With today’s tight economy, everyone is looking for ways to cut expenses. Starting a garden has the potential to reduce the amount of money spent on groceries and has plenty of benefits for your diet too.
It is much healthier to grow your own food, says Sandton rooftop farmer Zandile Kumalo. You are fully aware of what has gone into the product and know what you are eating.
“When you harvest fruit and vegetables straight from your garden you can get access to the healthiest produce, rather than buying from a grocer where they have gone through all the loops of the value chain,” Kumalo says.
For Mzansi to be healthier, she believes: “We need to start bringing food closer to people and we need to start bringing nutrition closer to people.”
Still, many are intimidated by the task of growing their own food but with any money saving hack, the rewards outweigh the risks, says SEED lead facilitator, Stephanie Mullins.
Healthy mind and body
Mullins also notes the spiritual and mental health benefits. “Everyone I know who works in the garden, says that it is a really therapeutic to tend to a garden and grow from either seed to plant or to plant seedlings to harvesting.”
Apart from saving pennies on the freshest and most nutritious produce, growing your own food also unlocks many benefits for soil health.
Soil is alive and essential for the functioning of ecosystems. Plant a seed and you are providing soil with enough nutrients to grow more plants, says Mullins.
So, what can you grow?
Go-to produce are leafy greens, herbs, root vegetables and fruiting vegetables if you are looking for money saving, easy, foolproof gardening, says Mullins.
Leafy greens like spinach can produce a steady supply of leaves for months on end making them the most hard-working greens in your garden.
Sourcing field-fresh greens with no wilts is not easy, but with homegrown greens you will have a fresh supply of leaves to twist off and enjoy steamed, stewed or blended into a morning smoothie.
No need to break the bank for herbs that don’t travel well when you grow your own supply. Leafy herbs like parsley and coriander take little space and grow in abundance.
Mullins adds that some herbs like lavender are great for attracting pollinators to your garden. And who doesn’t love a beef stew with a hint of rosemary?
Root veggies are easy to grow. Radishes and carrots are the easiest veggies of them all. “It is really a question of where you are, what your climate is and what you can grow in that space. If we are also looking at affordability in terms of growing, it might be worth saving seeds from your groceries.
“You can grow onions from the onions you gave bought from the shop, potatoes, celery – look at what you already have so you don’t go out and buy (seeds),” Mullins explains.
Fruiting veggies that climb or grow vertically will produce a lot from a relatively small area. Tomatoes and cucumbers fit into this category, promising heavy harvests of flavoursome fruits from just a few plants.
Mullins advises you give them the sunniest spot you can find and feed plants regularly to boost both yield and taste. Pick varieties suited to your climate and be prepared to keep plants well-watered in hot weather.
“Whatever you are planting, the chances are that your nutrient value would be much higher than something you have bought in a shop. Purely because it is harvested, stored and transported – within that process some of the nutrients get lost.”
Freshly harvested and consumed food also requires no preservatives, she points out.