I don’t know about you, but there is nothing like a bleak January day to steer my imagination toward sunrays on my back, a shovel in my hand, and sweet-smelling plants blooming before my eyes. With National Seed Swap Day just around the corner—it’s this Saturday and celebrates heirloom plant varieties, thrift, and the promotion of biodiversity—I’ve been thinking a lot about my 2021 garden plans and what new adventures await me in the soil below. While I’ve always been a tried and true “flower girl” my whole life, I’m planning to roll up my sleeves for a new journey into organic vegetable gardening. This fun new project will not only fill my weekends and my belly, but it will also help the environment around me thrive. Let’s dive in to explore some of the benefits of organic gardening on ourselves and our communities.
One of the most obvious benefits of at-home gardening is the potential cost-savings on groceries. Your need to run to the store to pick up tasty herbs and veggies would be much less with a bountiful garden in your own backyard, patio, or rooftop. According to Dr. Leonard Perry, a professor at the University of Vermont, with a $70 investment in seeds and supplies you could yield about $600 worth of vegetables (Perry). That’s a cost savings of over $500! Now, for a beginning gardener, you won’t need to invest a full $70 to start your gardening adventure. A package of seeds runs about $2.00 and a tomato plant pack with 4 tomatoes might run about $3.00. Even including a trowel and shovel, you can find those for about $20. We suggest you start small and work your way up to the garden of your dreams.
Further, at-home gardening not only helps your wallet but also our environment. Produce grown on farms is often chemically treated to ward off pests and to encourage a higher crop yield. Unfortunately, these chemicals not only affect the pests and plants they are intended for but can also seep into the soil below. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers can leak into the ground where they can kill soil microbes, contribute to soil erosion, and contaminate local water sources (Edgar 2018). By growing produce in your own backyard, you get to control how those plants are treated and can use natural products that actually add nutrients to the soil—like pest-controlling plants and compost. You may also consider companion planting which is the practice of growing different plants together. Plants can attract beneficial insects, such as pollinators, and deter pests. Marigolds and zinnias planted among your vegetables look pretty, provide flowers for cutting, attract pollinators, and repel pests. What a deal! However, some combinations just don’t work. Beans and peas are good neighbors but avoid planting beans near onions. Check out a plant companion chart when designing your garden.
Now speaking of compost, this process of turning food and yard waste into a tool for your garden is one of the best practices you can implement when it comes to organic gardening. According to Sandra Steingraber—an America biologist and author, 26% of the municipal solid waste stream is comprised of food waste and yard trimmings. When that organic matter gets picked up from your garbage bin and buried in a landfill, it helps to produce methane—a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change (Steingraber 2011). Instead of throwing that waste away in a landfill, consider throwing it in an outdoor compost heap to allow it to break down into a nutrient-rich humus to be used in organic gardening.
Now I know you’re wondering: how does all of this relate back to energy? Consider all of those trips to the store to pick up groceries for your supper. If you didn’t walk or ride your bike, you likely rode in a vehicle that emitted carbon into our atmosphere. Consider all of the trips made by carbon emitting vehicles transporting produce to grocery facilities from farms where they are grown—and remember, the farther away it is grown the more carbon emitted! At-home organic gardening is one way we can lessen our carbon-footprint and increase our intake of delicious veggies.
So, this National Seed Swap Day consider doing some research on how you can become an organic gardener this 2021. Whether you plan to start with an herb pot or are super ambitious, like yours truly, and have a whole garden plot planned in the backyard, any bit of gardening helps when it comes to our pocketbooks and our planet.
Interested in National Seed Swap Day? Check out this resource:
For some gardening fun:
For companion planting guide:
Edgar, T. (2018, September 24). Environmental Benefits of Organic Gardening. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.gardeningchannel.com/environmental-benefits-of-organic-gardening/
Perry, L. (n.d.). Why Grow Vegetables? Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/whygrow.html
Steingraber, S. (2011, December 13). The Case for Gardening as a Means to Curb Climate Change. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/10/the-case-for-gardening-as-a-means-to-curb-climate-change/247213/