If you have ever tried growing your own produce, you will have noticed a marked difference compared to supermarket food, including better flavor. The garden to table trend has grown in popularity in recent years due to a focus on sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives. Garden to table is defined by a sustainable method of growing food that enables the gardener to efficiently transport crops from their garden directly to their table. There is also an emphasis on restaurants sourcing their ingredients from local farms to support local farmers. This article examines the benefits of a healthy, homegrown garden and how to get started.
Although you might think growing your vegetables may not save a lot after taking account costs like fertilizer and soil, that is incorrect. According to a study by the National Gardening Association (NGA), an average plot provides “an estimated 300 pounds of fresh produce worth $600.” While the initial start-up costs may be costly, they are offset by the abundant yields produced by a vegetable garden. To improve yields, consider investing in metal raised garden beds, whose optimal drainage properties and sturdy, enclosed structure will allow you to maximize space in your yard.
When you are tending to or harvesting your garden, you are obtaining the physical benefits of doing manual labor. By utilizing major muscle groups, gardening helps you burn calories and strengthens cardiovascular functions. Research from the University of Pennsylvania has shown that people who garden are more likely to get a solid 7 hours of sleep. If you are looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, we recommend gardening, especially if you do not enjoy working out.
Fosters sense of connection
The isolating effects of the pandemic can take a toll on your mental health. Gardening is a way to provide a source of community and alleviate stress. Community and school gardens are great ways to facilitate positive connections and interactions. Sometimes, the fun experiences gained can be more impactful than the food harvested.
Creativity is an essential skill that helps with problem solving and critical thinking. Part of the fun is coming up with innovative ways to decorate and enhance your garden. Whether you are planning and organizing a garden layout or choosing which plants to grow, you should always harness creativity. Check out our design galleries for further inspiration.
Factors to Consider
There are many factors that affect the nutritional value of produce when comparing supermarket groceries and homegrown produce, including crop varieties, growing methods, and transportation distance. Below are several factors that inform the differences between locally grown vegetables and commercial grown crops. By growing your own vegetables and bringing them to your table, you receive the benefits of better nutrition, diversity, and improved flavor.
Crop variety: Vegetables in supermarkets and groceries display homogeneity due to being cross bred for characteristics such as disease resistance, higher yields, and ability to withstand shipping. Because they do not necessarily possess the best flavor or nutrients, these qualities are reduced or inadvertently lost. By growing your own plants, you can select which variety to plant based on your personal preferences or growing conditions.
You can choose to grow heirloom varieties, which have a distinct flavor and higher nutrients. Research has shown that newer vegetables are significantly less nutritious than heirlooms. It is recommended that you grow heirlooms suited to your area, as they have been bred to adapt to the climate. While tomatoes are the most common heirloom, squash, peppers, eggplant, and corn are also grown by gardeners.
Growing conditions: By growing your own crops, you assume control over the growing conditions and soil composition. Vegetable gardens require soil with a lot of nutrients. It is important to amend your soil and test it every few years to ensure the appropriate soil type and moisture level. Healthy, nutrient-rich soil will lead to a higher yield and more nutritious flavor. Generally, most vegetables will grow in sandy loam, which is soil that is well-draining, loose, and rich in organic matter.
Environment and storage conditions: Storage time, temperature, and exposure all impact the nutritional content of your produce. Many vegetables travel thousands of miles to reach a grocery store. During that time, they will start to deteriorate, which will be exacerbated if they have been exposed to heat. Many crops are picked while they are still unripe and artificially ripened with ethylene gas. Although they may appear ripe, the nutritional value is decreased. In addition, the long transportation causes air pollution through the release of nitrous oxides and toxic particulates. When you grow your vegetables, you can choose when to harvest them and pick them when they are ripe without having to forsake a major loss of nutrients.
Chemicals: As agriculture has expanded and industrialized, farmers have come to rely on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other harmful synthetic materials, many of which have detrimental effects to both human health and the environment. Many crops are genetically engineered to be resistant to a particular brand of pesticide – Roundup – which leads to worsening soil health and decreased plant fecundity in the long run. Roundup is made by Monsanto, a powerful corporation motivated by profit, which it maintains through its near monopoly on farmers.
Aside from environmental concerns, relying on pesticides from an economic standpoint is not very wise. The political power of those mega-corporations will increase, jeopardizing the livelihoods of local farmers. When dealing with pests on a small scale, it makes sense to opt for more organic controls, which is feasible in a home garden.
Cooking methods: Many people dislike vegetables due to their blandness. Cooking methods can affect the taste and nutritional benefit of your vegetables. Prolonged cooking time and exposure to high heat can increase nutrient loss, stripping away nutrients. To retain maximum nutrients, steam them, or eat them raw.
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Tips to Consider Before you Start
Once you have gathered all your materials, you are ready to start planting. Below are several tips to consider to ensure a plentiful harvest.
- Location: The first step is to determine where to situate your garden bed. You do not need a large space, as many gardeners have successfully grown plants in balconies or on the patio. As most vegetables need ample sunlight, choose a location that receives at least six hours of sunlight, with good drainage and aeration.
- Choose the correct material: If you are using raised garden beds, make sure you are purchasing from a reputable vendor to ensure lasting, functional quality. Keep in mind that wooden beds may rot over time, or contain preservatives that inhibit plant growth. They also tend to look dilapidated and shabby, lacking the clean modern aesthetics of metal beds.
- Use high quality soil: It is important that you utilize high quality soil for optimal results, as using ordinary garden soil by itself in raised beds can severely impede drainage and aeration. Although raised garden bed soil is formulated as ready to use from the bag, many gardeners still choose to add compost or soil amendments to improve soil composition.
- Choose easy to grow vegetables: For a beginner, it can seem daunting choosing which plants to grow. We recommend starting with easy to grow vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, and peas. Once you have gained experience, you can move onto more challenging plants. You should also grow vegetables that you will enjoy eating.