University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
WHY GROW VEGETABLES?
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension
University of Vermont
If you already grow some vegetables,
or buy fresh local ones, you know the much- improved flavor over ones
from afar. In addition to better flavor,
some of the reasons gardeners cite for growing their own vegetables
better health, food safety, saving money, helping the environment, and
better quality of life.
Changes continue to be made in both
varieties of vegetables and their post-harvest handling, resulting in
flavors than in older varieties and past years.
Yet if you've tasted fresh produce compared to that in stores or
you don't need research to tell you the difference in flavor.
Nutritional quality of vegetables is generally
higher as well when freshly harvested.
By growing your own vegetables you
may end up eating more, which is good for the health of most.
continues to show that those who eat
more fruits and vegetables are less likely to have chronic diseases
strokes and cancers. You can get
vitamins and minerals from supplements, but produce contains other
compounds (such as anti-oxidants to help prevent cancers) as well that
protect you from chronic disease.
Research shows too that most don't eat enough of these each day.
is a fun and quick calculator online
from the government to figure what is best for you
You don't have to think too far back
to recall food safety scares, such as those on peppers and
spinach. You may not realize that
pesticide residues remain on some crops you buy in stores, some more
others. These have been ranked from tens
of thousands of USDA and FDA studies between 2000 and 2007. By
avoiding the top 12 on this list, the
"Dirty Dozen", an estimate is that you can reduce your exposure to
pesticides on food by 80 percent. Those
vegetables on this list you may want to grow yourself (or buy locally
organically) include bell peppers, celery, potatoes and spinach.
the way, fruits on this list are apples,
cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, red raspberries,
So how much money can you save
growing your own vegetables? Some
calculations by the National Gardening Association in 2009
showed that a general, national estimate was
investing $70 in seeds and supplies you could grow 350 pounds of
worth about $600. So you would save, for
an average 600 square foot garden, over $500.
Of course this figure may vary up or down depending on your own area,
season, vegetables grown, and other variables.
Growing your own vegetables helps
the environment in at least a couple of ways. Non-local but domestic
buy in stores travels an average 1500 miles or more
Produce from other countries obviously
travels even farther. This shipping and
transport burns fossil fuels, which produces greenhouse gases that
global warming. So buying local, or
growing your own produce, reduces these effects.
Another environmental benefit from
your own production is the ability to produce relatively small amounts,
little or no pesticides and synthetic chemicals. Farms, even
ones, often use these with
some ending up staying in soils or washing into waterways. Even organic
often use plastics and fossil fuels for tractors, items you can avoid
small home garden. If you can't produce some or all the vegetables
at least buying local and
will have better environmental and economic impacts.
In addition to the tangible benefits
of growing your own vegetables and fruits is the intangible benefit of
quality of life. If you garden you know
its stress-relieving qualities and health benefits from exercise.
There is the taste pleasure of sampling the
fruits of your labor, fresh off the plant, as you work. There is
visual pleasure of a well-laid
out and maintained garden. In a chaotic
world where you may not have much control over events, a garden and
can provide you that sense of order (as long as you don't get too large
quick, with your garden out of control).
If your garden isn't at home or on
your own property, it may be at one of the over a million community
across the country. If you'd like to
start gardening, and need such a space, you can likely find one from
gardens lack the convenience of being on your property, if you don't
space they make gardening possible. They
allow interaction with other gardeners, including swapping of seeds to
to knowledge. Such gardens may be part
of larger beautification and development projects, and in cities often
in a reduction in crime.
Convinced to start a vegetable
garden yet? Even if you already have
one, you should benefit from information at local garden stores, some
many books, and websites including those of state Extension
Watch your local newspaper, too, for
gardening events such as classes and workshops.