Plant a Vegetable Garden and Grow Your Own Healthy Food
When the weather starts warming up my thoughts turn to spending more time outdoors. Garden centres are open and I see people stacking their carts with flats of annuals. One thing that surprised me this year was the seed carousels were completely empty of vegetable seeds.
Apparently people are now getting into vegetable gardening in a big way. They’re just itching to get outside. Plus, the COVID-19 pandemic has increasing numbers of people looking to grow their own healthy, organic food,
Whatever happens in the future, we all need to eat. When the countries we import our food from are under lock-down, food supply chains may run into trouble.
In any case, growing your own vegetables can help with your grocery budget.
Many boomers grew up with backyard gardens. I spent a lot of my childhood (reluctantly) planting, picking, and shelling peas. I knew it was planting time in my neighbourhood when I got off the bus to go home from school and the air was redolent with the smell of manure.
Vegetable gardening became less popular in recent years. Why grow your own when vegetables available year-round?
Coronavirus gardening the new victory gardening
Is this summer going to see a renaissance of the home gardener? Becoming self-sufficient compares to when victory gardens addressed rationing and food insecurity during the World Wars.
Not that having a few raised beds in your backyard eliminates the need to go to the grocery store, but it can contribute to your food supply when you have fresh produce throughout the summer and fall.
So, get your hands dirty
If you want to replace your petunias with vegetables, start with the ones you like to eat. Grow varieties that sprout quickly such as radishes, lettuce and peas.
You can create a vegetable bed right on top of your lawn by building raised garden beds.
I had a garden at my home in Calgary for several years with varying degrees of success. Vegetables like peas, beans, lettuce, radishes and beets, as well as herbs flourished well. My frustrating failures were spindly carrots, onions that didn’t grow bigger than scallions, and tomatoes that never ripened because of the short growing season. My first attempt at zucchini didn’t produce any vegetables at all. Instead the vines did a Jack-and-the-beanstalk and started growing alarmingly quickly towards my house.
I was undeterred. My go-to guy was gardening expert Mark Cullen whose website has great tips for beginners and experts alike.
Here’s a checklist for those garden tasks you can do in May. Keep your trimmings in your garden rather than dumping them in the landfill. As an alternative set up a compost pile for future mulch.
Beginners, keep it small
If you’re a beginner, start small. A good size for a beginner is 10X10 feet and you’ll still get a great harves.
You don’t want to get frustrated by the time commitment a big one requires. This happened to me my first year when I tended to the watering, weeding, harvesting, and trying to do something with those huge crops of darned veggies every evening after work.
It also makes sense to learn some gardening basics before investing tons of time and money on your new hobby. Garden centres will recommend what growing conditions are required for the types of plants you want.
Container vegetable gardening
No backyard? You can still grow plants in containers on the balcony or deck of your condo or retirement home.
Sow your favourites in pots or large window boxes that drain well, put them in a sunny location and water them every day. Hanging baskets make good use of your space, and things like cherry tomatoes and strawberries grown at eye level can be tended and harvested easily.
On my balcony I’ll be growing tomatoes, lettuce and radishes – for a nice salad. I also have a planter box filled with various herbs right outside my door. They make a nice addition to our meals and I just use my kitchen shears to snip off the ones I need for my dinner.
Health benefits of gardening
Gardening is a hobby everyone can enjoy. Planting a garden and seeing it grow is rewarding within itself, but the activity of gardening also has many other benefits as we age.
- It relieves stress and anxiety and puts you in a good mood.
- All that bending, squatting, digging, and pulling weeds is great exercise and takes a lot of energy. Make sure you don’t overexert yourself, though, to avoid straining your back or injuring something else.
- Delicious, healthy food that’s full of flavour.
- Being in the fresh air will help you sleep better.
The bottom line
With concerns over food shortages, more people are planning to put in a vegetable garden for the first time. When you’re stuck at home you can see a lot of possibilities right outside (and away from your screens). You’ll also find that the flavour of garden-grown produce is far superior to what’s in the grocery store.
Be mindful of the last frost day in your area. You might want to hold off until after the Victoria Day weekend although many seeds and transplants can be put in the ground now including lettuce, carrots, beets and radishes.
Turn couch potatoes into real potatoes.