Did you know people who spent time outside during the pandemic felt less anxious than those who were housebound? Could that have been the 20 million new gardens that were planted and harvested? Could you have one next year? Yes you can!
In this gardening guide, we’ll go over what you need to successfully grow your own food at home as well as the health benefits of gardening.
It is important to note, however, that it is nearly impossible to grow all your own food, especially when first starting out. I’ve been working on my regenerative farm for years and still don’t grow all my own food. But I still get the health benefits of gardening and growing some of my food and you can too!
Health Benefits of Gardening
Beyond the benefits of fresher, organic food from your own backyard, the act of gardening has distinct health benefits as well. The act of gardening can improve our cognition and mental health as well as get you outside for the health benefits of nature.
A 2020 study discovered community gardening programs provide physical health benefits, including increased strength, for elderly participants. In fact, gardening can be an excellent physical activity for the elderly because it provides health benefits similar to exercise without the strain and injury potential of some physical exercise, such as running.
A study from 2006 looked specifically at how gardening impacted one’s risk of getting dementia. Gardening lowers one’s risk of getting dementia by 36%.
A 2011 study involved patients who performed a stressful task and were then randomly assigned to 30 minutes of either outdoor gardening or indoor reading. Both groups had a decrease in cortisol, but the effects were significantly more pronounced for the gardening group. The study adds that “positive mood was fully restored after gardening, but further deteriorated during reading.” The study concluded that gardening can provide relief from acute stress.
If you’re ready to explore the benefits of gardening, consider what you need to do in winter, spring, summer, and fall to cultivate a thriving garden.
During the Winter
In the majority of the northern hemisphere, January and February are not good months to garden. They are, however, a good time to start planning out what you might include in your garden. You can also scout out the best places to buy organic seeds near you and decide where your garden will be.
Here are some things to consider during the winter months:
- What type of plants do you want to grow? Herbs, like rosemary and mint, and plants, like basil and tomato, are great for beginners!
- Where can you get good, organic soil?
- Where in your yard will you keep your garden? Or will you join a community garden?
- Once you’ve decided on a location, you might want to research how much sun each plant needs and how much sun different parts of your planned garden get. Where does each plant need to be planted to get enough sunlight?
- You’ll also want to make sure you consider your geographic location. Some plants I grow here in California wouldn’t fare so well in Maine. Reserve 25% of your garden for native plants if possible. Native plants bring pollinators, they’re drought tolerant, and they’re easy to take care of.
For more tips on making your garden organic, check out my free guide on how to start an organic garden.
During the Spring
As the weather gets warmer, it’s a great time to plant your crops. Again, it’s important to ensure you have the right soil and each plant gets enough sunlight.
You should also research how often each plant needs watered, weeded, and pruned. Every plant is different–and climates can even influence this!–so research on specific plants and gardening in specific geographic locations might be useful.
During the Summer
Some crops may be ready to harvest in summer. If so, harvest and enjoy! Make sure to collect some seeds from the plants so you have free seeds to use next year and to give to friends.
It’s also important in summer to make sure your plants are getting enough water and fertilizer. Investing in an organic pesticide might also make sure harmful pests stay away from your plants–though there are some beneficial insects you shouldn’t be concerned about.
During the Fall
Fall is when you want to be harvesting your plants and enjoying your yield! Even if you don’t get as big of a crop yield as you wanted, enjoy what you do have and possibly reflect on how you can get more crops next year.
There are some plants which can be grown in fall as well, such as rosemary, thyme, and culinary sage. You can also use this season to reflect on any houseplants you might want for the colder months.
Making Your Garden Organic
If you want to make your garden organic, you’ll want to put even more effort into planning it out this winter. There’s also a couple key considerations for an organic garden:
- Use organic soil
- Compost and avoid synthetic fertilizers
- Use food safe pesticides
- Grow native plants
Organic gardening can get expensive, though there are some organic plants that are easy to grow, fun to pick, and will save your wallet. These include:
- Sweet Basil
- Bell peppers
- Black magic eggplant
- Cherry sweet pepper
- Green beans
- Italian sweet pepper
- Snap beans
- Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
- Tomatoes: Jet Star, Jackpot, Supersteak, Cherry, Cherry Presto
- Yellow wax beans
- Zucchini elite
It’s possible for you to grow a garden in 2022! With careful planning and research, you can grow some of your own food and find joy in the process of gardening.
If you’d like some additional accountability in your gardening journey, consider downloading The Plant Planner. This easy to use guide offers you advice for every stage of the gardening process as well as more about the science behind why growing some of your own food is beneficial.