The health benefits of growing your own veg.
Have you had your ‘five a day’ today? We all know that eating vegetables is good for us, but the health benefits can be even greater if we grow our own food – not to mention the fact that harvesting vegetables from our back garden puts much less pressure on our environment then buying veggies that have been shipped from overseas.
Growing your own organic vegetables is fun, rewarding, and achievable – even for beginners. Here’s why you should get growing.
1. Gardening is great exercise
In today’s sedentary world, any chance to move around a little more is a good thing. Growing vegetables requires regular work in the garden, so it’s a great way to get physically active on a regular basis. And the progress you’ll see in your plants is a great motivator to keep going.
It’s backed by studies, too. According to Alexandra Topping at The Guardian, “regular gardening or DIY can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke, and prolong life by as much as 30% among the 60-plus age group, according to a study of almost 4,000 60-year-olds in Stockholm.”
2. It can help to combat mental illness
Maybe it’s being outside in the sunshine; maybe it’s the endorphins that are released from the physical activity; maybe it’s just that plants are really pretty and lovely – whatever the reason, apparently gardening can help to beat depression, according to a study for Gardeners World.
3. It can improve your family’s health
Getting children excited about healthy food is a fantastic way to set up healthy eating habits which could last throughout their lives.
And if you’re little ones are a bit picky, then growing their own vegetables could spark an interest in trying new foods – if they’ve been involved in the process from the beginning, they’re bound to want to test the end result!
4. You can control the chemicals
When you purchase vegetables or fruit from a supermarket, it’s impossible to know exactly what has gone into growing them, or how those chemicals will affect the health of you or your family.
When you grow your own food, you have complete autonomy over which chemicals you decide to use – and if you’re growing organically, you can be sure that your food is completely chemical-free.
5. You can harvest at the right time
Vegetables sold in shops are sometimes picked before they’re ready, but as you won’t need to worry about transporting your veggies over long distances, you can harvest them when they are at their best.
Not only does this mean that they’ll taste better, but they may even have a higher nutritional content than their supermarket counterparts, as your vegetables will be super fresh.
If all of those health benefits have got you raring to grow your own, then you may be wondering where to start. Of course, the step by step of what you’ll need to do will depend on the vegetables you’re choosing to grow, but these tips will help to set you off in the right direction.
1. Research the vegetables that you’d like to grow, as each crop will have slightly differing needs. The Royal Horticultural Society has a fantastic range of detailed guides on how to grow different vegetables, so that’s a good place to start to find relevant information.
Research will also allow you to find out whether your chosen vegetables are feasible in your garden – check to see how much sunlight your garden receives, and test the pH levels of the soil if you can by using a kit. You can then add compost if necessary, for instance if your soil is too sandy.
2. Think about when you’d like to use your vegetables. If you’d like Brussels sprouts with your Christmas dinner, then you may need to sow them as early as spring. It’s a good idea to stagger sowing so that you can use your vegetables throughout the year. Arm yourself with a calendar or a diary so that you can make a plan of what to sow, and when.
3. Choose organic seeds and plants. This may seem obvious, but make sure that you buy from a reputable source to ensure that the plants you’ll introduce to your garden are organic from the get go.
4. Create your own eco-system. This may take some time to achieve, but there are steps you can take to help keep pests in check without using any chemicals – after all, you don’t want to spend months growing your delicious vegetables, only for them to be munched before you get the chance to harvest them!
Digging a pond will encourage frogs and toads to visit and take care of any slugs and snails, and setting up a bird feeder will attract feathered friends who can keep insect populations down.
It’s a good idea to pay close attention to the type of pests present in your garden, too, as you can then work out how to attract their predators – for instance, planting dill, fennel and tansy will attract ladybirds, which will happily get rid of your aphid problem.
5. Consider storage. Some plants, such as courgettes and herbs, will produce food throughout the summer, so storing these foods shouldn’t really be an issue as you can pick them as and when you need them. Other kinds, like squash, will produce their vegetables pretty much all at once. However, if stored correctly, squashes should last for months.
Check the best way to store or preserve your vegetables so that you can make the most of them – chutneys, jams and pickles are great traditional methods, but you could also make a big batch of your favourite recipe and freeze it in portions for a freezer-full of healthy ready meals. Get creative! Find some ideas on how to make use of surplus veggies here.
While growing your own organic vegetables may be a challenge, it’s definitely worth it. You’ll be rewarded with tasty food which you can use at your convenience, and your mind and body will thank you too!
Do you have any tips on organic gardening to share? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author
Hayley Watson is the PR and Marketing manager for Millrace Garden Centre. Hayley loves gardening, drinking tea and reading a good book on a rainy day!