Back to the future: The benefits of growing your own food

As more and more of us have moved farther away from farms over the last century and gotten used to conveniently buying the fruits and vegetables we need at the grocery store, we may have lost a lot of our connection to nature.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama became famous for growing tomatoes, tarragon, figs, rhubarb, broccoli – and even honey – in her White House Garden and even wrote a book about kitchen and community gardens:

“Some kids have never seen what a real tomato looks like off the vine,” she says. “They don’t know where a cucumber comes from. And that really affects the way they view food. So, a garden helps them really get their hands dirty, literally, and understand the whole process of where their food comes from.”

Growing your own food can be beneficial to your health in many ways:

Growing fruits and vegetables makes you and your family more likely to eat them – and we can all eat more of those.
Fruits and vegetables you buy in a grocery store are usually picked early, meaning they have fewer nutrients than those that are left to ripen longer in your garden.
Growing at home means you get to choose the fertilizers and pesticides you’re comfortable using.
Gardening is great exercise – and we can all use more of that!
So where do you start? Here are some tips:

If your space is limited – for instance, you live in an apartment or don’t have a back yard, try container gardening. Find a sunny spot (6 hours of sunshine are ideal) on your balcony or a secure ledge and plant some pots or containers or buy a growing kit, which usually has all you need to grow a variety of herbs and vegetables. You might also consider finding a nearby plot of land with some of your neighbors and creating a gardening group.

Careful planning – growing your own isn’t something you should just jump into. You’ll need to do a little research on watering, drainage, soil types, as well as figuring out what produce you’ll want to eat and what will grow in your neck of the woods. Seek out information online, chat with other backyard gardeners or visit a local gardening center for advice.

Protection – wildlife isn’t just in the wild, of course, and your local squirrels, raccoons and insects may see your new garden as a perfect place to nibble. Consider fencing or screening as well as products you can sprinkle or spray to keep unwanted visitors away.

Bumper crops – Some vegetables like tomatoes and peppers can be surprisingly easy to grow. So what happens if you grow too much? Do some meal planning to make maximum use of what you’ve grown, share with your friends or neighbors, or donate your bounty to a local shelter.

Do you have your own kitchen garden or grow with neighbors? Please share your tips and suggestions with your fellow Shop Talk blog community forum members!