Reasons to Plant a Garden

It seems tempting to pick up fresh vegetables at the market especially when we have so many options for terrific markets in our neighborhoods. There’s Wegmans, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, Costco and more. However, the nature of the American Food System means that fruit, vegetables and herbs found in these markets have often been grown hundreds of miles from our kitchens. And then they are packed, shipped, distributed and displayed on shelves.

But just how fresh is it by the time you eat it? I could write another article on this topic alone, and another on the various methods used to prolong the life of produce for our benefit. But today our focus is on the green in our backyards. Do we need a reason to plant a garden? Not really, but we may need a reason to get started. Here are a few reasons that are important to me.

Control What Goes Into Your Food – If you’re searching the labels for organic and non GMO symbols on the foods you plan to purchase, then you have an interest in how your food is grown and what is used in the process. When growing your own, you can be very strict in keeping your produce organic or use fertilizer and pest control that you approve of. The security of knowing this information gives you control and peace of mind. This is probably my number one reason to grow my own produce.

Freshness – Produce found in the grocery store is typically picked half ripe. This is to allow for continued ripening during transit to the grocery stores and then into your home.

What’s worse is that nine times out of 10, we purchase our produce for the next several days and it lingers in our refrigerator all the while declining in freshness, flavor and nutritional value prior to consumption. Compare this routine to that of picking vegetables fresh from your garden for the evening’s meal. It’s the ultimate in flavor, freshness and peak nutritional value.

Price – Need I mention how expensive groceries have become over the past decade? Again, another topic for a future article. If organic produce is your preference, like it is mine, then you really have experienced the lighter wallet after a trip to the grocery store. Depending on your budget, a most significant reason to grow your own produce is the price.

Take herbs, for example. A pack of herbs from the grocery store can cost anywhere from $3-$6. And you use them for about two meals. Buying potted herbs costs $2.50-$4 and they last about eight months. And if you start them from seed, and the time is right to start some now, you can reduce your costs even more.

Exercise – Shoveling compost, using a hoe, raking, pushing a wheel barrel and even operating a rototiller serves as bona fide cardio exercise for the day.

Boost your immunity – It’s true that literally getting your hands in the dirt will boost your immunity. Your body needs microbes from outdoors to keep your immune system strong. Start digging and take a break from

our more typical sterile homes and obsession with anti-bacterial soap and you’ll reap the benefits of a perked up immune system.

Lessons learned – Cultivating a love of the Earth at any age is great for kids. In a world full of technology and organized activities, kids need a taste of the basics of planting seeds and seedlings in the ground. Not to mention a dose of sunshine, outdoor air and a sense of responsibility making sure their plants stay watered and fertilized.

Of course, there aren’t enough hours in a day to nurture the perfect garden. At least not in my days, but I can keep it simple and plant a small and manageable plot in the back yard. I also prefer to plant a few herbs in pots so they are closer to my kitchen and sit just off the back patio. I enjoy asking my daughter or son to grab some basil or pinch off a few sprigs of thyme. They have learned most of the herbs at this point and I hope they find the desire to plant pots of their own one day.

It’s equally enjoyable to watch them run out the back door, across the yard, to the garden to find the row of beets and yank up a few round ones with their bare hands. They hold them up for me to see from the kitchen window with a sense of pride.

That’s another top reason of mine to plant a garden; inspire the younger generation how to grow fresh produce and herbs to instill a sense of healthy eating choices and taking care of our planet.

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