Nourish your Family and Your Spirits
Food has a way of bringing us all together – family, friends and neighbours. As our gardens overflow into our kitchens, we gather to celebrate and share the fruits of our labour. By sharing the goods we’ve grown in the comfort of our own home, bonds are cultivated and friendships grow stronger.
Creating your own backyard garden is like having a Farmer’s Market at your disposal. Fruits, vegetables and herbs are fresher, taste better and are better for you. No wonder this trend is taking off!
And if you don’t have space for a garden at home, a community garden is another option. You can find one in your community through Sustain Ontario’s Community Garden Network. At West 5, we have a community garden conveniently located for our residents.
One garden, many benefits:
Increase Nutrients in Your Diet
With your own produce section just steps away, you’ll eat more fruits and vegetables. Not only are they grown with love, they’ll be grown organically, free of pesticides and chemicals sometimes used on grocery store produce. Plus, garden fresh produce is more nutritional than produce from the grocery store! At home you can wait for your fruits and veggies to reach peak ripeness to ensure the best nutrient levels and taste!
Reduce Stress, Lower Blood Pressure and Boost Your Immune System
Our lives are busier than ever, leaving us mentally drained. But time in our gardens, enjoying plants, water, birds and nature recharges us by boosting our mood, lowering stress and blood pressure. Research has also shown that it improves our health! Plants release airborne chemicals called phytoncides to protect themselves from insects. When we breathe in these phytoncides, our bodies respond by increasing the number of white blood cells that kill tumours and virus-infected cells in our bodies.
Increase Overall Well-Being and Mood
There is an unmistakable joy and sense of accomplishment that comes from creating your own garden. Puttering around the garden makes you happy and science actually backs up why! A healthy bacteria that lives in the soil increases levels of serotonin which makes you feel relaxed and happy. Gardening also lowers cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress. After becoming a skilled gardener, it’s only natural to have higher self-esteem. No wonder our gardens become our happy place!
Great Workout for Your Mind, Body, and Soul
It may not seem like a strenuous workout, but give gardening a try and see if you change your tune! In just 30 – 45 minutes, you can burn 150 – 300 calories! A great functional exercise, it incorporates stretching, pushing, pulling and lifting. It improves balance, flexibility and strengthens your heart, which reduces your risk for heart attack and stroke. Researchers have also found it represents the single biggest risk reduction for dementia. As a bonus, after a day in your garden you’ll also sleep better!
Save Money on Food By Growing Your Own
You can save a lot by growing your own food! Maximize your return on investment by growing the fruits and vegetables that are the most expensive to buy. Also, grow the ones that allow you to preserve summer’s freshness for the colder days ahead. Fill your pantry shelves with the multi-coloured culinary delights of the harvest by canning, freezing, dehydrating or pickling.
Reduce Food Packaging
Just think of all the plastic bags and cartons you’ll no longer need or use! They will now be diverted from landfill sites thanks to you. Reduce your carbon footprint by reducing packaging and transportation costs. Plus, you can recycle kitchen waste to make great mulch for your garden, reuse egg cartons to plant seeds in the spring and, much more!
Tips to Get You Started
- Start small and plant things you love to eat
- Select a location with at least 6 hours of good daytime light
- Talk to neighbours to find out what grows well in your area and when
- Water appropriately for each plant
- Use contaminant-free soil. Aim for a 50/50 mix of compost and your native soil
- Build raised beds – they allow you to control the soil/nutrient blend and are easier on your knees and back
- Use a barrier against weeds – lay cardboard down and build your beds on top
- Protect your investment with mulch – cover your beds in the fall with 2 inches of weed-suppressing, soil-improving, shredded leaves
- Add a comfortable seat so you can bask in your garden’s glory while you rest from all your hard work
- Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and know your limits
- Apply sunscreen – get some vitamin D but protect yourself, too
Seeds are symbols of hope, potential and growth. They can be stored for years then stirred to life within days. Like seeds, we hope this article takes root, starts conversations and grows into a movement! Creating healthier generations to come. Who knows, you may just turn your children into lifelong vegetable-lovers too!