Spring is months away. You’re craving a salad. All you can find at the grocery store are overpriced, tiny heads of iceberg lettuce or mass-produced bagged salads, neither of which are terribly appealing. You begin to dream of fresh, organic, healthy, exotic greens, then dismiss the idea as impossible.
Growing your own salads is not impossible. In fact, growing your own salad greens and other vegetables, in a chemical-free way, is so easy, once you get started you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.
“Ruby Red” Swiss Chard seedlings.
I started growing vegetables from seed in my basement with an inexpensive and simple grow-light set-up about six years ago, and I quickly became addicted. There’s something so wonderful, so instinctive about watching seeds become seedlings, and then plants, and then larger plants from which you can harvest and cook and eat food that makes it impossible to stop once you start growing your own food.
Bronze amaranth seedlings growing in my basement.
Great Reasons to Grow Your Own Food
There are a lot of very good reasons why everyone should learn to grow food. Here are just a few of them:
- The world is an uncertain place these days. The cost of fuel is certainly on the rise, and with it, the cost of food. It is much cheaper to grow your own vegetables and some fruits and herbs than it is to buy them.
- Growing your own food means you’ll know exactly what goes into the food you harvest. If you’re opposed to using chemicals to control pests and weeds in your garden, then your food will be chemical- and pesticide-free, too.
- When children see where their food comes from, they gain an wider understanding of the world’s food system and the energy and time required to grow it. Growing your own food is a great way to teach kids some basic science skills. And kids provide cheap labour in the garden!
- When you grow your own food, you have complete control over which foods and which variety of foods you can grow and ultimately, enjoy at your dinner table. The selection of foods available for growing is much wider than what you will find at your local grocery store. We’ve grown many different kinds and colours of heirloom tomatoes, Asian eggplants, jewel-toned beets and beautiful squash and pumpkins, most of which we’d never find locally.
- Gardening is excellent exercise! Digging and weeding burn calories. And if you get the munchies while you’re working, the closest food will always be healthy.
- Gardening is good not just for the mind, but for the soul. My favourite moments last summer took place in the evening, when the yard had cooled and the birds were calling out their evening songs. I would bring my son Nate outside after his bath, put him in his exersaucer, and he would watch me weed the vegetable garden. It was a wonderful way for us to wind down for the evening.
I call this “Trippy Tomato Salad,” made from several varieties of heirloom tomatoes. The basil and nasturtiums on the plate were grown at home, too.
Getting the Gear for Growing Your Own Food
Convinced, but don’t know where to start? This is precisely the situation my sister-in-law found herself in recently. I went on a little shopping trip with her to show her what she needed to get her new little grow-op started. Here’s what we bought (all prices are approximate, in Canadian dollars):
- A basic shop light fixture, Home Depot, $16.99. It was wired already, so all she’ll have to do is plug it into the timer she also picked up (also Home Depot, $14.99). Seedlings need 14-16 hours of daylight, so using a 24-hour timer takes the memory work out of turning the light on and off.
- A two-pack of cool fluorescent bulbs, Home Depot, $7.99. A two-pack of warm fluorescent bulbs, Home Depot, $8.99.
- A bag of seed starting mix, Canadian Tire, $6.98. A seed-starting tray containing 72 cell packs for sowing, $4.99, Canadian Tire.
The total, not including seeds, was about $65.00 including taxes. She had everything set up and ready to go that same evening. You can, too!
This is just the first in a series of posts here at Curvy Girl Guide this spring and summer about growing your own vegetables to create wonderful home-grown dishes. In the next post, I’ll tell you exactly how to get your seedlings started with the equipment listed above! I hope you’ll join me this gardening season in growing your own food, too.