Why Home Vegetable Gardening is Growing in Popularity
Back to Basics
Many homes around the country have a vegetable garden in their back or side yards, or perhaps a row of containers on the front porch overflowing with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. More people join the ranks of home gardeners every season. Why, in this age dominated by big agro-business are more people seemingly going back to the land?
Freshness is the Key to Healthy Eating
The freshness of the product is often a key motivating factor. No matter how skillfully the professional growers handle their harvests there is an inevitable time lag between point of origin and consumption. Vegetables must be harvested, perhaps trimmed or otherwise processed, packaged, loaded and unloaded – sometimes several times, unpacked, displayed and finally, purchased. It may also spend a few days in the home prior to use.
These vegetables are no longer truly fresh. As a result there is degradation in the nutritional value of vegetables as a factor of time. This is inevitable. Some “fresh” vegetables can lose as much as 45% of their nutritive value before they actually reach the table. Frequently the consumer is far better off with quickly frozen vegetables than with the supposedly fresh variety.
Not so when the veggies come from the back yard with an elapsed time from plot to pot of less than an hour. Nutritional loss, if any, is negligible.
There’s no Taste like Home
As it is with nutrition, so it is with flavor. All vegetables lose flavor over time. Sweet corn or sweet peas that have been trucked in from afar simply cannot compete in a taste test with those plucked from the home garden and served later that day. The sugars that make these veggies so delicious degrade rapidly to starch. A starchy ear of corn is scarcely worth eating; a fresh, sweet ear of corn is the highlight of a summer meal.
This is true to some extent of everything grown at home, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers and even lettuce tastes so much better when fresh.
A Taste of the Unknown
Another reason to grow your own has to do with variety. It is not economically feasible to grow a delicious but delicate heavy and juice laden beefsteak tomato in one place and try to ship it somewhere else. What arrives will be tomato juice. The varieties that are grown to survive the hazards of long distance transport are unlikely to be the best tasting ones available. With some particularly sturdy genetically engineered or hybridized varieties it becomes difficult to tell if one is eating a tomato or pink cardboard. This is why stores offer two or three varieties of tomatoes while seed companies may offer hundreds.
Savings are Important
Cost can come into play as well, particularly when the garden has become established for several years. Once the fence has been built and the beds established the cost of gardening is limited to the price of seeds or plants and perhaps to a few fertilizers or pesticides. With sound organic gardening practices the need for the latter two items becomes limited.
A packet of tomato seeds might cost 1.99 at a garden shop, and sprout 30 plants which might produce 900 lbs. of tomatoes. This same 900 lbs. of tomatoes will at the least cost $1800.00 at the store and the cost rises every day. The math of a well-managed home garden works in the gardeners favor every time. If the gardener cans or otherwise preserves the crops the savings can huge.
Know What is on Your Plate
Avoiding the taint of genetic modification or GMO as it is known is important to many and the only way to be certain that this is done is to grow certified guaranteed heirloom or open pollinated varieties of vegetables. There may be solid reasons for raising corn with insect repellent or disease killing properties genetically encoded but most folks would like to avoid eating this sort of thing if there is an untainted alternative.
For that matter, day to day pesticide and fertilizer use are under the home gardener’s control. There is no need to wonder just what sort of potentially hazardous compounds have been absorbed by the cucumbers, when the end consumer is the party nurturing them.
When a garden is filled with heirloom varieties of vegetable the possibility of saving the seeds year after year becomes very real. This lowers the cost even more, and places control of the end crop directly into the home gardener’s hands. It is remarkably simple to preserve most common crop seeds from year to year.
Good for the Soul
And of course, gardening is just plain enjoyable. The slow, uncomplicated hands in the soil activity provides therapeutic down time for persons stressed almost to the breaking point by the modern day to day pace. It can pull a family together around a simple project. And then there are the rewards; the fresh healthful foods, the sense of accomplishment, the security of a renewable food source, even the fun of swapping seeds and vegetables with friends and neighbors.
In the end there are nearly as many reasons for people to grow their own vegetables as there are persons growing them.
A Growing Trend
A growing trend – According to figures gathered by the National Gardening Association the number of home gardeners is increasing by leaps and bounds. Surveys taken in early spring of 2007 indicated that some 25 million of the USA’s 110 million plus households intended to grow at least some food products at home. By 2008 this figure was 33 million, a 32% increase.
1.42 billion dollars is estimated to have been spent on home vegetable gardening in 2008 alone.
The trend continues.