Learning how to grow your own food in your home vegetable garden can reap so many benefits. Get your whole family gardening, understand gardening benefits, and learn how to grow broccoli and beyond in this guide.
Spending time digging in your gardening soil can reap rewards beyond just fresh air and exercise. Not only does home gardening give you an excuse to get outside, it is an activity that provides substantial health benefits for those of all ages. Multiple studies support the benefits of growing your own food and family gardening. Studies show home gardening increases one’s feelings of life satisfaction and quality of life, as well as increases fruit and vegetable consumption. Starting a vegetable garden is a delicious way to jumpstart healthy living while keeping your food cost and your carbon footprint down. Not to mention, vegetable gardening can be quite easy (see my free gardening 101 toolkit on how to grow a garden for a beginners guide).
If You Grow It, You Will Eat It!
Research is starting to really highlight the many benefits for home gardening, in particular on diet quality. We all know the benefits of consuming more fruits and vegetables including a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, a decreased risk of chronic disease and cancer, and lower blood pressure. Donning your gardening gloves and starting home gardening is an easy way to make the healthy habit of eating more fruits and vegetables fun and more interactive.
One study, which included more than 1,300 college students, found that those who gardened currently and in childhood consumed about one-half cup more fruits and vegetables daily, compared to those who never gardened. This study, which was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, backs up previous research that shows that people—in particular children—benefit from better diets when they participate in gardening. The evaluation was a cross sectional analysis of students from eight universities who were screened on their current fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as their participation in gardening currently or in the past. Thirty percent of respondents reported gardening as a child, and 38% reported they currently garden. The students were grouped according to whether they have gardened previously or currently and those who have not gardened at all. The research showed that those who gardened in their childhood have significantly higher fruit and vegetable consumption than those who have not gardened. The study also showed that students who currently garden have higher fruit and vegetable consumption than those who do not. The research supports the efficacy of childhood gardening programs and increases the need for more gardening interventions across the lifespan.
Home Gardening Leads to Happiness
Another benefit of home gardening is that it can reduce stress levels and boost positive feelings. A study published in Preventative Medicine Reports examined 22 case studies in a meta-analysis which compared the health outcomes of those who garden and those who do not. The results showed a decrease in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, and an increase in life satisfaction, quality of life, and sense of community. These benefits show that gardening can improve mental health, too.
It makes sense, as gardening provides more access to ripe, delicious, nutritious fruits and vegetables, and it makes these foods more desirable. Who doesn’t want to enjoy the fruits of their labor (literally) when it comes in the form of a perfectly ripe heirloom tomato, or crisp radish fresh from the soil? And it also shouldn’t be a surprise that spending time in the fresh air with your hands in the soil might be good for your mental health, too. So, go ahead and get dirty! Even if you have a small garden area, replace some of your decorative trees, shrubs, and plants with edible plants, such as fruit trees, berry vines, and tomato plants. You can also try a small container garden on your balcony or front door step. Check out the USDA Home Gardening site for information on getting started in your own patch of soil. And download my free home gardening toolkit to get started too.
3 Tips for How to Grow Food at Home
Learn how to grow carrots and much more!
- Start Small. Even if you have a large space, it’s smart to start in a container, on a windowsill, or in a small section of space as you’re learning the ins and outs of planting, soil, and watering.
- Plan What to Plant. Grow what you love. Your favorites will bring the most joy and satisfaction. Be sure to ask your local farmer, garden center, or neighbors which varieties grow best in your area.
- Size Up Your Sun. Where does your space get the most sun exposure? Full sun is ideal, but many herbs and vegetables grow well in part shade.
3 Tips for What to do With Home Grown Food
Put that home-grown produce to good use.
- Toss Your Produce Into a Homemade Salad. Taking your fresh vegetables straight from the garden, washing, chopping, and topping them with a dressing is an easy and delicious way to enjoy your home grown food.
- Can Your Extra Veggies. If you have too many vegetables that will go bad before you eat them, canning them is a great way to lock in the nutrients while being sustainable by reducing food waste and lengthening its shelf life.
- Throw Your Vegetables Into a Soup or Stew. Soups and stews are great ways to use up a lot of vegetables in one recipe. Chop them up and throw them into a pot and enjoy your home grown delicious produce.
There are so many unique, fun, and easy ways to start your own garden and with a multitude of health benefits, why wouldn’t you want to start growing your own food? A container vegetable garden can be a great way to dip your toes into gardening with limited space and resources. Once you’ve got the basics, you can scale your garden to create your own climate-friendly Victory Garden to do your part in protecting the planet! So, what’s stopping you? Go out and create your own home garden and start reaping the benefits of delicious produce in the convenience of your home!
Learn more about sustainable living here:
Written by Ashley Teltow, dietetic intern with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN
Photos: Sharon Palmer
Loso J, Staub D, Colby S, et al. Childhood and Current Gardening Is Associated with Increased Fruit and Vegetable Intake among College-Aged Students Participating in the Get Fruved Study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016;116(9):A13. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2016.06.029.
Soga M, Gaston KJ, Yamaura Y. Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Prev Med Rep. 2016;5:92-99. Published 2016 Nov 14. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.007.