Social Distancing? Grow Your Own Food
Growing your own food isn’t rocket science. It takes a bit of time, but the end result is well worth it, and the basic crops, like lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, are very forgiving. The best part is that you don’t even necessarily need a garden to grow your own food. You can grow herbs indoors; depending on what you’re growing, you can use grow bags or hanging planters; or you can go to a community garden.
Why grow your own food?
Your food is fresher. It’s literally farm to table. And you can keep away from the crowds at the grocery store.
Fresh food tastes better. This kind of goes without saying.
Homegrown food is healthier. You control contaminants, chemicals and pesticides, with no additives.
Reliable food supply. Growing your own food increases your backup food supply in the event of an emergency. Preserving and canning your harvest helps even more.
Growing your own food saves money. Initially, seeds, planting, and growing materials will be an expense, but your home garden should pay for itself with the first full harvest.
You’ll eat healthier. Growing your own entices you to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
You control when to harvest your food. Vegetables that ripen in the garden have more nutrients than some store-bought vegetables that must be picked early.
Ready to get started?
- Start small and plant things you’d really like to eat.
- Pick a spot with at least 6 hours of sunlight and access to water.
- Use contaminant-free soil.
- Consider using a raised garden bed, which allows you to control the soil and nutrient blend.
Easy to grow foods
- Onions and garlic – Stored correctly, onions can last up to eight months. Garlic bulbs will keep for months in the freezer. Plant whole onion bulbs with shoots or single garlic cloves in well-drained soil in spring and leave them to do their thing (remembering to water them).
- Potatoes – Fill a container, a grow bag or even an old potato bag half full with compost. Plant one or two whole potatoes in there. Once you start to see the green shoots emerge above the soil, cover with a bit more compost, wait until they emerge again and repeat. Continue this process until the container is full, and 10–20 weeks later, when the foliage starts to wither, your potatoes are ready. Keep those babies well-watered! Prop your bag on top of some bricks to allow water to drain out, and if you’re growing them inside, fill the bottom of the container with stones before you add soil so excess water will drain to the bottom.
- Herbs – Start them from seed or buy a potted plant. Basil, chives, parsley and sage will grow happily in a sunny window, and oregano, thyme, mint and rosemary do well both indoors and out.
- Strawberries – You can plant strawberries in pots, grow bags or the garden, as long as they don’t get too waterlogged. Bonus: if you look after them, they’ll keep producing fruit year after year.
- Salad greens – Plant seeds in the summer months and you’ll have leaves big enough to put on your sandwiches in 3–4 weeks! Just snip off the tops or pull a leaf as needed. If you find the slugs are eating them before you are, some crushed eggshells or salt around your plants will help ward them off.
- Chilis and peppers – They’re great in a small window pot and easy to grow from seed. Just stick to one a pot and water them little and often.
- Celery – Put the root in a shallow bowl or cup of water by a windowsill, making sure it’s not totally submerged. Spray the top with water occasionally so it doesn’t dry out. After about a week a new little celery head will pop up. At this point you can transfer it into some soil in a pot or grow bag. You’ll have a whole new edible celery within a few weeks!
- Tomatoes – Start from seed or a small starter plant. Some varieties can be grown in hanging baskets. Just make sure they get plenty of sun and tie the plant to a stake to keep it upright. If you plant basil next to the tomato plants, you’ll naturally repel pests and even improve the flavor of the tomatoes.
- Cucumbers – Cucumbers like sunlight and warm temps, as well as support for climbing. (Thanks to their vertical growth, cukes do well in containers.) Water them regularly and you’ll have enough for the neighbors. Bush (rather than vine) cucumbers are best for containers or small spaces.
More easy vegetables to grow
Most root vegetables like carrots, turnips and radishes are hardy and can be planted directly in the garden early in the spring and left until fall. The tops can also be harvested as the plants grow. Green beans, pumpkins and zucchini are also a cinch to grow and are quite prolific producers.
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