables – spinach, kale, rocket, silverbeet, and lettuce. By growing my own vegetables, I can have access to a range of different leafy greens that I otherwise would not have access to. Currently I am growing ruby silverbeet, nettle, and will use the beetroot greens and carrot leaves when I harvest my beetroots and carrots. I also grew purple carrots…before they became popular!
6. Teaching Your Children
One of my favourite benefits of growing our own vegetables is the involvement of my children. As my children help me choose which seeds to plant, help me sow the seeds, water the plants daily, and watch our garden grow, they develop a strong understanding of where our food comes from and an appreciation of fresh vegetables. I remember my son wandering off to the garden when he was 18 months old…he would sit there eating fresh peas, until there were none left! My children love harvesting from our garden and are then excited to eat something we have grown ourselves.
There are many other reasons why gardening is beneficial to us all – growing your own vegetables and fruit may mean you eat more of these, so your health will improve from eating fresh organic produce. If you grow more than you can eat, you can give them away to your friends or family (either fresh or turn them into tasty relishes, chutneys, jams, or something else). Growing your own vegetables can also reduce your carbon footprint.
Now you might be thinking, “But I don’t have the room to grow anything!”. But you don’t need a massive garden bed to successfully grow some of your own food. You can grow many things in pots or styrofoam boxes (as I am currently doing while we are temporarily renting) – this can work even if you live in a high-rise apartment – turn your balcony into a container garden! But if you don’t have the room for a few pots even, there’s still hope – you can grow sprouts on your kitchen sink. But this needs another blog post all to itself…to be continued!
So tell me…
- Do you have a garden?
- What are you growing at the moment?
- Do you have any more reasons why everyone should grow vegetables?