I grew up helping in the family garden. I remember eating the peas before my mother could get them in the house, and a good percentage of the cherry tomatoes were sampled to make sure they were good.
As an adult, it wasn't until about five or six years ago that I started gardening for our own family, using the square foot gardening method. It's a bit of work to get it going initially, but after that, it's so much simpler than the long rows we started when I was a kid. In case you need some inspiration, here are ten reasons you should start a garden this spring:
1. You know what you're eating is chemical free.
When you grow it yourself, you know what went into that dirt, and you know if something got sprayed on your tomatoes, broccoli, or cucumbers. I practice organic gardening, and it’s really not difficult or expensive. I know when my kids sneak those peas and beans while playing outside that they’re not consuming anything scary. That’s important to me.
2. Food from the garden tastes amazing!
If you’ve ever tasted a home grown tomato and compared it to a store-bought tomato grown in a hot house, you know the difference. The store-bought tomatoes are often grown in commercial greenhouses and when compared side by side, they have so much less flavor than tomatoes you can grow yourself. It’s not even close.
3. Teach your kids where food comes from
We live in a more rural suburb, and there are a good amount of farms nearby. But nothing compares to doing it yourself. I think it’s important for kids to know what it takes to grow that tomato, and that it doesn’t just magically appear in your grocery cart.
4. Kids love helping
Besides teaching kids that sometimes food literally DOES grow on trees, gardening is fun for the whole family! My girls argue over who gets to help drop seeds into the soil at the start of the season, and I’ve got two eagle-eyed watchers to alert me when the first tomatoes ripen up. They love to help, and it’s a great activity to do together. I’m making memories for me and for them as they grow.
5. Kids love eating vegetables they helped grow
This year I had my girls check out the seed catalog and each pick out something they wanted to plant. We’re going to see some purple beans and snow peas with purple flowers! Getting the kids involved is a great way to get them to try new foods, or to eat more of the good stuff. At one point last summer all of the rest of my ripe peas suddenly disappeared from the garden, and my girls were mysteriously not hungry for an afternoon snack. I’ll be planting more this year…
6. Save money
Whether you’re comparing the price of organic vegetables or conventionally grown veggies, you’ll save tons by growing them yourselves. Granted my square foot gardening boxes were an investment to start with, since we had to purchase some lumber and the soil mix, but now it’s a bag of compost each year and whatever new seeds or starter plants we decide to grow. One pound of tomatoes at the grocery store will run us anywhere from $1.00 to more than $2, and more than that if they’re organic. Compare that to the multiple pounds of tomatoes I get from a $5 starter plant, and it’s a no-brainer. I even got a box of about 100 onion sets (small onion starts) for about $6 – much less than buying fully grown at the store!
7. Help the environment
How far do your fruits and veggies travel to get to your store? How far do YOU travel to get to the store? Less distance to travel means less gasoline, less exhaust, less wear & tear on the roads… you name it.
8. Practice some self sufficiency
You don’t have to raise everything you need and have a mini farm. But hey, if you have the space and you want to, go for it. I will say that it’s nice to know your grocery bill will be a little lighter when it comes to the produce department, especially if money gets tight due to a job loss or other situation. Also, if you know how to can, dry fruits or freeze them properly, you can enjoy your garden bounty in months to come.
9. Help save the bees
No bees, no pollenators, no food. Give bees a pesticide-free garden and add bee-friendly flowers to attract and feed them. Bees like basil, sage and thyme, as well as cucumbers, strawberries, tomatoes, winter squash and melons. There are a lot more options out there, so pick something you’ll both enjoy and they’ll help pollenate your plants and get them producing! Click over to the Honeybee Conservancy or read this Pollenator-friendly plants post by organic gardening guru Mike McGrath for more information.
10. Improve your health
We all know fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, so plant some! You’ll love putting together a fresh salad each night during the growing season, enjoying fresh, sweet strawberries, or tossing some garden green beans in a pan with a little bit of garlic for a tasty side dish. With the wide varieties of seeds and plant starts available via the seed companies or your local nurseries, there’s no shortage of choices. Start planning your garden today!