April Challenge - 10 Reasons to Grow Your Own Food

April Challenge - 10 Reasons to Grow Your Own Food

10 Reasons to Grow your own Food, plus Photos of my Mini Garden

April is the perfect time to try your hand at growing your own food. Starting a garden can seem a little intimidating, but we promise it’s worth the effort. Think your space is too limited for gardening?  Many plants can be successfully grown in small spaces. That’s actually the perfect, least intimidating way to start and it’s how I’ve started.

Growing your own food  is a simple solution to numerous health, environmental, and economic problems. Whether you’re just growing a single tomato plant or have an entire backyard farm, read on for our top ten reasons to grow your own food.

  • Save money By growing your own food, you are saving money on gas and produce that would have been spent traveling to the grocery store. Grocery stores mark up the price of Organic Foods, but you can have an ongoing supply of organic produce at a fraction of the price.
  • More Nutritious Fresh food is tastier and more nutritious. The majority of produce sold in grocery stores goes through a long process of being picked, shipped and distributed to various stores, and ends up staying in storage or on the shelf for a while (sometimes months) before being purchased, losing nutritional value and flavor.
  • Know what’s in your food, Your own garden produce needs no pesticides, no plastic packaging and no preservatives.
  • Get some exercise and Vitamin D, Planting, weeding and watering your garden is a gentle form of exercise that is easily incorporated into your daily routine. It’s also been scientifically proven that soil contains healthy microbes which can affect our brain in similar ways as anti-anxiety medication. So, dig your hands into the dirt and breathe in the fresh air—it’s good for you! 
  • It’s satisfying When you grow your own food, you’ll find there’s a certain pride and satisfaction that comes with it all. Being able to walk out into your garden and harvest the produce you grew yourself is rewarding at an almost primal level. We can sustain ourselves, we can feed our family healthy food that’s been grown with all our love poured into it. It feels good to grow our own food.
  • Good for the earth Growing your own food helps cut back on waste. It also helps bees thrive. Planting herbs like oregano, sage, thyme and lavender provide a haven for native bees! Home-grown food does not need to be transported from source to market. This reduces air pollution as planes, ships, trucks and cars are not used to bring the food to your plate.No packaging is used, so we cut back on plastic and other waste that would otherwise go to landfills. By growing food we’re contributing to the sustainability of our planet.
  • Connect with Nature (together with your kids). Bond with your kids and introduce more non-screen time activities. Children love to see seeds germinate. Spend quality time together planting, watering and caring for your garden.
  • Encourages healthy eating Children are more encouraged to try new foods when they’ve grown them, or prepared them.  There’s something truly amazing about crunching on a freshly picked bean pod or strawberry.
  • Learning opportunity for the family When you grow your own food, you open yourself up to a world of learning opportunities for you and your family. You can study plant life cycles, different types of seeds to grow, insects, composting, growing seasons, balancing and improving soil quality, the list goes on.

"We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it's our garden that is really nurturing us"      -      Jenny Uglow


Those are 10 no-brainer reason why we should all start growing our own food. 

Here’s my journey of becoming a food producer.  As a child, I loved helping my dad in his garden. He’d grow tomatoes, carrots, beans, potatoes,  pumpkins, onions, radishes and so many more that I can hardly remember. He’d come home from work at about 5pm every day and head straight to his vegetable patches in the back yard.  I’d join him in the garden, and in these moments we’d talk about life, about school, about how long it would be before we could eat the carrots, about anything really.  I loved this time with my dad.  

I don’t at all feel as confident as my dad seemed in his garden, so growing in small pots has been the least intimidating for me for me to begin. 

Here are some of the plants I’m growing. I’ll update with new photos as they grow.


Mint

Potted Mint Plant

Mint is one of the easiest plants to grow. Mint plants are very self sufficient and hardy. The kids and I actually found a dying mint plant in an old terracotta pot. It was a ball of dry roots with only a few small leaves.  I removed the entire plant and all the soil from the pot and cut away all but 3 of the dry roots - the roots that were connected to the tiny green leaves. I replanted these roots in fresh potting soil and made sure to keep the soil damp over the next week or so.  In this picture, the mint is about 4 weeks old. Easy peasy.  Mint roots grow rapidly and can overtake any soil it’s planted in, so I prefer to keep my mint in a pot where the roots are contained, away from my other plants.  The trick, now, is to keep pinching back the top leaves to encourage new growth and maintain a healthy green shrub. 

What I plan to do with this plant:  Amber loves to pick the leaves and chew on them.  I’m excited to make choc chip ice cream and mint tea.


Lettuce

Lettuce leaves in upcycled plastic bottle

There are many different types of lettuce leaves, and they’re surprisingly easy and quick to grow. As this is the first time I’ve ever grown lettuce, I wanted to start small and not waste the seeds if it didn't quite work out as planned, so I’ve planted just a few seeds in a repurposed plastic bottle.  These little plants are about 2 weeks old, and I think I still have too many for the small space, so I have more seeds planted in a bigger pot, that have only just begun to sprout. 

What I plan to do with this plant: SALAD, SALAD and more SALAD. I love salads, especially in the summer, and as the weather is starting to warm after a pretty long winter, I know I’ll be enjoying more salads soon.


Tomatoes

Tomato seedlings in a pot

I tried growing cherry tomatoes in a pot last summer and we were lucky to enjoy a small handful of tomatoes from one single plant. Tomatoes are easily grown from the seeds you take straight from the fruit, so there’s no need to buy seeds. Simply remove the seeds from the tomato and pop them in the pot covered with a little soil.   This year I have planted roma and red beefsteak tomatoes.  I’ll need to repot these soon as there’s not enough room in this pot for all the plants.

Next year I’ll try growing heirloom tomatoes and then harvesting and storing the seeds.

Update 4/12/22 - First flowers have bloomed.

Tomato flowers

Bird's eye chilis

Bird's eye chilli seedlings in a pot

These are my absolute favorites.  Not because they’re deliciously hot and flavorful, but because they come from my dad’s chili tree, back in South Africa.  I picked them almost 8 years ago and kept the dry seeds in a bag, hoping for the day I’d have the time to grow them.  After careful germination and plenty of positive thinking, we can finally see the little seedlings.  

What I plan to do with this plant: I’ve previously made chili oil as gifts for friends, so I’ll do this again and perhaps try making a chili paste.  Of course, they’re also great for curries.

Update 4/12/22 - Growing slowly

Growing chilis from seed

Flowers

Flower seeds planted in upcycled plastic bottles

This last photo is of Amber’s little garden.  She’s repurposed as many plastic containers as she could find and planted 5 different types of flower seeds.  She created plant labels using an old cardboard box and toothpicks.  It’s been about a week and we haven’t yet seen any germination, but we monitor these daily to keep the soil damp.

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