With growing concerns over the increased use of chemical pesticides, genetically modified plants, unsafe food handling, and other potentially hazardous agricultural conditions, it can be hard to know what you’re eating when you buy your produce at a large grocery store. If you grow your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables, however, it is much easier to be aware of how your food has been treated and what you are putting in your body and providing to your family.
Why Grow Your Own Food?
Along with concerns about chemical contamination from pesticides, herbicides, pollution, and other environmental toxins, there are many other reasons to grow your own food. By taking charge of your garden and growing what you eat, you can…
- Gain Personal Satisfaction From Your Efforts
Nurturing your garden from planting to harvest can provide a great sense of accomplishment with every bite you take. The act of growing your own food can help you connect with nature, which can improve mood, promote mindfulness, alleviate depression, and provide other mental and physical benefits.
- Save Money
As grocery costs rise, it can be very economical to grow your own food. The cost of seeds or seedlings can be much less than a single week’s worth of produce, yet the plants you grow can yield many weeks of healthy meals for just pennies per serving.
- Ensure Complete Good Treatment
Chemical contamination is only one way produce may be mistreated when it is grown commercially. When you grow your own food, you do not risk a sick worker handling the food you buy, the harvest being picked outside of peak production, or unethical labor being used to cultivate the food.
- Lower Your Carbon Footprint
Stores don’t always carry locally grown produce, and fruits and vegetables that are shipped on trucks, planes, or ships all contribute to greenhouse gasses and other environmental toxins. Growing your own food ensures there is no shipping to bring the harvest to your table.
- Guarantee the Freshest Food
Produce is often harvested several days before it reaches a store, and it may remain on store shelves for several more days before you purchase it. If the food comes from your own garden, however, you know exactly when it was picked, and can even pick your produce just minutes or hours before your meal.
With so many benefits to growing your own food, it makes great sense to plant your favorite herbs, fruits, and vegetables in your own garden so you know exactly what you are eating.
Stay Informed About the Food You Grow
Knowing what you eat starts long before you plant your first seed or seedling, and continues long after you harvest your produce. If you are fully aware about your garden and what grows in it, you will be more confident in every bite you enjoy from the food you nurture.
- Test Your Soil
The soil in your garden provides all the nutrients your plants need to grow. A soil test can tell you what nutrients are abundant or lacking so you can choose plants that will thrive in your garden, or else take steps to amend your soil so your plants can reach their full potential.
- Test Your Water
All gardens need water for plants to grow and produce to mature, but not all water sources are equally healthy. If your garden requires irrigation and supplemental watering, test the water to be sure it is not accidentally introducing contaminants to your plants.
- Investigate Plant Sources
Whether you opt for seeds or seedlings, take a few moments to learn where they come from and how they are treated before being put in your soil. After your first harvest, you will be able to save your own seeds to grow the next season, so you will be confident about their origins.
- Choose Fertilizer Carefully
Feeding your plants the proper fertilizer can help them grow larger and be more productive for a more bountiful harvest. Choose fertilizer blends that are specially formulated for the plants in your garden, from herbs to fruits and vegetables to berries.
- Use Thoughtful Pest Control
Your garden will be just as delicious to insects and wildlife as it is to you and your family, but not all guests may be welcome to share in the harvest. Choose the pest control methods you are most comfortable with, whether you opt for pesticides, insecticidal soaps, hand-picking, or other methods.
- Harvest Appropriately
Plan your harvest to take advantage of the peak ripeness of your plants, and stagger harvesting to increase the yield of every plant. Inspecting your garden daily can help you learn growth patterns and be sure not to miss any delicious produce.
- Prepare Produce Thoughtfully
Commercial produce may be washed with soaps or coated with waxes to make it appear more attractive, but you can treat your own produce more carefully when preparing meals. Use the oldest produce first, and experiment with new meals and different tastes to fully enjoy all the bounty of your garden.
- Put Your Garden to Bed
After your seasonal harvest is complete, winterize your garden and allow it to rest so it will be ready for another bountiful season next spring. This may mean tilling the soil, planting a cover crop, applying a layer of compost, or otherwise doing just what your garden needs to remain productive from year to year.
Just as every gardener has different preferences for the foods they grow, every gardener will have different preferences for how their food is treated before it reaches their table. By growing your own food, you will know exactly what you eat and how it has been handled during every step of its growth, maturation, harvest, and preparation, giving you greater confidence that you are choosing the best, healthiest food for you and your family.