Updated: Sep 28, 2022
Why Grow Your Own Food?
If you've watched the news, shopped for food, or filled up your car, you've probably noticed that everyday living prices have soared, making it an ideal time to consider growing your own food. Cultivating a garden is possible and can be fairly simple, requiring just a little time and space, whether it's limited indoor space with some window sills or a large outdoor space ready for some garden love. The benefits of growing your own food are enormous! You can save money, receive more nutrition, avoid pesticides, get more flavor, spend more time outside, get some exercise, reduce stress, and contribute to the planet.
Shopping for fresh vegetables and herbs can sometimes be pricey if you’re opting for
organic (which, whenever possible, is the ideal choice to avoid harmful pesticides). Save money (and time!) by growing your own vegetables and herbs at home. Seeds to grow your own plants cost around $1–$3.95 per seed packet, which contain multiple seeds that can produce several pounds of vegetables. Store-bought organic vegetables can cost approximately $1–$3.00 per pound. Growing your own vegetables and herbs can ensure that your produce remains organic and pesticide free.
Another (big!) bonus to growing your own vegetables and herbs is that you can get exponentially more nutrition with homegrown produce. It’s tough to say how long produce has been sitting on the grocery store shelves or how long it took to be delivered from its origin to the store. The time it takes for produce to be harvested, transported to stores, and stocked on shelves (it could be several days or it could be several weeks!), causes many of the nutrients to be lost. Growing, harvesting and enjoying your homegrown produce is rewarding and nourishing for both the body and the mind.
Harvesting herbs, fruits, and vegetables from your own garden tastes exponentially better! Similar to the way they lose nutrition, each day that fruits, vegetables, or herbs are sitting in transit or on grocery store shelves, they lose flavor. Personally, I used a fraction of the basil from my garden compared to the store-bought variety because the flavor is so intense (in the best way). Since you use need less for flavoring, you have more to spare—another cost-saver!
Get Some Vitamin D
Vitamin D insufficiency is common not matter what you eat. Getting some sunshine daily is the best way to get vitamin D naturally to support bone, heart, mental, and immune health. If you're gardening in the sun for hours then make sure to wear sunscreen. But if you're outside for just 15-30 minutes, consider getting some natural sunlight without sunscreen to boost vitamin D production. Learn more about the beneficial effects of vitamin D through one of our recent blogs.
Keep Your Body Agile
Gone are the days of needing to schedule an hour workout in the gym for exercise. Finding movement you love doesn't necessarily require a gym membership (although, if going to the gym is your thing then high-fives to you!). Dancing, cleaning, walking the dog, or gardening can be wonderful ways to move your body, keeping you flexible, strong, and energized.
Support the Planet
Cultivating a garden also benefits the environment. By avoiding the use of pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizer, you're allowing the natural ecosystem of the soil, air, birds, bees, and worms to thrive. This is better for your plants and your health. By investing time in your own garden, you can also contribute to the collective effort in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the Earth’s atmosphere. Finally, growing a garden can create habitats for smaller life forms like birds, insects, aphids, ants and other species that thrive and reproduce in the ecosystem. While they may seem like pests, each creature plays an important role in helping the environment.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 easy-to-grow veggies and herbs, whether you’re an urban-dweller with minimal outdoor space or have a big patch of yard waiting for a garden.
Tomatoes are vegetables (but, technically they’re a fruit!) that can be grown in your backyard, foyer space, patio, or balcony. Tomatoes love to grow solo in big pots. Planting one plant by itself allows for that plant’s roots to spread out and soak up all the nutrients it needs without competition. In addition, make sure to keep the soil moist and water consistently. Using a tomato cage or stake allows for the plant to be supported and grow upward as it provides you with yummy fruit. Not only do they taste delicious, tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C, lycopene, and fiber!
2. Lettuce/Leafy Greens
Lettuce and leafy greens, like spinach and arugula, can be easy to grow indoors or outdoors in a pot. By trimming lettuce from the stem after it grows, you provide the plant with stimulation to keep growing, so you’ll have endless salad bowls! Remember to keep the soil moist, but not saturated with water. Green leafy plants provide calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and many more vitamins, such as folate, which is essential for healthy cell growth and function.
Peppers can also be grown in a pot, just make sure to have a large pot, around 8–9 inches deep. Keeping your pepper plants in a sunny area, with consistent watering, allows them to thrive and produce bountiful peppers. (Personally, I grew jalapeño peppers in a pot last year and had jalapeños for the entire summer!) Peppers are rich in many nutrients, like carotenoids, vitamin C and folate. Similar to leafy greens, peppers require moist soil with good drainage, not soil saturated with water.
Radishes can be a bit polarizing — you may love them or loathe them. If you’re not a fan of raw radish, maybe try roasting them. They turn out sweet and maintain their crunch! Also, they're easy to grow! They grow fairly quickly and only require a pot that is 4–6 inches deep. These plants require full sun, but can grow very quickly in the heat, so keeping them in partial shade can help slow the growing process and reduce the risk of them dying. Although the roots are yummy in salads and other dishes, the leaves are also edible! Throw the whole vegetable in a salad or side dish and you’ve got a nutrient-packed meal.
5. Summer squash
The last vegetable that can be easily grown at home (and my personal favorite), is summer squash, such as zucchini and yellow squash. You’ll want to get a large pot for these plants, as they can grow to be very big and require quite a bit of space. Keeping the plant in full sun with water everyday helps produce many blossoms that, when pollinated, turn into squash! If you're wondering if squash blossoms can pollinate indoors, they can! They just need a little help from you. Watch this video to learn how to pollinate squash blossoms indoors. Fun fact: you can also eat the squash blossoms! Enjoy them raw, grilled, roasted, or sautéed. Or, have some fun with your Air Fryer to make them crispy! Summer squash and squash blossoms are good sources of vitamin C, folate, potassium, and magnesium.
My personal favorite herb is basil and it can be grown at home both indoors and outdoors, much like many other herbs! Basil offers a rich and potent aroma and flavor. Keeping your basil in full sunlight with moist soil will allow it to thrive. In addition, making sure to prune older leaves promotes new growth and endless basil. Enjoy it in some pasta or with watermelon (yum!). Basil has been shown to support cognition, lower blood pressure, and repel mosquitos (basil perfume anyone?).
Mint is such a versatile herb since it can be used in many dishes. My favorite ways to use mint are to dry it and make tea or add a few fresh leaves to water. This plant does not require a lot of water and does well in sun or shade. Dry the leaves and make mint tea to help alleviate indigestion.
If you have very little time, try your hand at rosemary, which is an herb that doesn’t require much attention. All you need is a large pot, plenty of sunlight, and a little bit of water. Rosemary offers a rich flavor, like basil, and can be paired with many vegetables, such as potatoes or carrots. Since rosemary is a hardy herb it can be added during the cooking process (for example, roasted rosemary potatoes) unlike basil, which is more delicate and should be added at the end of cooking. Fun fact about rosemary: It's been shown to improve cognition. In fact, simply smelling rosemary's aroma has been shown to boost cognitive performance!
Thyme requires a little more attention than rosemary, but is still a great herb to grow at home. Thyme thrives in sheltered areas with full sun and consistent watering, so it is a great indoor herb to place on the windowsill. It’s important not to overwater thyme. Try pairing thyme with fruits, such as cherries or figs to offer your tastebuds a unique experience. Thyme has been shown to support the immune system and alleviate coughing.
Finally, oregano thrives both indoors and outdoors. However, if you have a backyard (and no dog), you can use oregano as ground cover with the grass! Oregano is low maintenance and does not require a lot of watering, but frequent harvesting allows it to grow quicker and thicker (that means more to use in your kitchen!). Oregano is great in a variety of dishes, such as pasta, plant-based pizza, or Mediterranean salads. Plus, it's packed with antioxidants and has been shown to support the immune system by fighting bacteria and viruses.
If you're really feeling ambitious and have the outdoor space, edible landscaping can be a fun and healing project. Edible landscaping involves incorporating edible plants into your landscape design. Instead of having sectioned-off garden beds, edible landscapes highlight the ornamental qualities of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and edible flowers naturally integrating them into the landscape design. Selecting plants that are less susceptible to feeding deer, rabbits, and squirrels is key!
No matter which type of garden you choose—indoor, outdoor, or edible landscaping—know that you're fostering good health for yourself, your family, and the planet. If you've had success with growing any particular plant, please share below!
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Hello! My name is Brittany Bogusz and I am a graduate student at Georgia State University. I am pursuing a career in nutrition and it is my goal to be a pediatric registered dietitian. I love being able to teach people about the different areas of nutrition in a fun and eye-catching way, and blogs do just that. Some of my favorite things to do are read, garden, hike, and bake!