Long before ‘organic gardening’ was trendy, my grandparents had a great big vegetable garden in their back yard. Italian immigrants, they were religious in their daily tending, growing cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, eggplants, basil, watermelons, corn and rhubarb not only to feed their 10 children but to supplement their household budget. I would love to help when their kitchen was changed into a factory full of jars, boiling pots on the stove, salt and vinegar as they canned tomatoes. I always knew that someday my own children would share in these traditions.
Fast forward several years, I find myself living in the home of my dreams with ample land for my first ‘serious’ garden. You can find me daydreaming about the sun on my face and the soil in my hands all winter long, browsing seed books while charting my garden with paper and pencil. Living without a vegetable garden is simply not possible for me. Maybe it’s genetics but I take great pride in the fact that I can feed my family without a trip to the grocery store just as my grandparents did.
But why do it? Why grow a vegetable garden?
Ever taste a cherry tomato fresh from the vine? No? Steal your way into that crazy neighbors’ yard…you know the one with the straw hat and huge garden?! I promise you will be hooked at first bite.
We hear scary stories about pesticides, salmonella, preservatives, genetically modified foods and additives almost every day when you turn on the news. According to the EPA, we use over one billion tons of pesticides on our food crops every year. For me, this is one of the most compelling reasons to garden. I know that the food I am eating is safe…period.
A packet of seeds costs less than two dollars. Saving seeds costs nothing. Buying fruits and vegetables in the store, however, can be expensive. Every summer we grow more food than we can possibly eat for almost nothing. When you just can’t look at another zucchini, freeze the rest for winter. One of my favorite snacks in mid January is a warm slice of zucchini bread. You’ll be surprised at how much you can grow for the cost of one seed packet – $1.59.
Studies have shown that gardening for one hour can burn more than 400 calories. Gardening involves walking, stretching, lifting and bending. It can build muscle as well as give a good cardio workout. The fresh air and sunshine that makes my skin glow is just a bonus.
I LOVE my yoga!! But I’ll let you in on a secret; gardening is the closest I’ve ever found to that calm, grounded feeling I get from yoga. I know many friends who agree that working the garden can be immensely peaceful while the beauty you have created can lift the spirit. A vegetable garden can also lend a more spiritual link to life itself. Not only are you participating in the miracle of growth and the changing of the seasons, you will also become intimately linked to the process of nurturing your own life and nourishing your own body.
Security? Yes, security. With the cost of energy and global climate change, our ability to feed ourselves is increasingly in doubt. We must each seriously rethink the way we live. I, for one, feel more secure knowing that I can grow a significant amount of food right in my own backyard. The price of my vegetables is not at all dependant on inflation.
7. Environmental Issues
Did you know that if each of us ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and/or produce, we could reduce oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week? That’s not gallons, but barrels. You can’t get more local than your own backyard.
Now if you’re still not convinced that gardening is for you, that’s okay. Not everyone yearns to take up gardening or due to lack of space or time it’s not a possibility for you. You can still get the health benefits and lessen your environmental footprint by shopping at your local farmers market or joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). But if the idea sparks an interest, grab some gloves and join the millions who love playing in the dirt.