I need to begin by saying that this is not a gardening blog & if I start dishing out gardening advice, then something might be seriously wrong here. But please stick with me & read a bit further. You will see where I’m going with this post.
In our grown-up home, I experienced the joy & benefits of a food garden for the first time. We were blessed enough to find a veg & herb garden when we moved in. It wasn’t in tip-top shape but it has an irrigation system & the soil must have been prepared very well because things just grew!
And now that we’re back in Jozi & living in an apartment style townhouse, we have some herbs in the kitchen & we’ve planted a couple of greens & some herbs in the garden.
I can’t say that I love gardening or that I even like it very much. Truth be told, I don’t enjoy getting my hands dirty & prefer manicured nails over nails with dirt under them. But, & this is a big but: the benefits of food gardening are so vast, that even I (a non-gardener) am getting on the bandwagon. Sure, it is trendy to #growyourown, but it is also necessary.
After seeing & reading various posts & articles over the last couple of weeks, I feel the need to motivate myself – & hopefully you too – to grow more food. So here are my…
‘Top 5 Reasons For Planting A Food Garden’:
1) It could make you & your family happier:
We all know that Vitamin D (provided by the sun) is what gives us that ‘feel good’ factor, so, instead of staying indoors this winter, potter around in your own garden or head out to a garden center in your area.
“Being amongst nature is a sensory experience that stirs regenerative processes in our bodies & minds. It has a therapeutic value & can help people connect with others, reducing feelings of isolation,” explains Godfrey Budler, CEO of GardenShop.
If you are in Gauteng, be sure to visit the newly launched 600sqm urban organic vegetable garden at The GardenShop Bryanston. The garden was established by Sought After Seedlings & will also be used by the Cherry Tomatoes Gardening Club for kids to promote the health & wellness of visitors. It makes for a lovely day out & will hopefully inspire you to start planting your own food too.
There really is something joyous about food gardening. Even our Oli (who is the pickiest eater even) enjoys picking baby tomatoes. It is also a super easy way to teach kids valuable life lessons & get them away from screens. According to The Cherry Tomatoes gardening club for kids, gardening teaches kids about patience, responsibility; about the intersection of humans & nature, plus it is a physical, non-competitive activity.
[The Cherry Tomato gardening club for kids offers an extramural activity programme for kids between four & ten at The Garden Shop Bryanston & at REEA in Craighallpark.]
2) You will save money:
It has been said that in tough times, people head to into their gardens, mostly because of the saving (as illustrated here).
I don’t need to tell you this, but we are indeed in tough times. Even if you’re rolling in cash, you would have noticed the escalating prices of food lately. After reading this post by my fellow local blogger Zoe Hawkins of Born Geek about the cost feeding a family, I just realise that we need all the plans & strategies that we can possibly get to save. [You can also read this Daily Maverick piece about the contributions of supermarkets.]
My point here is that you can add colour, flavour & nutrition to every meal (even the simplest pasta can become something amazing with fresh herb & tomato sauce).
Another benefit is that you can use excess tomatoes, beans & onions to pickle, make jams or soups to freeze.
3) It can improve your health:
“Backyard gardening can inspire you to take an interest in the origins of your food & make better choices about what you put on your plate,” says Dr. Helen Delichatsios, an internist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “When you grow your own food, you savor it more because of the effort it took to get to the table.”
It also helps you to eat more fresh fruits & vegetables. You furthermore have control over the fertilizers & pesticides that come into contact with your food. Oh, & don’t forget that gardening is good exercise.
4) It will reduce waste:
My favourite South African & Michelin-starred chef, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, wrote this blog about how to reduce food waste a couple of weeks ago. The piece is short & punchy & got me thinking. And thinking.
One shocking fact: 34% of all food produced in South Africa is wasted every year, while 50% of our population goes to bed hungry.
Without taking away from Jan-Hendrik’s tips, I want to add food gardening to the non-waste list. Personally, I have found that (especially with herbs & green vegetables), it is ideal to only pick what you need. You can use a couple of freshly picked basil leaves as opposed to buying a packet of basil only to use one or two & toss the rest when they go to off. Also, veggies that ripen in the garden have more nutrients than some store-bought ones that must be picked early.
5) You’ll be a better cook:
You won’t turn into a master chef overnight, but what I can tell you is that cooking with freshly picked herbs & veggies will make your food taste yummier in a whizz. And you really don’t need a huge garden. Start with three to five herbs. I find that having thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley & mint is a perfect start for a mini windowsill garden.
I’m super excited to plant & eat more fresh food. How about you? I hope that you are also enticed to add some fruit, veg & herbs to your garden, balcony or window sill.
Images by me, supplied & Melanie Mare Photography.