If you haven’t tried growing your own food before, you might be surprised at the health benefits it provides. Not only is homegrown food good for you nutritionally, gardening is a great form of physical activity that can also boost your mood and ensure you soak up lots of healthy Vitamin D.
Plus, it’s a great money-saver. You can usually buy a packet of seeds for a few bucks at your local garden store that can yield dozens of plants that produce food throughout the entire growing season. Basic kitchen crops like tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and herbs are forgiving, so you don’t even need a green thumb (or prior gardening experience) to get started.
The health benefits of growing your own food
- More vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in your diet. You’ll generally incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet when you grow your own food. And fresh-from-the-garden food is not only incredibly tasty, but it also has more nutritional value compared to what you might find at the grocery store. That’s because store-bought produce often travels long distances and spends a lot of time in storage, which can cause it to lose some of its nutrients.
- Control over what you eat. When you grow your own food from seed, you’re able to select varieties of fruits and vegetables that aren’t as commonly available, including unique heirloom varieties. You also have control over which fertilizers and pesticides come into contact with your food, which can be a health concern for some.
- Increased physical activity. Tending to your own garden is a great opportunity to get outside for some fresh air and a bit of exercise every day. Gardening helps improve your heart health External Site, decrease stress, boost your mood and energy, and relieve anxiety and depression.
Deciding where to grow your food
OK, so you’re sold on starting your own garden. But now, where’s the best spot to grow your food? Whether you have a small patio or a large yard, you have a few options for starting a garden:
- Containers are ideal if you don’t have a lot of space (like an apartment deck) and want to get started with little work. You can find small, medium, and large pots in a variety of heights, and can easily grow lettuce, garlic, peppers, and herbs.
- Raised beds can come in a ready-to-build kit or you can get your own wood to build them yourself. These are a good option if you don’t have ideal soil for growing, but you have a good amount of space (most garden beds are at least 2x4 feet).
- Community garden plots are a great way to garden if you don’t have the space for a raised bed, but still want to plant more vegetables than will fit in a few containers. Garden plots can often be reserved at no cost or for a small fee, depending on the organization that provides them. You can find a community garden in your area through the American Community Gardening Association External Site.
Want to learn more about how community gardens are improving the lives of Iowans and South Dakotans ? With help from Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark Opens New Window, Martin and Rapid City in South Dakota and Waverly and West Union in Iowa have all created thriving gardens in their communities.
If you lack outdoor space and still want to grow your own food, you can try your hand at hydroponic growing — which means growing directly in water. You can find hydroponic growing systems at home improvement stores or online, which often have kits that let you grow lettuce greens, herbs, and even some smaller varieties of vegetable plants like tomatoes and peppers.
Using your homegrown food
Want inspiration for how to use your freshly picked produce? Check out the recipes tab on Blue for dozens of healthy meal ideas.
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