It’s the weekend! All you need is love…and a garden

March 8, 2008

Looking for a couple of fun, uplifting, worthwhile things to do?

Rent the movie, “Across the Universe.” It’s brilliantly written, has a great cast, and the soundtrack incorporates 34 compositions written by the Beatles and masterfully done by a variety of talented unknown artists. We all LOVED it!

Speaking of the Beatles, can you guess who said the following, “I’m not really a career person. I’m a gardener, basically.” It was George Harrison!

And now is the time to start thinking about your own garden.

There is no act more gratifying, more basic, more liberating, than to coax food from the earth. The smell of dirt, the crunch of a freshly picked cucumber, the juiciness of a homegrown tomato, it just doesn’t get any better. And it’s not as complicated as you might think. If you have access to a deck, a roof, a patch of ground no larger than a flower bed, or far more space, you can grow your own.

Never done it before? Don’t know where to begin? Not a problem. Stick around as we share and learn together.

Reasons to start your own garden:

Freshness-Fruit and vegetables you grow taste better and are healthier. Most of the fruit and vegetables you buy are sprayed with toxic pesticides, picked well before they are properly ripe, shipped thousands of miles, and sometimes kept for months in cold storage. Growing your own lets you taste the freshest possible produce as it’s meant to taste, when it’s most nutritious.

Quality-Commercially grown crops are often genetically modified – selected for their high yields, high profits, uniform appearance, and long shelf lives rather than for quality and taste. When you grow your own, you can concentrate on quality rather than economics and avoid anything that may potentially be harmful.

Price– Most supermarket produce is hugely overpriced. Growing your own from seed is about as inexpensive as you can get, and even growing from small plants you buy will provide you better food at a lower cost. With most plants, you can use the seed from one growing season to provide plants for the next – a self sustaining cycle that will cost you only time and effort to keep going.

Provenance– A fancy word for knowing where it comes from and how it was produced. We know that the vegetables we grow are free from harmful chemicals, and that they haven’t exploited anyone’s labor in their production. You can’t say that about most vegetables you buy in a supermarket. You may be able to wash away some chemical residues from the outside, but you can’t do anything about the residues or genetic alterations inside them. With your own vegetable patch, you know exactly where your food is from and how it was grown.

Variety-There are literally thousands of different varieties of fruit and vegetables, but supermarkets tend to concentrate on only the most profitable and easy to sell. This means that our choice is often limited to a few select varieties of apple, for example, rather than the hundreds of traditional kinds that exist. Growing your own lets you pick the varieties you like the most, and experiment to find new ones. (Buy heirloom seeds)

Seasonality-When your primary source of vegetables is your garden you start to appreciate the wonders of seasonality. Fresh green beans and sweet corn in February disappear as options, but sprouting broccoli, parsnips and leeks more than make up for it. There is natural balance to seasonal crops too, with vegetables suited to hearty meals like stews becoming available in the coldest months, and the freshest, zestiest crops like peas and spring onions ready for your plate in the warmest.

Fun-It’s a lot fun to grow fruits and vegetables. Even kids, or grandkids, or neighbor kids, will delight in the sprouting of growth from seeds, and the transformation from seedling to crop. They’ll learn a lot, eat better, and someday hopefuly pass it on to their kids!

Good Therapy-Growing your own garden is an incredibly relaxing and absorbing hobby. When you’re working with soil and growing things, time seems to slow down. Your thoughts tend to slow down too and you can enjoy a peaceful and calm interlude in an otherwise busy day.

The Environment-Next time you’re browsing the shelves in the produce section of your local supermarket have a closer look at the origin labels. Chances are that some of the produce will have come from the US, but it’s a certainty that a lot of it will have come from outside the US. The key here is the concept of Food Miles – if your food is better travelled than you are, there is something wrong with the world. The supermarkets will tell you they are merely responding to consumer pressure and offering choice but at what cost? I was in a Fesh Market the other day where they were selling blueberries from Chile for $9.98 a pint! My few blueberry bushes will produce enough for the entire year. Last week Lowe’s was selling 3 year old bushes (ready to produce this year) for $9.98. Do the math. The cost is not in the blueberries, it’s in the production, fuel etc. to get them to us from Chile. And when they do get here they’re pretty worn out and don’t taste that great.

Satisfaction-Last but not least growing your own vegetables can be tremendously satisfying. Every time you sit down to a meal that features something you’ve grown yourself, you’ll feel a sense of profound satisfaction – you grew that carrot, you did.

So are you ready to jump on board? Think about what you have to work with – a sunny spot in your window or yard. Next Friday we’ll post an article on the importance of good soil and how to make sure yours is ready to grow. Until then have a fun weekend and a great week ahead.


6 Responses to “It’s the weekend! All you need is love…and a garden”

  1. For those lacking green thumbs of real estate for garden, you can take control of your food supply in other ways, too. You can forage, even in urban areas. You can make your own cheese. Yogurt. Vinegar. Beer. Ice cream. You can roast your own coffee with a popcorn popper or a BBQ grill. The list goes on and on. Big Food has people conditioned to believe that you need them in order to obtain quality food, when in fact just the opposite is true.

  2. davidmg Says:

    A critical underpinning of a healthy diet is unquestionably the consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits. Unfortunately, many adults do not like these fine foods – so kids are the concern. Anyone interested in getting kids to develop a friendly attitude towards fruits and vegetables should take a look at a new book called “The ABC’s of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond.” Great for kids of all ages – children even learn their alphabet through produce poems. The book advocates gardens and dozens of other similar activities. Out only six months it is already being used in educational programs. It is coauthored by best-selling food writer David Goldbeck and Jim Henson writer Steve Charney. You can learn more at

  3. Jason Says:

    Wow, I’m surprised you were finding blueberries for nearly $10. I bought some in Manhattan last weekend and got about a pound and a half for that price. They were actually pretty good. I don’t think I could go 10+ months out of the year without them.

    Unfortunately for me, gardening is not an option, and the selection at farmers’ markets this time of year is pretty slim. Maybe you can help me out with a food miles question. I have been trying to find a way to calculate the energy of produce grown relatively local in hot houses versus produce grown further away, outdoors in the sun. Energy used in production never seems to be calculated. Also, the amount of produce sent in one trip is never balanced out between what can be transported on a boat versus how much can be carried on a truck. If the truck has to make 100 trips back and forth over 100 miles, the distance traveled begins to add up pretty quickly (20,000 miles).

  4. annierichardson Says:

    Hi Jason,

    The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Iowa did a food miles study that may help you. Check out:

    They have a formula to calculate food miles. It is:

    A Weighted Average Source Distance (WASD) is used to calculate a single distance figure that combines information on the distances from production to point of sale and the amount of food product transported that they say is used by several food system researchers to calculate food miles. The formula for the WASD is:
    S (m(k) x d(k)) WASD = ——————
    S m(k) where:
    k = different location points of the production
    m = weight (amount) from each point of production, and
    d = distance from each point of production to each point of use (or sale).

    If that doesn’t answer your questions, you may want to contact someone there and see if they can help.

    Also, in the UK this year two studies, sponsored by the Rural Economy and Land Use program are due out that may interest you. Professor Bruce Traill, at Reading University, has been looking at the potential effects on our landscape if we were all to meet governmental targets by eating five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, while Professor Gareth Edwards-Jones of the University of Wales has been looking at the pros and cons of eating locally produced fruit and veg against those produced abroad.

    Good luck with your research. Let us know if you find anything interesting that you’d like to share with everyone. Annie

  5. flowerhead Says:

    everyone should have a garden their whole life will change for the better.plant seeds and watch them grow it does not get any better than this.

  6. […] Last week we began a new weekly series on growing herbs and vegetables. The first article, called All You Need Is Love…and a Garden, listed the many reasons to start your own garden. To that list we’d like to add the rapidly […]

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