I love my garden. My husband and I aren't serious gardeners, but we grow tomatoes, cucumbers, a variety of bell peppers, herbs, and berries. We also have four fruit trees in the back yard, although only the gala apple tree has provided us with something substantial so far.
We're not alone, either. The National Gardening Association reports that about 43 million Americans grow some of their own food. Gardening can be a great way to grow your own food, improve your health, and save money. If you are wondering if you should start gardening, here are 5 good reasons to start a garden this year:
1. Save Money on Your Favorite Foods
Berries are my favorite. I love raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries. Unfortunately, berries are also expensive — even when they are in season. Herbs can also get rather pricey, as can sweet bell peppers. Since these are some of my favorite foods, I grow them in the garden. Instead of paying between $2.99 and $4.99 for a pint (depending on whether or not they are in season) for berries, I walk outside and pick them for free.
The same is true of herbs. I can prepare entrees and salads with fresh herbs for a very small portion of what it costs to buy herbs in the store. If your favorite foods grow well in your locale, consider planting them in your garden.
It's also possible to preserve much of your produce for later. I dry my herbs for use during winter, and make applesauce with our apples. Berries can be frozen and tomatoes bottled. Find out how you can preserve your foods for year-round enjoyment, and you'll cut your grocery bill.
2. Eat Healthier Without the Processing and Chemicals
Many of the foods bought in the grocery store are processed. On top of that, much of the produce is sprayed with harmful chemicals. If you want to know that your food is organically and safely grown, grow it yourself. Learn how to prepare and eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and you can enjoy a healthier diet. Plus, if you learn the principles of organic gardening, you can keep pests down and grow delicious produce without the need for harmful chemicals.
Additionally, some believe that you can get the best nutrient value from produce when you pick it at “peak ripeness.” Produce that is transported has to be picked unripe, and some think that reduces the nutrients involved. You might be getting healthier produce when you pick it at home, when it has the highest nutrient content.
3. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
If sustainability is important to you, growing a garden can help you reduce your carbon footprint. Local produce reduces the amount of travel fruits and veggies undergo to reach your table. Less fuel is needed to deliver local produce, and it doesn't get more local than your own backyard. With savvy water practices, and attention to composting and other environmentally-friendly gardening practices, you can reduce your carbon footprint and feel better about how you are treating the earth.
4. Boost Your Health with Exercise
Gardening requires that you get out there and be active. Planting, weeding, and watering, as well as harvesting, all encourage physical activity. You can use gardening as a way to increase the amount of exercise you get. On top of that, you are getting your exercise in the open air. There's something about being outside that can boost your health and your mood. Gardening — the close association with nature and the physical exercise — can actually help your mental health as well as your physical health. If you want a healthier year, add gardening to your exercise rotation.
5. Family Bonding Time
Some of my fondest memories are of working in my parents' large garden. We all worked together to plant, care for, and harvest the produce. My husband has similar happy memories of growing fruits and vegetables with his own father. If you want a great family activity that can produce good memories (without costing very much) gardening can be a great choice.
Your garden can provide you with a number of opportunities to improve your finances and your health.
Do you like gardening? Why or why not?