I went to a garden centre today to buy some tomato plants, my “one per season” chilli plant and another punnet of lettuce plants to keep my rotation going, and I had a thought. I have actually had this thought often while buying vegetable seedlings ( I don’t have much luck with growing from seed so tend to stick with ready to plant out seedlings ) or pulling out gone to seed lettuces, or plants that have died because I forgot to water them…. the thought was, “Why do I bother attempting to grow my own?” The truth is when you add in the time you spend, the cost of the plants/seeds, fertilizer or compost if you buy that, the water etc etc, it can’t be that much cheaper than just going to the supermarket or vegetable shop or wherever and just buying in season produce. After all when it is in season it is cheap and is no work at all for oneself.
So I have asked this question of myself often, and today I finally answered it. The reason I do it, and why I believe it is something everyone should have a go at on whatever scale they can manage is this….
And this may sound a little “airy-fairy”, but roll with it for a bit and let me explain 🙂
It keeps me/you in touch with what is real, in touch with nature, in touch with the seasons and cycles of life. It is so easy in our modern world to live our lives completely detached from what is real and natural. We can buy fruit and vegetables from any country and any season year round. We have forgotten what grows at what time of year and what eating seasonally really means. We have lost the ability to even tell what is actually fresh and good quality compared to what has just been really well cool stored, chemically treated or irradiated to lenghten its shelf life.
I guess it just really dawned on me that there is so much more to growing your own food than just the cost versus work equation. And the benefits go much deeper than just money.
Benefit number 1, it actually takes work, you have to get your hands in the soil and break a sweat. Exercise for the day, tick 🙂
Benefit number 2, it teaches us patiences and responsibility. Vegetables don’t just grow over night, we have to wait for them, tend them, water them. If we don’t, they die, and all your hard work was for nothing. Hard as that lesson is to learn, it’s real life my friend.
Benefit number 3, it keeps us expectant, and excited about the glorious things to come. In times past we couldn’t just have cherries, or strawberries, or tasty sweet tomatoes any time of the year. We had to wait until the weather warmed up and seasons changed, but the waiting made the fruit even sweeter when we finally got a taste. We have cheapened so many things because we eat them out of season and don’t wait and savour. And just off on a little personal tangent here, I truly think that so many people don’t like tomatoes any more because we are so used to eating under-ripe, out of season, watery flavourless, rubbery supermarket excuses for tomatoes!!!!! Eat one fresh from the garden, warmed by the sun and bright red on a summers day and oh…. well lets just say you won’t bother buying those other feral things again 🙂 Rant over….. moving on
Benefit number 4, it means we can choose exactly what we want put on our plants. You can choose the fertilizer, to spray or not to etc. You can also know that the soil that you grow in contains that nutrients you actually need in your plants. A lot of the soil that commercially grown vegetables are grown in is over worked and severely nutrient deficient. If the nutrients are not in the soil then they won’t be in the plants either, so you may think you are doing right by eating vegetables, but the actual health value may be way down there. NOTE: if you can’t grow your own, you are still better off eating a store bought apple than a packet of chips, just saying.
Benefit number 5, it means you can pick and eat as you need, so that everything is as fresh as possible. The shelf life of vitamins and other “goodies” in fruit and vegetables is much shorter than you would think. So just because it still looks fresh, doesn’t mean that is still contains all the vitamins it had when it was first picked. This is why being able to pick and eat fresh is so important.
Benefit number 6, is for if you have kids. Planting a garden with kids is incredibly important. For them to know all these benefits from as early as they can remember, is an extremely valuable gift. Among other things it teaches them the connection between work and food, nothing in life is free and it is a good lesson to learn young. Also kids love to eat something they have grown, in fact Macey and I just came in from a snack in the garden sampling our first of the season radishes. Macey hasn’t tried radishes before, but we picked them, washed them and tasted and in his words they were, “MMMMMM Licious! Mine favewit!”
I could probably dream up a few more benefits to add to the list, but I think this pretty well sums up how I answered myself. The long and short is, it is not about money, it is about staying connected with real life and seasons, about nourishing your mind and emotions, about learning to stay excited and expectant and learning not to undervalue as simple a thing as a ripe tomato!