The Telegraph reported that "26% [of residents in Britain] are growing their own fruit and vegetables" . One-quarter of British populations now choose gardening at home in order to improve their quality of life during difficult times. As a result, this has helped many UK residents to considerably reduce their grocery bills. Cuba is another example. In the 1990s, desperate economic circumstances forced Cubans to adopt local, urban, organic farming practices . As of 2008, at least 1/3 of the land in their country is used to organically grow produce [3, 4]. As a result, Cuba leads the world in organic agriculture. Also, most Cubans ride bicycles. We can follow these examples in our own homes. Growing food has many benefits. It can save each family a lot of money. It reduces our carbon footprint and overall energy expenditure. It helps us to combat the world food crisis. It benefits health and well-being. It can help wildlife. By increasing food sources, it can also save lives.
Growing food at home saves money.
We face ever-larger economic struggle around the world today. States and even nations are filing bankruptcy. Many families have lost their homes. Even more have lost their jobs. Gas prices shift up and down. More people will likely lose their jobs or homes. Nearly every family is affected. The world food crisis is growing. Also, increasing storm activity from global warming increases food prices even more . These storms are predicted to escalate as global warming advances. All of these factors can increase our cost-of-living as well as the cost of food.
One money-saving solution is to grow food at home (and buy from local farmers). Seeds can be purchased online or in nurseries and gardening centers. Often, also, local farmers may sell seeds. A package of seeds can grow quite a few plants. The cost is a couple of dollars plus water, sun, minerals (good soil) and some tender-loving care. If you prefer, you can also buy pre-sprouted plants for several dollars.
Let us look at one example: broccoli. Fifteen broccoli plants can bear at least twenty to thirty heads of broccoli. Once the main head is harvested, new florets will grow. Simply cut off the flowers so the plant does not harden and go to seed. For a few months, these plants will provide your entire family and also even a neighbor or friend with plenty of broccoli. Broccoli leaves, also, make delicious salad greens. They can be juiced with apple, ginger, and/or other greens to make a delicious drink.
Another way to save money is to save your own seeds. When you eat fruits or vegetables, simply pull out the seeds, save them, and sprout them. Nearly everything will grow. Avocadoes, papayas, starfruits, and many others do very well when sprouted from home.
We face global food, energy, weather, biological, and peace challenges today.
Earth faces a number of growing crises today. These include population explosion, peak oil, world food shortages, rising economic instability, steadily-increasing unemployment, global warming, global dimming, and mass extinction, among others. Nearly every family has been affected by one or many of these issues. Some experts even predict a 49% chance that our whole civilization may collapse [6, 7]. In light of these predictions, growing your own food makes more and more sense.
When you grow produce or buy from local farmers, you drive less. Also, you do not support long-distance hauling of food items. The current average distance that food travels after harvest is 1500 miles . In some cases it is much further. When you grow food yourself, also, you do not use new plastic bags. Each year, over 500 billion plastic bags are produced in the world . These bags will not decay for over 1,000 years in many cases. Each year, at least 100,000 mammals and birds die from these plastic bags . This includes even whales. Last year, an alligator was found dead with 25 plastic bags in its stomach.
Also, if you grow or buy organic produce, then you are not supporting the petroleum and pesticide industries. Most fertilizers and pesticides are made from petroleum products . All of these aspects reduce your own carbon footprint. This in turn helps with global warming.
When you grow food at home, also, you increase the amount of food in the world. It may seem trivial upon first glance, but consider the numbers. If even 5% of the U.S. population grew some food, then 15.3 million more people would be adding food to the world supply .
Each time you feed a neighbor or friend, you are helping to decrease world hunger. Each time you buy local or grow your own food, also, you decrease world hunger and save precious resources.
Improve the beauty and quality of life within your own yard.
A yard filled with fruit and nut trees, vegetables, flowers, and other plants is far more beautiful to behold than a bare lawn. Also, leaves protect soil and prevent the sun from leaching out nutrients or water. Shrubs, trees, and plants protect small animals and beneficial insects. The plants also help to hold in moisture, preventing drought and loss of minerals. This will reduce your need to water or maintain your lawn.
If you protect birds, bees, and bats, then these animals will also aid your garden. Bees love flowers, so plant many flowers. Birds benefit from feeders filled with organic birdseeds. They will eat certain insects that desire to eat your vegetable leaves (for example: caterpillars). Also, bats eat mosquitoes and other insects. To protect bats, build a bat house and hang it 15-20 feet high on a nearby tree or in the middle of a field .
Nature is designed so perfectly to maintain and protect itself. The concept of the modern "lawn" needs to be abandoned out of compassion for Earth and wellness in general. The modern lawn is extremely harmful to the Earth and its inhabitants. Earth is naturally dense, diverse, beautiful and filled with many forms of life that maintain and protect each other. The lawn, on the other hand, represents the absolute loss of soil health, minerals in the soil, beneficial insects in soil and air, land mammals, plant diversity, and so on. It is essentially a deserted, poisoned wasteland that has been stripped of life.
Please choose the diverse beauty of gardens, trees, shrubs, and flowers over a lawn.
Where can I grow plants?
Plants are very easy to grow, and many can be grown in a pot by a window or with a grow light inside your home. Outdoor gardening options are also very diverse and can be fun to explore. You can grow food in any container, even a small cup. Also, you can grow plants in raised beds outside, in an old bathtub, in hanging baskets, used bottles, or in any container that will hold the plant in place.
What is best to grow?
Gardening varies widely according to weather patterns, seasons, and geographical region. There are certain crops, in general, that tend to be the easiest to grow. These include:
* salad greens (lettuces, arugula, swiss chard, collard greens, spinach)
* nightshade vegetables (squashes, peppers, tomatoes),
* root vegetables (radishes, potatoes)
* cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts)
* fruits and nuts,
* herbs (parsley, basil, thai basil, oregano, rosemary)
* berries (strawberries and blueberries)
* green beans
How do I grow food?
To grow food, simply drop one or two seeds into a dixie cup half filled with peat or seed-starting soil. While the seeds sprout, it is best to keep them indoors in warm, controllable conditions. Water them only every few days. The idea is to keep them moist but not fully wet. Baby sprouts could damp off if they are watered too much. This means basically that they could bend over and die from root-rot. If desired, keep a grow light on them. When they are a few weeks old, begin to acclimate them to the outdoors. After a week of increasing their exposure to sun and wind, then plant them in a pot or in a raised bed outdoors. From here, give them periodic water, sunshine, and natural compost to enrich their nutrients.
"What if I do not have a green thumb?"
If you have no desire to grow food or you lack a green thumb, then you can still help. Eat food from your neighbor`s garden and buy your food from local farms and community gardens.
Where can I learn more?
Nearly every state has a Master Gardener`s program . These offer free information on organic gardening that is specially-suited to your region. They consist mostly of volunteers who love gardening and farming, and they are happy to help. Also, local farmers and CSA`s (Community Supported Agriculture) often can provide you with helpful tips as well as their favorite books. Evening classes, weekend workshops at farms, and college courses also help. Some recommended books to get you started include:
American Horticultural Society, and Alan R. Toogood. Plant Propagation. New York: DK Pub, 1999.
Flowerdew, Bob. The No Work Garden: Getting the Most Out of Your Garden for the Least Amount of Work. London: Kyle Cathie, 2004.
Hamilton, Geoff. Organic Gardening. RD home handbooks. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader`s Digest Association, 1992.
"Earth laughs in flowers." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
2. An excellent documentary film that I highly recommend is The Power Of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil http://www.powerofcommunity.org
5. One of many examples: Emanuel, Kerry. "Increasing Destructiveness of Tropical Cyclones over the Past 30 years." Nature. Volume 1436, 4 August 2005, pages 686-688.
10. See, for example: http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/pubs/nwl/2001/2001-1-leoletter/energy.htm
11. This calculation is based on a U.S. estimated population of 306,000,000.
13. For a complete list of Master Gardener programs: http://www.ahs.org/master_gardeners/index.htm
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