We are what we eat. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that we are what we digest. As more and more people are learning how important it is to pay attention to what we put into our bodies for gut health, the interest in growing some of our own vegetables is expanding.
The benefits of home gardening are many and extraordinary. Vegetables and fruits, once picked, use up their own nutrients to stay alive. Produce grown and harvested from far away has to travel many days to reach the grocery store destination of lots of people. During this time, they are deteriorating in quality, freshness and flavor. Some vegetables, like broccoli, lose over 50 percent of their nutrition after only two or three days.
The solution? Grow it ourselves or purchase it fresh from a local farmers’ market.
The benefits don’t stop there, either. Gardening gets us out into the sunshine which not only provides us with much-needed vitamin D, but helps the body fight off bacterias and viruses. We have forgotten that traditionally, at the turn of the last century, tuberculosis was treated with sunshine.
Gardening also keeps us flexible. Getting up and down from the ground and sitting on the Earth not only connects us, but causes us to spread our legs in ways that are inherently different from sitting in a chair. It is also a way to show our children and grandchildren where food actually comes from.
So where to begin? If you want to garden, you must first think about where to put it. Most vegetables need a good six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Take pictures of your yard during the day to see where the shadows from the buildings and trees fall.
You don’t want to put a garden downhill from a venue that uses lots of pesticides and herbicides like most golf courses. You also don’t want to put it too close to tress or shrubs that could steal water and nutrients from your plants or where cars could splash the contents of salty puddles upon it. A place where water stands for a day or two after a rain is also too wet.
If you don’t have an appropriate location in your own backyard, check with your town clerk to see if there is a community garden nearby in which you could participate. Or, ask at your local church — they often have ideal settings (see the chapter on Community Gardens in my book, Celeste’s Garden Delights for specific direction on how to set one up).
If you have never gardened before, it’s best to start small. What vegetables do you and your family most enjoy? Planting what you like to eat keeps you motivated to take proper care of your patch.
And, if this is a new experience for you, you will be absolutely stunned at the bountiful flavor of your crop. The food itself will genuinely keep you interested in pursuing this activity. Bon Apetit!
Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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