Thursday, March 27, 2014

All About Growing and Enjoying Your Fruits and Vegetables

Spring is here at last! It has been a tough winter for some of us, but spring ushers in sunshine and warmth. One of the great benefits of this time of year is the increased variety of fruits and vegetables in season. Not only can you find more produce in grocery stores, but it is also a great time to start planting your own.

There are many benefits to growing your own fruits and vegetables, such as:

     Fresher Produce. It can take several weeks for produce to arrive from the farm to the grocery store, and then to your table. Every day that passes after that fruit or vegetable is picked, it loses some of its freshness and nutrients. Picking fruits and vegetables from your own garden ensures you are enjoying them when they are most fresh and flavorful.

     You know exactly what you are eating. It is hard to know exactly where our grocery store produce comes from and how it was produced. Concerns about pesticide-use or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are eliminated when you are growing the produce yourself.

     Kids will be more inclined to eat fruits and vegetables. Kids gain a sense of accomplishment and excitement when they participate in growing the food they eat. They will be more interested in eating a food, if they were involved in its creation.

     It can help to decrease stress. Gardening can be a relaxing hobby that helps you de-stress after a long day. Being outdoors and focusing on the simple task of gardening is a great break from work deadlines, family responsibilities, etc.

     “Get More Satisfaction!” When you put time and energy into something, then see the results, you feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The same applies for planting and growing your own fruit and vegetable garden.

Now that you are excited about having your own garden, where do you begin? It can be broken down into 3 important steps: Plan, Prepare, and Plant.

1. Plan: You need to consider what will grow well in your location and what space is available. For example, if you live in an apartment and the only outdoor space you have is a balcony, then planting squash or peas may not work since they need room to spread. Tomatoes and green peppers, on the other hand, do not require much space and would grow just fine on a balcony or patio. It is also important to consider where you plant certain fruits or vegetables, as some require more shade or more sunshine than others.

2. Prepare: Whether you will be planting seeds in a pot or in the ground, it is essential to prepare the soil. You do this by loosening the soil (with a rake or a shovel) and dampening it. You then apply organic material (such as manure) and mix it in with the soil.

3. Plant: Now you are ready to plant your seeds! Typically you plant the seeds just beneath the surface of the soil.  Although, some seeds may have specific instructions for how deep and far apart they should be placed. 

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