There is little doubt about the benefits of growing your own fruit and vegetables. It means little to no pesticides, savings at the checkout, an excuse to do physical exercise and a great life lesson for children. But many people are deterred from setting up their own patch for aesthetic reasons. And for others, it all seems too hard. But with the right planning and know-how, they can be a gourmet gem.
The Healthy Eating Pyramid prescribes five serves of vegetables or legumes and two serves of fruit every day, and there is no doubting the physical benefits of eating healthily. Planting your own produce means you know exactly how it has been grown; you control the soil quality, the use of pesticides and the maturity at which it is picked. In a society that is increasingly exposed to chemicals and shortcuts, it is refreshing and reassuring to know that your produce was grown the old-fashioned way.
Children love getting their hands dirty, so why not put that affection to good use and get them busy in the garden? For a generation that has been raised in front of screens, gardening provides a great opportunity to change pace and learn new skills. Children are also more likely to eat fresh produce when they had a hand in planting, nurturing and harvesting it, so it makes meal times more relaxing for the entire family.
Growing your own produce means it has less distance to travel and is therefore fresher, more nutritious and better for the environment. Having it to hand also makes you more likely to consume more fresh produce (possibly in lieu of meat) which also reaps both physical and environmental benefits. What’s more, the physical effort of sowing, nurturing and harvesting is excellent exercise, extending the physical profits even further.
Having a fruit and vegetable garden means getting back in touch with the seasons. Once upon a time, watermelons were only available in summer and zucchinis could only be found in summer/autumn. Now, we are spoilt with everything all year round and have lost the knowledge of what grows and when. By eating seasonally, each type of produce has its own chance to shine and be enjoyed during its natural season. It means it is at its prime and can be savoured at its absolute best. Who wants to eat floury sub-par watermelon in the chilly winter months when it can be refreshingly relished in the heat of summer?
There are some perceived negatives of a growing a vegie patch that can be easily remedied. Many people are concerned about an ugly garden overtaking their yard, but the humble vegetable patch has come a long way from the chicken wire calamities that they once were. There are a range of options to suit gardens of every size, budget and design, and it can be as simple as visiting your local hardware store to check them out.
For others, uncertainty can dissolve any green-thumbed aspirations before they have even begun. The tip is to start small and build from there. Begin with a couple of varieties that are simpler to manage, such as carrots and peas, and as they grow so too will your confidence.
Another concern is time. For busy families it already seems there isn’t enough of it in the day, so it may sound like folly to add yet another item to the to-do list. If that’s the case, begin with something less demanding so the required nurturing time is relative, and once it is established children can be made responsible for watering, mulching and weeding. After a while, your veggie patch will end up saving you time by eliminating trips to the greengrocer.
Finally, there are only so many tomatoes one family can eat before they over-ripen and go off. In that case, learn what can be frozen and stored accordingly. Alternatively, swap fresh produce with friends and neighbours to get maximum variety with minimal effort. Or give them away to family and co-workers – people are always happy to receive free, homegrown, organic produce!
Your garden at your Catherine Park Estate home is your private green sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the world. With some planning and organisation, you can make it a place for relaxation, harvest, entertainment and respite.