6 min read

Grow your own food - Why I do and why you should too

Basket of fresh vegetables.
Photo by Nina Luong / Unsplash

Food production is an important process and being involved in it teaches you new skills and builds an understanding of what actually goes into it. I grow my own food because I enjoy the mix of activities that come along with it.

The best reason I have for growing my own vegetables is the eating and sharing part, as I get a lot of pride and enjoyment cooking with all the food I've grown and letting my friends and family have some as well.

I also like coming up with a garden plan - yes, I make spread sheets and actually enjoy that. I get to do some sketching too, to plan out how I want to layout my garden beds and where to put my plants and I take a lot of satisfaction from the physical work as well - the work prepping garden beds for planting, building them in the first place and harvesting my produce.

Here's a few more reasons why I grow my own food and why you should too.

Save money

Last month, the price of food in Canada increased almost 7% from the year before - meanwhile the seed packs that arrived in the mail for me this week were the same price as I paid last year.

Maybe that seed pack price will increase eventually, but even then the 5$ I spent on my Shishito peppers gets me 10 seedlings which will produce way more peppers than you could buy for $5 - if you could even find some to buy. I don't have too much faith that the economic forces that be will be working to decrease the price of food anytime soon either.

Freshly grilled Shishito Peppers sprinkled with sea salt
Shishito peppers - When's the last time you saw these at the grocery store? Photo by Joshua Brown / Unsplash

The quality of produce you can grow for yourself should also be considered when thinking about costs. You're growing a more valuable crop than what you'd buy in the grocery store and you'd likely have a hard time finding something similar for sale. Fresh lettuce you harvest minutes before you eat is so nutrient dense and tasty compared with lettuce shipped from miles away. You also know for certain what went into that lettuce and can avoid any kind of harmful chemicals.

Oh, but what about the other costs? You can definitely spend as much as you want, as there are all kinds of products marketed at gardeners, but keep things simple and you'll save money. Try to reuse materials and be creative in how you set up your garden. You only need a few basic tools to get started and if you invest in quality they should last you a long time, if not your whole life.

If lack of land to garden is your issue, there are lots of low cost or free options around. Ask a neighbor, friend or family member if they have some space you could use, or check out yard share programs (like Yard Share YEG if you happen to be in Edmonton) or community gardens.

If anything, think about all the gas money you'll save when you can walk out to the garden instead of driving to the grocery store to grab the ingredients for your salad.


The vegetables you eat fresh from the garden are sure to be tastier than the ones that are shipped from wherever. Choosing seeds or seedlings also gives you the opportunity to grow more varieties of vegetables - kinds that you wouldn't find in your average grocery store.

The other advantage you have with growing your own vegetables is you get to harvest them at the peak of their ripeness, when they're at their sweetest or most flavorful.

Herbs too! Plant and pick them as you need. You'll have a steady supply on hand whenever you need to take your cooking to the next level.

These pictures are part of a set of photos that were taken towards the end of the summer to realize one of my projects that was close to my heart: making a calendar for the coming year. Because I like to admire the colour and textures, vegetables are an excellent choice because they can offer a whole show for the eyes all year round!  Visit my website to find out !
Grow a diversity of food not easily found in the store. Photo by Nadine Primeau / Unsplash

Control what goes into your food

Do you know what the regulations on spraying pesticide and herbicide are in Mexico? Peru? California? Do you trust that they were followed 100% of the time? Do you trust that the regulations are created with your heath actually in mind?

Vegetables grown here and abroad are hard to trace for the average consumer and you can never really know how they've been handled, unless you happen to know a farmer you trust and can buy directly from.

That uncertainty is why I appreciate homegrown food, because I know exactly what has gone into my garden. Growing your own food gives you an opportunity to be pesticide and herbicide free and focus on organic methods.

Improve your health

Along with less exposure to pesticides and herbicides, gardening can improve your health in other ways! Having easy access to fresh vegetables means you're more likely to eat them and the freshness means they'll have more nutrition compared with vegetables shipped a long distance that have spent a long time in refrigeration.

Gardening is also an opportunity to be physically active outdoors and get some fresh air and sunshine. Noodling around the garden is also great for your mental health, as it gives you some time to slow down, spend some time in nature and really notice the things around you.

Beautify your space, protect your environment and create habitat for insects, birds and animals

When's the last time you saw a butterfly? Hopefully recently, but it wouldn't surprise me if you hadn't seen one in a while. Plant some flowers for those guys would ya?

Flowers also look nice, smell good and provide a much needed break from stretches of empty green/yellow lawn. The flowers you plant alongside your food crops will bring in pollinators and have the positive effect of increasing vegetable yields, as those same pollinators visit crop plants as well. Some, like nasturtiums and corn flowers are edible as well!

Mixed flowers beside vegetable plot.
Zinnias, sunflowers, nasturtiums and corn flowers are all good picks for mixing in with your vegetables.

Adding nutrients and biomass to your garden beds helps build soil. Healthy, intact soil actually stores carbon dioxide from the atmosphere helping with climate change. It also creates an environment for bacteria and fungi, as well as bigger organisms like earthworms and insects to thrive. Healthy soil is a complex network of life, as it's estimated that 1 gram of soil can contain up to 10 billion organisms! Healthy soil leads to healthier plants, which will in turn attracts other organisms to the garden as you start to develop a tiny ecosystem.

Growing your own food also is one of the best ways you can help with climate change as it reduces your reliance on vegetables that have to be transported from far away, that are produced in an unsustainable way and have high CO2 emissions attached to them.

It doesn't have to be difficult

Don't rush into it, try growing a few different things and learn gradually as you go. I found that the more I learned and tried things, the more interested and motivated I was to continue. Start with whatever small space you can find and go from there. You'll be surprised how much you can grow in a limited area.

Sometimes when people think of gardening they imagine the time they've spent bent over hand weeding or running a rototiller every spring, but it doesn't have to be that way! Look into no dig methods of gardening and get yourself a good weeder with a long handle to save your knees and back (I recommend a stirrup ho and a wire weeder with heads that you can swap).

Another easy way to garden is using the square foot gardening method (see my book summary for All New Square Foot Gardening). Build raised beds to suit your space and how much gardening you want to do, fill with a light, fertile potting mix and then grow what you want, dividing up the space into square foot sections.

Given the uncertainty that exists in the world at the moment, growing your own food seems as important than ever. If you can, find some space and get out and garden this year. I find growing your own food to be one of the most satisfying things I do and look forward to getting out in the garden each spring.

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