People often equate summer cuisine with fresh food, and what better way is there to keep your homemade meals fresh than by growing your own produce? In this article, Emily L. Cristobal discusses the benefits of growing fruit and veg at home!
When I think of summer, one of the first things that comes to mind is fresh produce - refreshing juicy watermelon on a hot summer day, the sweet taste of mangos, lychee and papayas, and fingers slightly tinted red from eating cherries. Of course, you could go to the grocery store or a local farmers' market to buy these fresh goods, but wouldn’t it be even better if you could grow them in your backyard?
Growing up, I was always lucky enough to have access to fresh fruit. When I was younger, my parents planted oranges, lychee, papaya, guapple (a fruit that has the taste of guava but the texture of an apple), coconut, pineapples, tomatoes, and an ongoing list of other fruits and vegetables in my backyard. Having listed these different foods, you may be thinking that I live on a farm, but I promise you that I live in the suburbs with a backyard about the size of a classroom.
A lack of space shouldn’t stop you from growing your own food, you just have to be creative with the space you have. Maybe you can hang certain plants, build a wire trellis for those that are more viney, or even use cute pots to grow herbs.
The idea of gardening can also be daunting because of all the time and effort it takes to grow your own food, but not having enough time in your busy schedule shouldn’t stop you either! There is always the option of growing plants that are low-maintenance.
Gardening, as a whole, whether it be fruits and vegetables or more aesthetic plants such as flowers, is very beneficial. It not only provides you sustenance, but it can also improve your physical and mental health.
Physical Health Benefits
Gardening has been shown to be a good form of aerobic exercise. As you tend to your plants, you are working your muscles, twisting and bending as you dig holes, shovel soil and mulch, and pull weeds. While gardening, you are working your legs, arms, butt, shoulders, abdomen and back muscles. An article from The Spruce said that doing these movements can improve your strength, stamina, and flexibility. Because gardening is very hands-on, it can also improve hand strength and dexterity.
Although gardening may not be rigorous exercise, daily exercise can improve heart health, reduce the risk of heart attacks and type 2 diabetes, can lower blood pressure, and can aid in managing your weight.
Gardening in the sun also increases your exposure to Vitamin D, which can reduce the risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, and various cancers.
Mental Health Benefits
Aside from physical health benefits, gardening can also improve your mental health. Working in the garden can lower stress levels. A Dutch study found that after completing a stressful task, participants who gardened for 30 minutes were in better moods and had lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels than participants who read indoors.
Gardening and being surrounded by nature not only provides a peaceful atmosphere to relax, but it can also boost self-esteem. Being able to nurture a plant, to watch it grow and produce fruits and vegetables can create a feeling of accomplishment and pride. There is satisfaction in being able to enjoy and eat something that you grew on your own.
Studies have also shown that gardening can aid those with symptoms of depression through horticultural therapy. Mitchell Hewson, a horticultural therapist from Canada, told USA Today that “Horticultural therapy stimulates thought, exercises the body and encourages an awareness of the external environment. Moreover, the clients who have benefited from this type of therapy report a renewed desire to live, decreased anxiety and improved self-worth.”
Growing your own fruits and vegetables can also put your mind at ease, knowing exactly what is going into the food that you grow. Nowadays, a lot of concern has developed around mass producing fruits and vegetables. Not knowing the science behind certain GMOs and harmful pesticides and herbicides that are used on the food we buy from the store can be dangerous and scary, but being able to grow your own fruits and vegetables eliminates that worry.
Furthermore, growing your own food allows you to save time and money. You no longer have to drive to the grocery store and spend money on certain fruits and vegetables when you can just walk out your back door and get it fresh from your garden. Gardening is simply convenient and efficient.
If you feel inspired after reading this article, here is a list of easy fruits and vegetables to plant in your backyard. Please be aware that weather, climate, and geography can affect the productivity of how well your plant grows. Have fun and good luck!
- Pineapples (Fun Fact: when you cut the tops off pineapples you buy at the store, you can replant them!)
- Green beans