There really is nothing like the experience of eating something that you have just picked fresh from your own garden. Trust me! More and more people like myself are returning to the joy of growing vegetables, herbs and even eggs right in their own backyards.
Fifty years ago, this was the norm; almost every backyard had a veggie patch that supplemented the food bought at a store. Then life got busy, food was more readily available and was often flown in from further afield, making varieties available out of season. Gradually, the home veggie garden became obsolete.
However, the tide has turned again. People are looking for ways to improve their lives, the quality of their food and to reduce their carbon footprint. Fresh food has almost disappeared from the dinner tables of North Americans, with processed, pre-prepared or take-out food the normal fare for the majority of people. This food often contains chemicals to extend its shelf life or to make it taste better because so much of the goodness (and therefore the taste) has been removed during the processing. And don’t get me started on the sugar, salt and fat content of processed food!
The Advantages of Gardening
The advantages of growing your own vegetables include eating fresh, nutritious food, knowing exactly what has gone into your food, reducing food miles to almost zero, healthy exercise, education for the kids and the joy of producing something healthy for the family.
There are also certain disadvantages. Gardening takes time, energy, patience and commitment as well as some basic skills and knowledge.
So, when I started to consider the veggie garden option, I understood how it was greener but wasn’t so sure about being able to save money. I mean you have to buy tools, seed, fertilizer, etc. Then there is the time factor to take into account, not to mention the hard work of getting the garden established.
The Cost Benefit Analysis
Luckily, Roger Doiron of Maine, who founded Kitchen Gardeners International, has already done in-depth comparisons between home-grown and shop-bought produce. He meticulously weighed and measured everything he grew, subtracted his costs for seed etc. and then compared the result with shop prices. Admittedly, he has a huge garden of 1600 square feet but he was able to grow a huge $2,000 of vegetables in just one season! Depending on what you had to buy before you were able to harvest, he calculated a saving of between $25 and $2000.
I guess you could surmise that in the first year of your garden, your saving would be small because you had to buy all the gear to get started. As time went by, there would be less to buy, especially if you employed some cost-saving strategies, and so you would save much more on your fresh fruit and vegetable budget.
Doiron suggests that the best cost-saving vegetables for the home garden are tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, strawberries and salad greens. The great thing about these is that most of them can be grown in pots, on a balcony or patio, if you don’t have room for a garden. We use a container garden approach and it works fabulous. If you don’t believe me, check out my harvests for 2010 and 2011.
The Health Perks
The health saving of growing your own produce cannot be underestimated, either. Studies have shown that farming land has become depleted of many nutrients due to the over-use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, meaning the food we buy in supermarkets is not nearly as nutritious as it was fifty years ago. Vegetables start to lose goodness as soon as they are picked; it stands to reason that what we buy in a store is not going to be nearly as good for us as what we have grown a few feet from our kitchen.
The other health aspect of growing food is that you can choose to grow an organic garden. This means that you use natural products to feed and protect the plants. Your home-grown veggies won’t have any nasty toxic residues on them.
The Contribution to the Planet
One cost-saving strategy you can use in your veggie garden is to make your own compost. Compost is a natural fertilizer and soil conditioner that will help your plants grow big and strong, while keeping the nutrients in the soil. Healthy plants are less likely to be diseased or attacked by pests, saving you even more. Not only will you save money on fertilizers and mulch, you will also be returning the carbon in your kitchen scraps, garden refuse and lawn clippings to the soil and saving considerable waste from ending up in landfill. Making your own compost will save you around $35 to $60.
I mentioned ‘food miles’ earlier. This is the term used to describe how far food has had to travel between farm and consumer. This is a huge consideration for environmentalists because of the pollution of the trucks used to transport the food. When you grow your own food, it has no food miles and you are also saving on the fuel costs to get you to the store to buy what you need. Because what you grow tends to be perishable, you could shop less regularly for other food staples that are non-perishable, saving even more fuel.
So, are you going to join the trend and start up a home vegetable garden?