It’s that time of year. As spring begins its lean into early summer, more thoughts are turning to getting outdoors and back into the home garden. Whether you’re an old hand at being a green thumb or are just starting to dig gardening, there are many benefits to taking the time to tend to the earth. Here are five home gardening facts to consider as May begins.
Starting in World War I and revitalized in World War II, the U.S. government encouraged citizens to contribute to the war effort by planting, fertilizing, harvesting and storing fruits and vegetables so mass-production farms could dedicate more food resources to supporting allies. Known as “victory gardens,” the government created the National War Garden Commission to help spread the word and provide information on how citizens could help. The federal Bureau of Education even initiated the U.S. School Garden Army to mobilize children as “soldiers in the soil.” The implementation of food rationing in WWII even further incentivized the idea of home gardening.
It Saves Money
There are a wide range of reasons to get into home gardening. It’s good exercise, it gets you outdoors, it can be mentally stimulating, and it gives you a safe and healthy food source. Yet another popular reason people opt into a home garden is the cost savings. Even a small garden can bring significant savings on the grocery bill. Citing a study from the National Gardening Association, The Penny Hoarder noted that the average American garden generates an estimated 300 pounds of fresh produce worth about $600 at the grocery store. Minus the average initial investment of $70 by the gardener, that’s $530 right back into your pocketbook. Cha-ching!
The Right Space
Deciding how much yard space your home garden consumes really comes down to a matter of ambition. Go too small and you may be disappointed in the yield. Leaning toward a larger space may result in being overwhelmed in the workload of upkeep. For beginners, many sites suggest about 100 square feet for an individual, which would be a 10-by-10-foot plot. Best Pick Reports doubles that with a suggestion of 200 square feet per person that you’re looking to feed. For a family of four, that would amount to an 800-square-foot area, or a 20-by-40-foot plot.
It should be no surprise that when it comes to the most popular homegrown crop, the tomato is the king of the hill. According to the National Gardening Association, 86% of homeowners with food gardens plant tomatoes — and the primary reason they do it is for the superior taste. With so many different varieties of tomatoes to choose from, you could fill an entire garden with them and not repeat yourself once. The remaining top crops in the top five round out the fixings for a perfect salad: cucumbers, sweet peppers, beans and carrots. All you need now is that elusive Italian dressing plant.
Tomatoes also make the list of high-value crops, meaning they don’t require a significant initial investment and produce a high yield. You can harvest several pounds of fruit from a single plant, and their vertical growth takes up a small footprint. However, they do require more intense maintenance as far as feeding and watering. For high-yield, low-maintenance crops, GrowVeg suggests planting rhubarb or herbs. Rhubarb comes back year after year, and herbs can be expensive to purchase fresh in the store and don’t have a long shelf life.