Grow Your Own

Random Bug on BasilI used to hate bugs. Seriously. Hate. Bugs. As in, if a bug flew within my personal space bubble, I would flail my arms and yell, so that anyone looking on from a distance probably thought they were watching me experience a violent seizure.

But two years ago, I finally found myself with space for a garden. And like magic, my fear of insects nearly went away – to the point that I actually found myself rescuing tiny spiders instead of squishing them. I’ve even improved to the point that I saved two wasps that somehow made their way into the house last week (I also vacuumed three up, but hey, let’s just say I’ve made major progress).

And that’s just one benefit to growing your own food. Here’s more:

It’s safer eating.

In a food world that is increasingly saturated with pesticides, random scary bacteria, and genetically modified products, growing your own food means you have total control. I mostly buy organic seeds and seedlings, and I try to use heirloom veggies whenever possible to preserve and continue the seed heritage of plants that are rapidly disappearing because of companies like Monsanto (have I mentioned you should all watch Food, Inc. yet? Because you should. Right after you’re done reading this entry, of course.) I’ve also managed to avoid the use of pesticides. I plant marigolds (a natural pest repellent) in with my tomatoes and peppers and anything else that pests like Japanese Beetles or the Tomato Hornworm (nasty huge rubber-like caterpillars that I have no compunction about squashing, and use raised beds to cut down on weeds.

A tiny Sugar Baby watermelon sprout bursts forth.

A tiny Sugar Baby watermelon sprout bursts forth.

It’s satisfying.

Growing my own food, whether I do it from seed or from seedlings just makes me happy. I get genuinely excited waiting for the tiny heads of seedlings to sprout forth from the soil, and then in between the rainy days of Maine summer, I head out to the beds, pulling weeds here and there and coddling my baby plants. This is also where my conquering of my fear of insects happens: It’s just amazing to see the sheer variety of beautiful spiders and jewel covered beetles and other bugs I’ve only ever seen in a Pixar movie help work my garden. I even get the occasional glimpse of a tiny beautiful tree frog. And as your garden ripens for harvest, nothing beats “shopping” in your own garden, knowing you grew that day’s food yourself.

It’s inexpensive.

Yes, there are costs to getting your garden set each season – you’ll need plenty of fresh compost to work in, and depending on your setup, you may need some extra topsoil, and of course, you’ll need to buy your seeds and seedlings. But at $0.99/seed pack or $4.99/flat of 6 plants, you tell me which is the better buy – that $4.00 plastic-packed lettuce that will last you for a week, or the $0.99 seed pack that will feed you all summer and early fall? Growing your own food is the best way to eat healthy and eat cheap. And since you’ll hopefully can all the extra abundance, you can continue to eat cheap well into the late fall and winter if you play your cards right.

Ro surveys our work after a long afternoon of planting.

Ro surveys our work after a long afternoon of planting.

It’s a good way to get the family together.

Gardening is hard work – why do it alone? I get the kids to help out, too. My daughter, Mak, will moan and groan a bit (“I will never have a garden when I grow up!”), but in the end, she’s a willing volunteer, and I watch

her mind puzzle out with me our strategies for the next season, like last summer when I realized I planted my tomatoes too closely. My son, Ro, is an excellent planter and weeder, and they’re both hard workers. I enjoy the time with them as we’re all occupied together outdoors, quietly weeding, listening to them banter back and forth.

It’s great exercise.

This season, I loaded 16 huge bags of compost into my car and back out into the garden myself. I then spread them over 8 raised beds and worked them into the soil without the benefit of power tools. By myself. By the end of the day, I was burnt to a crisp, felt like I had just completed eight hours of hard weight training, and had more work ahead as I still had to plant the next day. Weeding days are the same, and the next morning I feel it in my legs as I stretch my way out of bed. But here’s the thing – unlike actual exercise, I don’t even notice I’m doing it. Enough said.

Thinking it’s too late in the summer to get started on your own small garden patch? It’s not. Even if you’re as far north as Maine, like I am, it’s not too late to start veggies you can use in your green smoothies, juices and salads, like kale and hearty red and green lettuces that actually thrive in cooler weather. Don’t have room for a real garden? Herbs, tomatoes, scallions, lettuce and kale are easy to grow in containers on a stoop or a patio – just give the greens little lettuce haircuts whenever you want salad, and the plant will continue to regrow. You can keep reseeding every couple of weeks, so you’ll always have a steady rotation of fresh greens that you can can proudly tell your friends you grew yourself.

So get outside and grow yourself some food today!


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Categories: Get Out of the House

Author:Dory Diaz Photography

Dory is a professional wedding and portrait photographer, writer, and social media addict.

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