Growing A Garden Is Good For Your Health
May 26, 2014 by Peggy Layton
Gardening season is upon us. Gardening is one of the more popular leisure activities in the United States. Gardening is great for mental health because planting and digging in the dirt relieves stress, and we feel better when we do something meaningful that makes us happy. Connecting to the Earth slows us down and grounds us. The soil, the worms and the living plants are fascinating to watch; and we become aware of the miracle of life.
Self-sufficiency is another great reason to grow a garden. With the cost of commodities rising rapidly, gardening can offset the high cost of food. This puts more money in our pockets to use for other necessities. We save money by going to the grocery store less often. It’s possible to save hundreds of dollars per growing season, which really helps with the food budget. For a small investment in seeds and potting soil, a backyard garden can yield more than $600 in fresh, organic produce.
Health is another great reason people grow gardens. The food we plant, grow and prepare for our families is healthier than produce purchased from the grocery store. If we grow our own food, we know that it is organic, since we control the fertilization, pest control and harvesting methods.
One of the best ways to stay healthy year-round is to eat in the season thereof. This simply means that when certain foods are in season, you eat as much of them as you can and preserve the excess by canning, dehydrating and freezing. Have you ever noticed that you crave seasonal fruits and vegetables? That is because our bodies need the nutrients that we get from the different foods that are grown in those seasons.
If you live in the city with limited space and don’t grow a garden, you can shop the local farmers markets and purchase the most organic foods you can find. This is the best way to avoid sprays, chemicals, pesticides, additives and preservatives. Locally grown produce is better for you because it hasn’t been picked while still green and shipped thousands of miles to get to your local supermarket.
Most farmers sell off their abundant harvest at bulk rates. You can bottle or put up the excess food. This will ensure that you will have seasonal foods year-round. This is much more nutritious, and it will keep you out of the grocery store and help you avoid impulse buying.
The Victory Garden
During and after World War II, the concept of the Victory Garden was introduced to the nation. Individual backyard gardeners and small farmers combined produced the same amount of food, as did the entire commercial farming industry. It was a great success, and every family that participated felt a sense of accomplishment by doing it.
The economic crisis of our day is demanding the return of the backyard garden as a way to ensure that each and every family is self-sufficient in hard economic times.
If you start with heirloom seeds (Source: Heirloom-organics.com, Victory Gardens of WW II) in the spring and harvest them in the fall, you can make sure you have seeds for the next growing season. Saving your own seeds from your personal harvest is a way to lower your cost of living. Eating the food that you have grown is the best nutrition that you can get. You can ensure that the food is grown properly and has the minerals added back to the soil that are needed to stay healthy. Bloomin’ Minerals Soil Revitalizer is what I put on my garden every year.
If you live in a cramped space and have a small yard, you can still grow a garden. Look around and see if you have places to put tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, etc. Flower gardens are ideal, because you can plant vegetables between flowers. Some flowers help with bug control. For example, marigolds ward off some garden pests.
The location of your garden is important. It needs to be a sunny, well-drained location, rich in compost and soil texture. Plant taller plants on the north side of the yard or garden so they won’t shade shorter plants. Plants can be planted along fences, patios and corners of lots, even in the yard. A strip of grass can be removed from the lawn and worked to become a raised vegetable bed.
Getting Started Growing A Garden
- Plan out the garden plots and plant accordingly. A garden planned in advance will save you a lot of headaches in the future. Lettuce can be grown in tight quarters, but tomatoes need to be spaced about 2 feet apart. Growing and spacing requirements are provided on seed packets, in catalogs and on nursery tags.
- Grow the vegetables you enjoy eating. Some examples of vegetables to plant are beans, peas, tomatoes, sweet corn, onions, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, zucchini squash, cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, spinach, melons and strawberries.
- Herbs such as parsley, thyme, basil, chives and oregano, and any other herbs you like to cook with, can be planted between flowerbeds.
- There are two planting seasons. Cool weather, as in the spring, and hot weather, as in the summer and early fall. The most common cool season crops include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach and turnips. Warm season crops include beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, pumpkins, zucchini and other squash and tomatoes.
- Starting your own seedlings in the spring and transplanting them in the summer is the least expensive way to get plants. However, you can purchase seedlings that are already started at any nursery.
- If you are going to purchase plants from a nursery, then these are the best ones to get: eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. These plants tend to do better when started in a greenhouse and transplanted in the garden later.
- The following seeds are best started right in the ground. Beans, beets, carrots, chard, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, peas, pumpkins, zucchini and other squash and turnips.
- Squash and cucumbers are two of the ones that you can plant as either seeds or seedlings. I have had better results with them by planting the seeds right in the ground. It seems that the plants go into shock and take as long to grow as the seeds do.
- Seed packets do have a shelf life. Look for the seeds that have been packed for the current year.
- Purchase seedlings when your soil is ready to plant. Keep them watered and don’t let them sit around for more than a few days. Buy healthy-looking seedlings. They should stand up straight and be stocky, with green and not yellow leaves or any bug damage.
Raised Beds And Grow Boxes
These raised beds are in my garden and are ideal for small areas. Just shape the dirt into a hill and put sawdust in between the rows to keep the weeds and mud to a minimum. We are ready to plant our tomatoes in this raised bed.
We also have wooden grow boxes for our lettuce and spinach. My husband built a wooden frame, added the soil and made a grow bed. The frame is made of 2-by-4-inch planks placed in a rectangular shape. Use a 2-by-4-inch plank to make the bed 4 inches tall, or use two 2-by-4-inch planks stacked one on top of the other to make the bed 8 inches tall. Make the bed 3 feet wide and as long as your space allows. The soil in the raised beds can be added to and maintained even if the texture of the surrounding soil is poor and has bad drainage. Make your raised bed level even if your garden spot is on a slope, so the water will remain in the bed and the soil will not wash away. Cultivate the soil 4 to 6 inches deeper than the height of the grow bed or box. Add mulch, compost or organic matter; and then dig down and turn the soil. Use a pitchfork to break up dirt clots. Rake it into a nice, level bed. Once that’s done, it is ready for planting.Every spring, you can add more compost and minerals to improve the soil from year to year.