Yes, I know it is January. Yesterday was so cold that the ice on my front steps never melted. But believe it or not, I need to start planning and even planting my vegetable garden…now.
That may seem ridiculous. But in this climate (the UK) some plants, especially tomatoes and peppers, need to be planted in pots now and allowed to grow for three or four months inside before they are planted out in April or May.
I am going to try not to do like last year. I had dozens (close to a hundred) bean and pea plants that I needed to offload. The problem is…
No one wants to grow their own.
Everyone has gotten used to just popping to the shop for fresh veg.
But there are some real problems with that in terms of the environment.
- Plastic – Almost all vegetables that you purchase at the store come wrapped in plastic. Non-recyclable plastic. Plastic that will end up in your bin. Then either be burned in an incinerator or end up in a landfill. When burned, plastics produce some of the most toxic chemicals and particulates. So, most of it ends up in landfills. The problem is that over time, while that plastic will not biodegrade, it does break down into what is known as microplastics, i.e. small pieces. These microplastics then leech into our groundwater, streams, and rivers, eventually making it all the way to the ocean where they choke our marine life.
- Food miles – This is the measure of how far your food must travel from the farm to your table. With both real and opportunity costs for every mile. So for instance, bananas come from someplace tropical usually Central America. They must be picked before they are ripe, then packed while still green, transported usually via ship to a major port, then via truck to first a major warehouse, then the store. You are paying more for the transport than the poor farmer makes for months of work growing them. And each one of those miles adds pollution to the air and water through boats, trucks, and sometimes trains.
But there are other reasons to consider growing your own as well:
- Taste – Like I said most fruits and vegetables are picked before they ripen, then shipped green to stores. While they do ripen during transport and storage, this process does not retain the full flavors of produce that ripens fully on the vine. Never is this more apparent than with a tomato. One of my biggest frustrations as a gardener has been trying to grow tomatoes in the UK. The growing season simply was not long enough. Plus to get the true sweetness takes a mix of sunshine and rain, with a marked lack of that sun here. Until this year. For the first time in thirteen years here, I grew maters. Maters? That is a Southern saying for a tomato picked ripe from the vine and usually eaten warm. The flavor of the vine, the juice from that rain, and the sunshine itself just burst in your mouth. A mater truly is defined by its tastes and no store-bought tomato will ever have that flavor.
- Relaxation – Studies show that gardening is good for stress relief. But anyone who has ever planted a seed, watched it sprout, then grow until it produced fruit does not need some ‘expert’ to tell them about the sense of connection you get, the patience you learn, and that incredible pride of accomplishments as you taste the fruit of your labors. It is an experience that is all too lacking in our world today.
- Family – Some of the best memories of my childhood are times spent with my stepfather tending our garden. The tilling, planting, weeding, and watering that we did each evening once the sun went down a bit. But it was the chance to talk that is inherent as you do those things that strengthen the bonds between parent and child. It is especially a chance to share your values, to practice what you preach with your offspring. It is something that I have done throughout most of PanKwake’s life.
Taste…stress…your children…the environment are just a few good reasons for growing your own. And it is far easier, less time consuming than all that tilling my stepfather did when I was a child. Even those living in tiny flats/apartments in the middle of the city can grow at least some of their own.
So, now that we know WHY we should grow our own. Next week we will look at the HOW. Different methods and some pros and cons of each.