The recent restrictions on travel and daily routines put a damper on so many of our lifestyles. The brakes were applied and we were forced to reassess our patterns. Many of us got to experience working from home for the first time, students are finishing up the school year online, and our normal activities — dining out or going to the gym — have come to a screeching halt. And while some businesses are starting to ease back, many of us are still trying to entertain ourselves from the safety of our own houses.
Americans are likely spending more time at home than people have consistently done in decades. This unprecedented time in history is perhaps an opportunity for us to take a step back and smell the proverbial roses. Or, you can literally dig in and grow a vegetable garden.
On a personal note, I grew up gardening but wandered away from it as time constraints limited my desire to spend my free time doing more work. With the onset of the pandemic leaving me with more time on my hands, I opted to once again rediscover my love for planting. Now I’m looking forward to the harvest — and you can, too.
1. You likely have more time at home.
Take some of the extra time you have at home to create a productive outlet and grow a vegetable garden full of your own food.
2. Garden-fresh vegetables taste so much better than store-bought options.
It doesn’t get any fresher than traveling from your home garden to your kitchen. Store-bought produce is often harvested weeks before it makes its appearance at your local grocery store. Growing tomatoes in pots can make all the difference.
3. Growing your own food can help you eat healthier.
Aside from the benefits of the physical exercise, growing your own vegetables can help promote a better diet by providing fresh, healthy options grown in your own space — including foods that boost your immune system. Though you could always grow herbs indoors.
4. Gardening can be a family activity.
Since we are all spending more time at home, get the entire family invested in the garden. Let everyone be involved in the process, from picking the plants, using garden tools, and harvesting the crops.
5. Gardening can also relieve stress.
The simple acts of watering with your best garden hose, weeding, and tending to your garden can lower your levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress. As an added bonus, you can also get your daily dose of vitamin D as you work.
6. It saves you money in the long run.
Consider how much you spend annually on buying vegetables. Growing your own supply can easily save you hundreds of dollars each year.
7. You decide how your food is grown.
Whether you buy organic produce or not, growing your own vegetables will allow you to decide how you treat your plants against pests.
8. You can share your bountiful harvest with friends and neighbors.
Depending on the size of your garden, you might have a surplus of items that can be shared with friends. Consider swapping your goods for something that a fellow gardener has grown.
If you’re new to gardening or have taken a hiatus from past ventures, start small. Going overboard can be a deterrent to sticking with it and reaching the finish line. Make a list of the items that you would like to grow and decide on your given area before turning over your first shovel of soil.
There are a multitude of options when starting to plant out your garden. You can buy seeds and start your own plants or you can but varieties ready to plant as soon as you get home. On the seed front, a great option is purchasing heirloom seeds and starting your plants in a safe environment inside your home ahead of transplanting.
The benefits of heirloom seeds:
- These plants have passed the test of time. Many are over 50 years old with some date back centuries.
- They can be organic.
- They are guaranteed non-GMO (genetically modified organisms).
- Seeds can be saved from existing crops and reused the following season as the subsequent plants will possess the same characteristics. This allows the perpetuation of these heirloom varieties.
- Many companies, like Seed Savers, offer a short story about the seed’s history.
Raised beds are a back-saving alternative to planting directly in the ground. Beds can be any size and can be designed to accommodate your available space and ample root growth. They also allow you to control the environment in which you are planting.
Tips for building your own raised beds:
- Plan your materials ahead of time. I chose untreated 2 x 6-inch pine boards. This is one of the least expensive options and will provide years of use. You can also coat the boards in non-toxic linseed oil that will help to increase the longevity of the wooden frame. Another option is to use cedar planks as they naturally resist rot and will last significantly longer but are much more expensive on the front end.
- Avoid using treated wood. While the wood will last a long time, the chemicals in the wood can leach into the soil of your garden.
- Keep the raised beds thin. As mentioned above, they can be built to any size but try to limit the width to four feet or less. Anything wider can be prohibitive to working in your space without stepping into the bed and potentially damaging your plants.
Container gardens can be both decorative and functional. While we often plant annuals in pots around our patios, decks, and window boxes, another alternative can be to plant edible vegetables and herbs in these same containers. Containers come in a variety of sizes and options to fit any budget. I’ve even seen people using the larger plastic containers that once contained landscaping trees and bushes as well as recycled options in the form of galvanized and cast-iron containers that once served other uses.
If you have limited space, consider purchasing a few containers in a variety of sizes. Glazed ceramic (frost-resistant) pots are one of the more expensive options but they are not only beautiful (they can be purchased in your choice of color) but will also last for years.
Self-watering containers take the guesswork out of hydration. Specialty containers like the Victory Self-Watering Planters (one with a cage and the other with a trellis) have 3.5 gallons reservoirs below the soil and utilize wicking capillary strips to allow plants to access water as needed. Additional water can be added without over-saturating the plant.
are a new addition for me as I have never grown potatoes, much less done so in a freestanding bag. These breathable bags allow the soil within the bags to aerate and drain excess water away from the plants. And after the harvest, just fold them down and store until the next season.
that have served their purpose in the spirits industry (mine still had the Jack Daniels sticker and still smelled like whiskey) are recycled and cut in half to be repurposed into gardens around the country. They provide a wonderful option as they are large enough to grow items like cucumbers, squash, and other sprawling varieties. (Note: Remember to drill holes in the bottom to allow for drainage).
One of the items I’m most excited about this season is my recently acquired limited space or who just want to get the most out of a small package. I plan to make this a revolving salad bar in which I will grow a variety of lettuces. As a bonus, the Garden Tower also serves as a composting option; kitchen scraps like vegetable matter, eggshells, coffee grounds, and tea bags can be placed in the center core of the tower and plants will be able to directly benefit from the breakdown of the organic items.. I will be able to grow upwards of 50 plants in just 4 square feet. This is an ideal option for those with
Practice Makes Perfect
Some plants are relatively foolproof while others might require a bit more nurturing. Take this extra time and invest in growing a future that isn’t completely dependent on the food supply chain.
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