Growing your own healthy produce: The ins and outs of composting and organic gardening
Adding organic gardening and composting to your list of things to do for the week might seem a little overwhelming.
How was it that everyone used to have their own front yard ‘victory garden’ during World War II and juggle jobs, kids and everything else? The short answer is that they had no other choice because of food rationing. The long answer is that once you incorporate organic gardening and composting into your life, the benefit of growing your own healthy produce can become just like any other household routine.
In addition to giving you more control of what you put in your mouth, growing your own healthy organic produce can save you the hassle of having to commute back and forth to the grocery store.
Maybe you are lucky enough to live near a local farmer’s market where you can buy organic local produce and have the cash to spend. To really make sure the food you are getting is organic you might need to take a trip out to the farm and take a tour to see how they operate.
Another consideration is having to drive there and wait for a parking spot. Did you know that one of the biggest generators of car pollution is parking lots?
The other drawback is that farmer’s markets tend to occur just one or two days out of the week. What if you get a sudden craving to make pasta and did not think ahead of time to get the basil?
Imagine having your own organic herb garden just outside your door that you can snip fresh basil from any time you want. Growing your own produce is not only healthier for you, but it also costs cents on the dollar in comparison to purchasing it from a third party and has a significantly smaller footprint on the environment.
It is estimated that one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are related to food production. These studies do not include personal driving emissions on the consumer end.
Picking that basil directly from your own garden for that amazing pasta sauce will save time commuting and can dramatically cut down on your personal carbon footprint.
In addition, you will save money on gas as well as the cost of the basil, and believe us, those saved dollars can really add up. Most products in supermarkets travel hundreds or thousands of miles, emitting carbon dioxide and monoxide into the atmosphere just to get to your grocery bag, and by the time they do, most of the nutrients have already oxidized.
If you plant your own organic healthy produce right in your yard you can skip the congested parking lots and be in complete control of what you are putting in your body and how fresh it is.
Organic gardening and your family’s health
Children who eat organic produce score higher on IQ tests than children who eat food grown from pesticides.
According to studies, prenatal and early childhood pesticide consumption can affect children’s intelligence test scores at the age of seven by up to 7-points. Most of the produce that we eat is covered in organophosphates, which is the pesticide associated with lowered intelligence in children.
Some studies suggest that consumers who eat organic produce are less likely to have health issues, be obese, and might be less at risk of developing allergies. Residues left on fruits and vegetables are the main source of human pesticide exposure.
Organic dairy and meat products tend to be higher in those essential omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies need.
The health benefits of consuming organic produce are increasingly clear, but the quality of organic produce available on the market is not.
Organic farming, whether small or large-scale significantly reduces the amount of nitrogen used worldwide. Watersheds and soils are guaranteed to be healthier with the reduction of food grown with inorganic fertilizers and pesticides.
However, not all commercial organic practices are good for your produce, the environment, or your body.
Let’s take an apple as an example. Imagine purchasing an organic apple from the store. This apple was produced on a farm that needs to create the highest yield of apples per tree to maximize profits and compete in the market. The problem is that apple farms are prone to fungus issues. Copper sulfate is heavily applied to commercially grown organic fruit to combat fungus. A little copper sulfate is okay. Too much copper sulfate can damage skin, negatively affect your digestive tract and irritate the respiratory tract.
When excess copper sulfate runs into rivers and streams it can harm freshwater fish and invertebrates.
Copper sulfate is bio-accumulative, which means that it builds up in the soil and in your body. The European Commission has been regulating copper sulfate use in organic farming and trying to introduce substitutes for large-scale organic food production. There is a serious concern over the long-term environmental and health impacts of extensive use of copper sulfate in commercial organic farming.
Growing your own organic produce gives you more control
When produce is grown in a garden at home, there tends to be a variety of items that are grown together. Plant diversity reduces the need for the heavy application of organically approved products to deal with fungus and disease. Growing a variety of vegetables and fruits are key to pest and disease control, as is the health of your soil.
Soil that is poor in microorganisms and beneficial bacteria create plants that are susceptible to pests and disease. This can be easily controlled with a home garden because you have the added benefit of being able to produce compost from your kitchen waste, which can be used to amend your soil.
Making your own compost cuts down on costs, provides a beneficial path for food scraps that would otherwise be treated like garbage, and will turn your soil into gold; at least, it will feel that way when you dig up those delicious potatoes for your summer salad.
Growing organic produce and making your own compost is not only the best option for your health and the environment, but it is also the easiest way to afford organic food.
The cost of organic food can be up to 68% higher than the cost of conventionally grown food. This makes buying organic food nearly impossible for many.
The initial investment of time and energy needed to grow organic produce and compost at home can be significant. However, once you get a good gardening system in place, the amount of time spent per day can be less than 20 minutes. With a little effort, you can be growing pricy organic herbs for next to nothing, cherry tomatoes that will put expensive organic tomatoes from the store to shame, and lettuce that does not have to sit wilting in your fridge.
Once you start to grow your own healthy organic produce, you will be able to taste and feel the difference as well as generate some significant savings.
To get the most from growing produce at home, a kitchen composting system is essential.
You should not have to stress about spending everything you earn to buy fresh and healthy produce. It is time to make produce shopping a thing of the past and victory gardens a thing of the present.
Lynette Garet is a bilingual freelance writer. A U.S. ex-pat living in Costa Rica with her wife Silvia, when not busy with writing projects, she can be found hanging with her favorite “stinky boys” (the Grand-Littles), tending to her garden, cooking, reading, enjoying good wine, and dancing in the kitchen to music from a limitless list of genres.