I am attempting to grow a bucket garden this year. Nothing too fancy, just a few different vegetables that I’m hoping will grow successfully. I am brand new to gardening so I am interested to see how my new hobby goes but am excited about the possibility to grow my own food. My main reason for wanting to grow my own was really to save money but the benefits of growing your own extend beyond financial savings.
The Benefits of Growing Your Own
- Help the environment. Growing your own food without pesticides and herbicides helps reduce overall pollution. Pesticides on commercially grown produce runs off and eventually ends up polluting water. The energy used to transport produce grown elsewhere also results in pollution and carbon emissions into the environment.
- Save money. I mentioned this was my main motivating factor for growing my own food. Produce can get expensive! Think of all the things you can grow on your own: broccoli, carrots, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. The possibilities are endless! This can all add up to save you BIG money.
- Improve your health. It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are important parts of a healthy diet. When you can walk outside and pick fresh veggies from your garden it’s much easier to get the recommended servings in each day. Having your children help plant and care for the garden can get them excited about their fruits and vegetables.
- Burn some calories! Planting, watering, harvesting, weeding, etc. is a lot of work and can add physical activity into your day. It can also be great fun for your children.
- Fresh food just tastes better. Think about how long the food that you buy in a supermarket has been there. How long did it take for it to get from where it was growing to where it is now? Where did it even come from in the first place? When you grow your own you know exactly where your food has come from.
A Beginner’s Guide to Growing
If growing your own food is starting to sound better you might be wondering what to grow. Spark People, a popular health website compiled a list of the 10 easiest vegetables to grow, a perfect list for beginners!
- Carrots. You’ll need a pot or plot of soil that is deep enough for carrots since they are a root vegetable. Carrots can be harvested when their tops breach the soil line.
- Beans. Broad beans are relatively easy to cultivate. Pole beans are also easy to grow but you’ll need a trellis.
- Lettuce. Lettuce is easy to grow and maintain and there are a variety of plants that fall under the lettuce category, including spinach. According to Spark People make sure to do successive sowing every two weeks to space out your harvest
- Cucumbers. Cucumber plants will spread quickly but make sure to avoid planting these until the danger of frost is gone.
- Spinach. Because it falls in the lettuce family spinach is also easy to grow. Once its leaves are of a reasonable size to encourage new growth you can pick it continuously throughout its growing season.
- Tomatoes. Tomatoes need a lot of sun but will grow and fruit all summer long. Starter plants are available at most home improvement stores or nurseries.
- Radishes. Radish seeds can be planted directly into your garden in the early spring or even in the fall.
- Peppers. Starter bell pepper plants are also available at home improvement stores and nurseries. There are a wide variety of colors and flavors available that can be added to all kinds of foods.
- Squash. Squash plants do not do well in the wind so plant accordingly. It is a high yielding plant so only a few are needed for a family.
- Basil. Basil can be easily grown in pots. My mom has a pot of basil growing in her kitchen, partially because she loves the smell! Seeds can be planted directly in the ground and simply plucked off the plant when they are a desirable size.
If you’re still not convinced an at home garden is for you think about buying your produce locally. Here in Appleton we have a wonderful Farmers’ Market every Saturday on College Ave. The outdoor Farmers’ Market runs from June 15th-October 26th every Saturday from 8 am-12:30 pm. In the fall, the Farmers’ Market moves inside the City Center Plaza November 2nd-March 29th, 2014 from 9 am-12:30 pm. Learn more about the Appleton Farmers’ Market here! They have over 140 vendors that sell fresh fruits & vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, baked goods and freshly picked flowers. If you’re not in the Appleton area, or not even in Wisconsin there are still hundreds of options throughout the U.S. The United States Department of Agriculture lets you search their website for local farmers’ markets near you. You can search by zip-code, products available, payments accepted and winter markets.
Community Supported Agriculture
Another great options for purchasing locally grown food is to consider a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs allow consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer in their area. Here’s how it works:
- A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public based on what they are growing.
- The share usually consists of a box of vegetables but other options such as homemade breads, fruits, meats, eggs, etc. can also be part of a CSA program.
- Consumers then purchase a share or a membership and receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the season.
- There are usually a variety of different size shares you can purchase depending on the sizeof your family or what you are interested in.
The website Local Harvest allows you to search for CSAs near you. You can also search for meat, wholesale, farmers markets and more. I signed an agreement with Good Earth Farms in Wisconsin and am excited to see what my weekly share will bring.
Grow Your Own Sprouts
Have you ever tried growing your own sprouts? Sprouts are one of the healthiest foods available. They are full on enzymes, nutrients, amino acids and vitamins as well as other minerals. Sprouting requires no cooking and minimal effort. To grow your own sprouts the first thing you’ll need is a sprout medium. The Hemp Sprout Bag by Sproutman is an easy way to sprout grains and takes only 4-5 days.
After purchasing your sprout medium you’ll need to get some seeds. High quality seeds are the best option. Here are some of our most popular products.
Lentils, beans, grains, greens and mung beans are all good options for sprout bags. Typically you can start consuming your sprouts as soon as the first shoot is visible. Sprouts are delicious on salads or as a topping to any dish. Sprouting is also a good option for camping or hiking since it requires relatively little equipment and does not take up much room. Sprouts can stay fresh for 1-2 weeks but the best time to eat them is within the first week.
Have you tried a bucket garden or growing your own sprouts? Leave a comment with what has worked best for you, I’d love to hear your ideas!