May 18, 2021
4 Benefits of Growing Your Own Vegetables
We were all told, “eat your veggies” growing up, and that was for a good reason.
Vegetables are miracle foods, offering all sorts of protection against bad things. But did anyone ever tell you to “grow your veggies“? If not, maybe they should have! From lower stress levels to increased fitness, growing your own vegetables delivers all kinds of additional benefits to you and your family.
Get Healthy & Fit
Health benefits are one of the most important reasons to start growing your vegetables and herbs. “Consuming vegetables can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect on blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check,” according to Harvard School of Public Health. If you have fresh vegetables in your garden that could go to waste, you’re more likely to find ways to eat them. Therefore, growing your produce may increase your consumption of nutrient-packed fresh vegetables that have protective qualities for your health.
Another health benefit arrives in the form of reduced chemicals, such as pesticides. Even after being carefully washed and peeled, nearly 70% of store-bought fruit and vegetables sold in the United States contain pesticide residues, according to the Department of Agriculture. When you grow your own food, you limit your exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals by being careful about what you put on your plants and into the soil where you grow your food.
If these health benefits aren’t enough, consider that gardening can help you burn up to 400 calories per hour! That’s not shabby!
Boost Your Mental Health
While physical benefits are important, we shouldn’t forget about the significance of mental health benefits. According to Psychology Today, the mental health benefits of gardening are plentiful and include increased mindfulness and stronger connections to our world and the people around us. Additional unexpected benefits include accepting a lack of control, which can help with perfectionism, and developing a growth mindset, which allows us to think of mistakes as opportunities to learn rather than failures.
Out of all of the potential mental health benefits of gardening, stress relief might be the most desirable. High levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, are linked to weight gain, depression, and an inability to “think straight.” According to the American Institute of Stress, gardening lowers cortisol levels by increasing creativity, physical activity, and spending time outdoors. An increase in Vitamin D from gardening in the sun also helps keep cortisol levels low. Ultimately, digging in the dirt and watering your budding veggies will help you live a more relaxed and healthier life, both mentally and physically.
It’s Good for Your Children
Get your children involved in growing veggies! Children are more likely to try vegetables when they have a hand in growing them. Gardening with your children can also serve as a real-life science class or a chance to bond and catch up on your day. And don’t forget that all of the mental and physical benefits we’ve discussed so far can help your children live healthier lives too.
Save Money on Groceries
If you’re not already itching to start planting seeds, then perhaps a benefit that affects your checking account will convince you. You guessed it — growing your own vegetables can help you save money! Depending on the amount of vegetables you grow and eat, you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars per year. For those of you who typically buy organic produce, which costs about 10–30% more than non-organic produce, the cost savings are even greater.
If you’ve never considered yourself to have a green thumb, it can feel intimidating to plant your own garden. The key is to start small. Convert a corner of your flower bed to an experimental veggie garden, or buy a few pots, a big bag of potting soil, and a handful of seed packets. You don’t need much to get started, so give it a shot and have fun with it. It’s ok to learn as you grow!
How to Start a Container Garden
Speaking of “starting small”, container gardens are the perfect way to start small (in more ways than one). They don’t require a lot of resources to get started, and you can create a container garden even if the entirety of your outdoor space consists of a small patio or balcony.
Step 1 | Choose Your Veggies
Decide what you want to grow! For beginners, we recommend starting simple. Veggies that grow easily in the Midwest climate include tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, snap peas, cucumbers, lettuce, and herbs (rosemary, mint, and basil, for example).
Step 2 | Gather Your Materials
To get started, you’ll need:
- Pots or planters made of 2x4s with a plastic screen lining on the bottom (we recommend lining your plastic screen with burlap so the soil doesn’t fall through)
- Good soil for growing vegetables (high-quality compost is best)
- Seeds or sprouts for your selected veggies or herbs
- A sunny location
- Water and a watering can
- Hand-held garden cultivator (a claw)
Step 3 | Plant Your Veggies
Fill your container(s) with soil. Pay attention to the depth required for different types of plants (tomatoes need deeper soil while herbs and lettuce need only 2-4 inches). Plant your seeds according to the instructions on the seed packet.
Step 4 | Water Your Veggies
Be sure to keep the containers of soil damp through regular watering. Different plants may require different amounts of water. Herbs should have somewhat damp soil at all times, whereas you’ll want to let the soil for your tomatoes get dry before watering. Occasionally, use a hand-held garden cultivator to aerate the surface soil without disturbing the roots.
Step 5 | Harvest Your Veggies
It will take a few weeks before it’s time to harvest your veggies. When you’re ready, use scissors to snip the leaves or vegetables. At the end of the season, you can store your containers and soil to use them next year!