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How to Maximize Your Garden Space for Urban Farming

Part of being a city farmer is learning how to maximize your harvest in an urban or suburban backyard where you likely have limited space with which to work.

For homeowners who enjoy outdoor entertaining and using their backyard as an additional living space, it also means learning how to maximize your garden space without allowing your garden to take over your entire yard.

Even in a small backyard, you can include both functional spaces for growing your own food and comfortable outdoor living areas for entertaining guests or enjoying time with your family.

Most urban gardeners do not expect to meet all of their produce needs with their home vegetable garden but would like to grow at least some of their own food in an effort to save money, eat local, lower their environmental impact, or know exactly how their food was grown and what was used to grow it.

With this in mind, it is best to design your landscaping to allow for enough garden space to meet your needs without taking away from your ability to enjoy your backyard with your family or guests.

Of course, gardening is a healthy activity that many people enjoy as a home-based hobby, but having a productive garden does not mean that you cannot partake in other enjoyable outdoor pursuits in your yard as well.

With a bit of creative landscape design, you can turn even a small backyard into a relaxing retreat with a vegetable garden and outdoor living areas, even including things like an outdoor kitchen, a backyard movie theater or a putting green.

The key to accomplishing this is to learn how to maximize each space to get the most out of it without cluttering up your yard or taking away from the overall visual appeal of your landscaping.

So let’s have a look at some easy ways you can maximize your garden space and still have plenty of room for patios, walkways, seating areas and other landscaping features.

How to Maximize Garden Space: Determining Your Priorities

Determining your priorities is one of the most important first steps in designing your backyard landscaping.

How you want to use the space and the number of features you want to include will determine the square footage you can allow for each component in your design.

If outdoor entertaining is one of your top priorities, than more space should be allotted to patio areas, walkways, a built-in barbecue grill or outdoor kitchen, and other features that make your yard more attractive and more comfortable for your family and guests.

Row Garden

If growing your own food is a top priority, then you will want to dedicate more space for installing a garden or planting fruit trees.

Make a list of the features you want in your backyard in order of priority, then use this list to determine how much space you should dedicate to your urban farming area, depending on how important this space is when compared to the other ways you want to use your backyard.

How to Maximize Garden Space: Designing Your Garden Space

Garden design is a key component in maximizing your harvest in a small space.

Here are five design elements to consider when coming up with a plan for your garden area:

1. Include small walkways.

If you will have more than a few rows of fruits and vegetables in your garden, you will need walkways in between your plantings to allow you to easily pick your harvest.

However, the old style of row gardens with a pathway between each row is a waste of space and is not the best design for modern gardens in urban and suburban backyards.

If you are planting your veggies in the ground without the use of raised garden beds, you should be able to fit two, three or even four rows of plants in between your walkways, depending on the size of the plants you are growing.

You should also make your walkways as narrow as possible – just make sure you have plenty of room to comfortably walk down them carrying your gardening implements.

By reducing the number and size of the walkways in your garden, you can free up lots of square footage for more plants.

2. Install raised garden beds.

Raised garden beds are increasingly popular with city farmers and make growing your own food easier and harvesting your food more convenient.

This is a great way to better control the soil in which your plants grow, ensure proper drainage, limit weed growth and make your garden more visually appealing.

If you are dividing your backyard into separate areas for growing food and entertaining guests, raised garden beds can help you make your vegetable garden a more attractive part of your landscaping for your guests to enjoy.

If you have attractive paving stone patios and a beautiful artificial grass lawn that always looks lush and green, the last thing you want is a scraggly vegetable garden taking away from the look of your yard.

Raised garden beds keep your garden organized and visually appealing.

Keep in mind that you can make your garden beds long and narrow to take up less space.

Save space with trellises and pergolas.

3. Add trellises, pergolas and arbors to your raised garden beds.

If you want to make the most of a small vegetable garden, this is going to be where you really want to focus your attention.

Training your plants to grow up instead of out is a type of vertical gardening that saves lots of space and creates more room for planting additional fruits and veggies in your garden.

Ideally, you would start with a raised garden bed, and then install a trellis leading up to a sturdy, pergola-style structure.

This allows you to train your plants to grow up the trellis and to hang planters with more herbs or vegetables from the top structure.

Alternatively, you can install a sturdy arbor that will provide your plants with a place to climb and some space at the top for hanging planters.

Keep in mind that many plants normally allowed to grow along the ground can be trained to grow up a trellis instead.

Any vining plant can be grown this way, including pumpkins, beans, squash, cucumbers and some types of melons.

Keeping your plants off the ground by training them to grow up trellises can also provide you with more attractive produce and plants that produce more fruits and veggies.

The hanging planters can be used to grow herbs, lettuces, strawberries or a variety of other fruits or vegetables.

4. Turn your fence into a vertical garden.

Most homeowners tuck their garden away in a corner of the yard or along a side or back fence as part of their effort to separate it from the rest of their outdoor living spaces.

Because of this, most folks have one or two fences fortuitously positioned alongside their vegetable gardens.

If you really want to maximize your gardening space and get the most out of your harvest, you can use these fences as additional growing space.

Vertical gardening, both indoors and out, is a hot trend right now and allows you to grow more in less space.

One of the easiest ways to transform your fence into a producing vertical garden is to purchase a pre-made growing wall that can be fastened to your fence and may include a watering system.

Another easy way to turn a fence into a growing wall is to attach small planters to it.

You can then fill these planters with soil and plant vegetables or herbs in your space-saving fence garden.

Raised Garden Beds

5. Incorporate your garden into your landscaping.

Sometimes the best way to save space is by spreading things out.

This may seem counterintuitive, but if you have a smaller backyard, it may be better for you to spread your fruits, vegetables and herbs around your yard as part of your overall landscape design.

For example, dwarf fruit trees planted in containers can be an attractive addition to a paving stone patio, and colorful lettuces can add texture and visual appeal to garden borders.

Strawberries or other plants grown in hanging planters can add privacy to seating areas, and vining veggies can be trained to grow up trellises used as privacy screens for outdoor entertaining areas.

You can also add color and texture to your outdoor entertaining areas while also making cooking more convenient by keeping your herbs close at hand in hanging planters or specially designed planters that fit securely over the railing on your deck or patio.

Alternatively, you may want to keep your herb garden indoors on a windowsill to save space in your outdoor garden and keep your herbs even close to where you cook.

Edible landscaping is becoming increasingly popular as more homeowners become interested in growing their own food in suburban and urban backyards.

Don’t be afraid to incorporate edible plants into your landscaping or fill your flowerbeds with edible plants.

If you decide that spreading your food plants around your yard is best for you, make sure you use only natural pest control methods and organic fertilizers for your landscaping needs.

Caging Your Plants

Another easy way to save space in your garden and make more room for additional plantings is to use plant cages to control growth.

Rather than allowing plants to expand outwards and take up several feet of valuable real estate, you can grow them in cages, which will make your garden look a bit less unruly and make room for more plants.

Tomato cages are not just for tomatoes anymore; you can use tomato cages for all sorts of other plants, such as varieties of peppers.

Companion Planting Saves Space

Companion Planting and Succession Planting

Small gardens call for some creative gardening methods in order to maximize your harvest.

Both companion planting and succession planting can help with this.

Companion planting, which is the practice of planting certain herbs or vegetables together to save space and allow them to benefit each other with pest control, soil nutrients, weed control or weather protection.

One traditional example of this is planting corn, beans and squashes together.

In this example, you would plant one squash plant, one bean vine and one corn stalk in a single planting space or mound.

Each of these plants provides benefits to the other while sharing a smaller space to help you more efficiently increase your harvest.

If you would like to explore the idea of companion planting more, this particular combination of corn, beans and squash is known as the three sisters planting method and comes from Native American crop-growing traditions.

Succession planting is another method used by gardeners who want to conserve space and help to ensure a steady supply of fresh produce.

There are different ways to implement successive planting in your garden, but the easiest way to do this is to plant new seeds near the base of mature plants.

The mature plants will help protect the seedlings as they get their start, and then can be cut back to allow the new plants to grow once they have finished producing for the year.

Your Turn…

Growing a vegetable garden in a small space really is not that challenging; it just takes a bit of creativity to determine the best ways to grow your favorite foods in an amount that works for your family.

Patio container gardens, vertical gardens, incorporating edible plants into your landscaping and installing raised garden beds with trellises are four options that can help you grow more in less space.

Do you have a small vegetable garden in your backyard? How do you maximize your harvest? Let us know your best tips and tricks in the comments below!

Photo Credits (in order of appearance): morgueFile, missyredboots; morgueFile, Seemann; morgeFile, beglib; morgueFile, Seemann; morgueFile, LadyheartSee More Inspiration Ideas

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What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens?

Abstract
Home vegetable gardens are often promoted as a way to cut household costs by providing low-cost access to fruits and vegetables. How much can gardeners expect to spend and recoup from their efforts? An analysis of published data suggests that home vegetable gardens are profitable, if the fair market value of garden labor is excluded from calculated costs. On average, home vegetable gardens produce $677 worth of fruits and vegetables, beyond the cost of $238 worth of materials and supplies. Local environmental conditions, gardening practices, and crop choices will influence the actual net value realized by individual gardeners.Keywords:home vegetable gardeningcost of gardeningsavings from gardening


Gail Ann Langellotto
State Coordinator Master Gardener Program
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon
gail.langellotto@oregonstate.edu

Introduction and Need

Vegetable gardens allow families to produce their own food organically. This is a huge benefit for consumers who recognize the benefits of organic foods, but are wary of paying an added cost at the grocery market (Raab & Grobe, 2005). Vegetable gardens may be particularly advantageous for low-income groups, who don’t identify fresh fruits or vegetables as a staple food (Parker, Pinto, Kennedy, Phelps, & Herman, 2007), perhaps because of perceived costs.

Extension professionals have noted resurgent interest in vegetable gardens (Miller & Arnold, 2012), perhaps due to the recent economic recession. In fact, “recession gardens” is the new term for “victory gardens” (Higgins, 2009; Horovitz, 2009). Extension professionals are commonly asked about the costs and benefits of home vegetable gardens. Even though very little data exists on the economic costs versus benefits, Extension home horticulture professionals often recommend vegetable gardens as a way to access fresh, healthy foods at a relatively low cost. However, while I was working on a SNAP-Ed-funded curriculum (“Growing Healthy Kids,” 2013), my Extension colleagues who work with low-income individuals, families, and groups regularly questioned the economic costs and benefits of home vegetable gardens. They asked for more data before we recommend that gardens can be used to supplement the family food budget.

One estimate of the economic value of vegetable gardening found that the average vegetable gardener in Newark, NJ could expect to net $475 worth of produce, with only a $25 investment in their garden (Patel, 1991). However, the costs incurred and the produce harvested from New Jersey gardens were estimated, rather than rigorously tracked.

Solid data on the economic costs and benefits associated with vegetable gardening is needed in order for Extension professionals to confidently promote gardening as a way to supplement the family food budget. I thus searched for references that rigorously detailed the economic costs and benefits of home vegetable gardens.

Methods

I searched the Google and Google Scholar databases, as well as the Journal of ExtensionHortScience, and HortTechnology archives for various combinations of the keywords: home, community, garden, economic, value, cost, yield. I only included those reports that rigorously detailed the economic costs and yield from each garden. Non-peer-reviewed sources were included only if they reported an exhaustive and detailed list of the economic costs and yield from a home garden. I found a total of four journal articles and two blogs, which reported 10 observations of the economic costs and yields for 11 vegetable gardens.

  • Utzinger and Connolly (1978) reported the average costs and benefits across four replicate 150 square foot gardens in Columbus, OH. Hours of labor were tracked. Costs incurred included equipment, seeds, plant starts, pesticides, soil test, land rental, fertilizer, mulch, and water.
  • Stall (1979) reported on a 600 square foot demonstration garden in Homestead, FL. Hours of labor were not tracked. Costs incurred included soil, blocks, hardware, water, stakes, mulch, fertilizer, seeds, and pesticides.
  • Stephens, Carter, and Van Gundy (1980) reported on a 1400 square foot garden in Tallahassee, FL. and a 638 square foot garden in Jacksonville, FL. Hours of labor were tracked. Costs incurred included equipment, seeds, plant starts, fertilizer, pesticides, water, and stakes.
  • Cleveland, Orum, and Ferguson (1985) reported on two vegetable gardens (829 and 624 square feet) in Tucson, AZ. Hours of labor were tracked. Costs incurred included seeds, plant starts, soil amendments, fertilizers, mulch, tools, water, and the cost of hauling compost.
  • Doiron (2009) reported on a 1500 square foot vegetable garden in Scarborough, ME. Hours of labor were not tracked. Costs incurred included seeds, supplies, water, soil test, and compost.
  • Roth (2011) reported on a single 878 square foot vegetable garden in Portland, OR, where costs and harvests were tracked across 3 years (2008, 2009, and 2011). Hours of labor were tracked. Costs incurred included seeds, plant starts, pesticides, fertilizers, potting soil, hoses, compost, mulch, and soil amendments.

Four out of the above six sources are 25 or more years old. Although these references may seem dated, the information that they contain is extremely valuable for my analysis. The gardening tools, supplies, and methods reported in these papers are still used today, although the costs associated with starting and maintain a garden were substantially less than they are today. To correct for this disparity, I adjusted all economic costs and values to current prices (i.e., 2013 value) using an online Consumer Price Index inflation calculator (Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d.). This allowed data to be compared across studies.

Yields were reported as pounds per crop harvested. Authors estimated the dollar value of garden yields, based upon the cost per pound for each crop at a local grocery store. In addition, authors tracked and reported material and supply costs. Although equipment depreciation or land rental costs were included in the costs of maintaining a garden in some studies (Stephens et al., 1980; Utzinger & Connolly, 1978), these costs were excluded from this analysis.

Most authors also reported the number of hours worked in the garden and the fair market labor costs associated with these hours. If no labor rate was quoted, I calculated labor costs using the Federal- or state-mandated minimum wage rate for the year the study was published.

I then calculated the difference between yield and cost to estimate the net value of each garden. The net value of each garden was calculated with and without labor costs. A net value per square foot of garden was also calculated with and without labor costs.

Results

Overall, gardens were profitable if the fair market value of labor used to tend the garden was excluding from the costs (Table 1). Excluding labor costs, gardens yielded an average $678 ± $515 worth of fruits and vegetables, over and above the costs of irrigating the garden, as well as the costs of buying seeds, starts, soil and other materials. When scaled to garden size, the average yield per square foot of garden space was $0.88 ± $0.64. However, when labor costs were included in the cost-benefit analysis, the net value of home vegetable gardens declined to an average of -$81 ± $499 per garden, or -$0.11 ± $0.67 per square foot of garden space. Although the yield and net value across gardens varied quite a bit (note the large standard deviations), costs of materials and supplies were relatively consistent across gardens, at $237 ± $85.

SourceCost Net Value
*Materials and SuppliesHours of Labor*Fair Market Cost of Labor*Value of Yield*Net Value (including Labor Costs)*Net Value (excluding Labor Costs)Net Value / square foot (including Labor Costs)Net Value / square foot (excluding Labor Costs)
Utzinger & Connolly, 1978$11539$149$322$58$208$0.39$1.39
Stall, 1979$306NRNR$1585NA$1279NA$2.13
Stephens et al., 1980$16223$201$1082$720$921$0.51$0.66
Stephens et al., 1980$20068$594$1172$379$973$0.59$1.53
Cleveland et al., 1985$187153$1104$333-$959$145-$1.16$0.17
Cleveland et al., 1985$217111$800$385-$633$167-$1.01$0.27
Doiron, 2009$305NRNR$2072NA$1767NA$1.18
Roth, 2011$34354$463$651-$155$308-$0.18$0.35
Roth, 2011$38072$650$876-$154$496-$0.18$0.56
Roth, 2011$15848$421$678$99$520$0.11$0.59
Mean$23771$548$916-$81$678-$0.11$0.88
Standard Deviation$8540$293$546$499$515$0.67$0.64
Median$20961$528$777-$48$508-$0.11$0.66
*All costs and values reflect dollar values in 2013.

In each garden, tomatoes ranked among the top five most profitable garden crops. Leafy green vegetables made the top five most profitable crops in all but one garden (Roth, 2011, for the garden grown in 2008). Other profitable crops that appeared in the top five lists of multiple gardens included peas, strawberries, squash, and eggplant.

Conclusion

Extension professionals can confidently recommend vegetable gardening as a way to save money on fresh fruit and vegetable purchases. Although the fair market cost of labor can add a substantial cost, most people do not hire help to tend their vegetable garden. In addition, the benefits of gardening extend well beyond the potential financial benefits. For example, vegetable gardening promotes healthy eating (Alaimo, Packnett, Miles, & Kruger, 2009; Langellotto & Gupta, 2012), stress relief (Rodiek, 2002), and physical activity (Park, 2007). Gardening has also been linked to a decreased risk of dementia (Simons, Simons, McCallum, & Friedlander, 2006) and may be more effective at treating childhood obesity than other therapeutic interventions (Braet, Van Winckel, & Van Leeuwen, 2008).

Although I attempted to standardize costs and yields by excluding equipment depreciation estimates from reported costs, and reporting all costs and yields in terms of 2013 dollar values, there was still a fair amount of variation in the net value of home gardens (note the large standard deviations). This is likely because each garden reflects the local conditions, gardening practices, crop choices, and skill of each gardener. For example, see the following.

  • Stephens et al. (1980) note that the larger, Tallahassee garden (1,400 square feet) yielded less than the smaller, Jacksonville (638 square feet) garden, due to less efficient use of space (i.e., wider row spacing).
  • Roth (2011) noted that better weather and acquired skills led to better yields in 2009, compared to 2008.
  • Cleveland et al., (1985) report irrigation costs for their two desert gardens that are far greater than irrigation costs in the other gardens included in this analysis.
  • Doiron (2009) had the most profitable yield of all of the gardens. He is also the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International (http://kgi.org/) and is widely recognized as an expert vegetable gardener.
  • The three Florida (Stall, 1979; Stephens et al., 1980) gardens yielded the next highest harvest value ($1585, $1082, and $1172), after Doiron (2009). This perhaps reflects the longer growing season and more favorable climatic conditions for productive vegetable gardening.

It is thus not fair to promise home gardeners that they can net $678 worth of fruits and vegetables if they start a home garden. It is not fair to suggest that one square foot of a home vegetable garden is worth $0.88. The standard deviations associated with these averages are just too large. Nonetheless, this analysis demonstrates that vegetable gardening can help a family save money on their food budget, particularly if household members (rather than hired help) maintain the garden. In addition, the relatively small standard deviation associated with start-up materials and supplies (± $85) suggests that it is fair to tell prospective home gardeners that they can expect to spend a couple hundred dollars to start and maintain a home vegetable garden.

It is important to point out that these studies noted the value of fruits and vegetables that were harvested from home gardens, rather than the value of produce that was actually used in meals and in snacks. It is not uncommon for home gardeners to grow more food than they can use at the time of harvest. However, the same could be said for perishable food items purchased at a grocery market. Food waste in the United States has increased by more than 50% since 1974 (Hall, Guo, Dore, & Chow 2009).

Nonetheless, the potential to learn more about food preservation or using garden-grown produce in home-cooked meals represents an opportunity to build stronger collaborations between Extension Master Gardeners and Extension Family and Community Health professionals. Master Food Preservers and SNAP-Ed educators are experts at low cost food preparation and preservation. Working together, we could maximize the family food budget by encouraging home vegetable gardening and the use of garden-grown produce in family snacks and meals.

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See what you’ll benefit when growing your own food

Benefits of growing your own food are numerous.

I was just like you before, I mean, I was always busy so I just grabbed some fruits and vegetables from the grocery store. Then I watched a show on TV featuring a nutritionist who talked about pesticides and chemicals lurking in our veggies. The point is, we don’t know where the vegetables and fruits that we buy from vendors are coming from. They may be grown with loads of fertilizers and pesticides and I don’t want that. So, when I started my own garden, the first plants I grew were vegetables. That said, I discovered that the benefits of growing your own food are numerous. Curious? Read on to find out!

Related: Starting a Garden from Scratch: Tips for Gardening Success

It is an interesting fact that tomatoes or peppers need just a single pot to grow. Currently, cities opt for a community garden, which allows people to have their own plot. Starting your own garden, so growing your own food will have many advantages and it is a healthy hobby.

1 – Makes Your Food Nutritious and Tastier

Various studies have demonstrated that organic fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients and minerals that we need, than food grown in industries. To make food taste good, many chefs prefer organic vegetables and herbs. Organic plants rely on soil nourishment which results in the good nutrition of plants which, eventually, can also supply nutrients to our bodies.

2 – Lets Your Family’s Health Improve

To stay healthy, you and your family should consume fresh vegetables and fruits on a regular basis. If your garden yields vegetables, you should eat them, as they are nutritious and fresh.

One study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association revealed that preschool children like to eat home-grown fruits and vegetables.

Related: How to Start A Garden: 8 Incredibly Easy Tips

3 – Saves Money

Yes, you read it correctly; by growing your own food you can save money. Your grocery expenses can be reduced to a significant extent. We all spend hundreds of dollars in grocery supplies that are not really fresh and nutritious. Spending time in the garden can be an outdoor activity, a good exercise and an exciting way of growing plants.

A packet of seeds will be the initial cost for all your harvests. This means that you spend less than a dollar for home-grown vegetables. You can get seeds from fruits and vegetables and dry them so that they can be used for the next season. Preserving vegetables can lengthen food shelf life after harvest periods.

4 – Make You Enjoy Fresh Food

Fresh food is tastier than the food you buy in the supermarket. It takes a long time in travelling from the farm to the market and to your table.

When you taste home-grown fresh vegetables, you will never like to buy other foods because of its rich taste, freshness and good nutritional value.

5 – More Fun in the Garden

If you want to try something new that will offer you satisfaction, relaxation and excitement, then growing your own vegetables is the right choice. Most gardeners start a small garden as a hobby and they end up addicted to it. You can say that it is a healthy addiction!

For kids, it will be fascinating to make them see and experience the various stages of plant growth, so you can have a fun-filled time with your family right from planting till harvest.

6 – Healthy Outdoor Activity

Our world is confined to the internet and indoor activity nowadays, so gardening can be a perfect outdoor exercise. Multiple activities like planting, watering, weeding and harvesting are done in gardening which can make your day purposeful. Make sure you do some stretching first before you lift any heavy objects from your garden. In the course of time, gardening will be a good way to de-stress, relax, and get sunshine and fresh air.

7 – Gratification Time

It will be a gratifying moment to see vegetables from your own garden to your table. If you are growing your own food, it implies that your family will get proper nourishment and stay healthy. Taking care of your garden is a wonderful sense of accomplishment, especially when blossoms turn into fruits.

Soon you will realize that your grocery needs will be reduced and you will have control over what you consume. Your gardening knowledge will increase as the days pass by and can even be carried over to your children and friends.

8 – Mindful Gardening

You may feel that your life is in a new dimension when you start a garden, since you should wait patiently for harvest and have to be careful in pruning. Growing and taking care of your garden can offer excellent stress relief and meditative benefits.

9 – Conscious Eating

You may be very busy with your clients, your work and your smartphone, but in your garden all those pressures of everyday life can be cast away. Nurturing plants and tilling soil will make your food appear more valuable to you. By the moment you started a garden, you will realize its good environmental impacts on food production. There will be a conscious relationship with your efforts, food and the environment.

10 – Learn More about What You Eat

By cultivating food in your garden, you can learn more about the gardening process. You will be the one to plant, nurture, fertilize and water your plants. In the case of food bought from grocery stores, you cannot find out how they were grown. There may be harmful chemicals used to maximize their yield.

There are other risks like salmonella and E. coli outbreaks in supermarket foods as they might be grown in poor sanitation. You can avoid these illnesses and enjoy healthier food by having a garden. Remember, you should also practice good hygiene and sanitation in your garden especially when you grow edible plants.

11 – No Worries Regarding Food Safety

A gardener who grows his or her own food will have no worries regarding contamination that may happen at the farm, during packaging or during transport. This denotes that while the whole country is omitting tomatoes, you can still eat them since you can trust your own food in terms of safety.

12 – Having an Elegant Backyard

When you have a garden in your backyard, you will realize its added benefits. Apart from offering food, your vegetable and fruit garden can alter your backyard and transform it into a colourful lively place where you can spend your afternoons with your family.

Related: DIY Gardening Ideas For Your Urban Backyard: 6 Effective Tips

13 – Vitamin D Production

Sunlight promotes the production of vitamin D which is important to our bodies. Gardening activities that last for 30 minutes each day can offer you good sleep and positive energy. However, make sure that you use sunscreen when you head over to your garden.

14 – No More Food Wastage

You will be surprised to know that $600 worth of food is wasted every year. When you become a gardener, you will realize its value and the efforts behind your vegetables. Hence there will be no wastage, as you will preserve and consume what you have harvested.

15 – Gardening Community

Community gardens can be seen in cities where everyone can get their own plot for gardening. This way of gardening allows people to share their tips and expertise with each other effectively. It even serves as a place for socializing with neighbours, parents and teens within their local area.

As a result, people share their fresh fruits and vegetables in community gardens and they do not rely on vendors for food.

16 – Healthy Future Generations

A child is exposed four times more than an adult to a minimum of eight commonly-used cancer-causing harmful pesticides in food. So, organic farming can save our future generations from these health hazards.

17 – Garden as a Classroom

Kids and teens should learn more about plants, the origin of food and their environment at a young age. A backyard garden can act as a classroom for them to learn and experiment with plants. Kids can help adults during various activities like watering, harvesting etc. Ensure that they follow security measures and that they stay away from sharp hardware tools.

Kids will naturally be encouraged to do gardening as they witness and eat the fruits of their efforts.

Related: Fall Garden Experiment for Kids: Why do Leaves Change Color?

18 – Avoiding Soil Erosion

According to an estimate from the US Soil Conservation Service, above three billion tons of topsoil get eroded from croplands in the US alone every year. Thus, soil erosion happens seven times faster than soil buildup. Gardens can prevent soil erosion to some extent.

19 – Safeguarding Water Quality

Organic farming eliminates the use of pesticides and helps preserve drinking water quality. As per estimates from the US Environmental Protection Agency, some cancer-causing pesticides contaminate water in 38 states of the US.

By shifting to organic gardening, we can minimize the use of pesticides and prevent water contamination.

20 – Gardens Can Save Energy Too

Present farming needs more petroleum and consumes about 12 percent of the US total energy supply. This energy is used for producing chemical fertilizers. If people start producing their own vegetables and fruits in every city, the energy used for transportation as well as the resulting environmental pollution can be reduced significantly.

21 – Control over Food

Whether you do full organic farming or use just a small amount of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, you can have full control over what goes to your plants. You can replace organic compost and earthworm manure with fertilizers. Know the common pests in your local area that will likely affect the plants that you will grow and avoid them without the use of pesticides but only with fencing, meshing etc.

22 – Avoid Chemicals on Your Food

Most of the approved pesticides nowadays were registered before detailed research was done on their connection to diseases. Various types of cancers are linked to pesticides use. As pesticides are meant to kill living organisms like pests and insects, they can also affect human health.

When you grow your own food you will have complete knowledge about the nature of pesticides that you use and stay away from potential health issues.

23 – Save Farmers and Farm Workers

According to a study by National Cancer Institute, farmers were six times riskier than non-farmers to get cancer. Pesticides are also a major problem across the globe because more than 1 million people are affected by pesticides every year.

Though we can grow our own food, we still have to rely on farmers for many vegetables and fruits. Farming industries should switch to organic pesticides to save farmers and to avoid contamination of soil and ground water.

24 – Preserving Biodiversity

It is a fact that certain plants can only grow based on climate and soil fertility. Because of this limitation during the 1950s and 1970s, mono-cropping was practiced. This is a method by which the same type of crops will be planted over and over again. This practice resulted in loss of soil nutrients, which then encouraged the use of chemical fertilizers. Chemical pesticides were used to kill pests and insects.

All these issues can be solved by crop rotation. By planting different crops, soil fertility can be retained and pesticides can be avoided as pests often vary from crop to crop. Also, crop rotation helps preserve biodiversity.

25 – Smaller Garden, Greater Benefits

In the urban environment, finding a place for gardening may be difficult. But many people find innovative ways of growing plants even on very limited spaces. Even small containers can accommodate many plants. You can choose the type of garden that you want and the plants that you like according to your available space and its access to sunlight.

Learn more about starting your garden from our blog to find out which one is suitable for you. Your area and your number of plants may be small but the benefits are limitless.

To summarize, having a garden in your house or apartment is essential. The benefits of growing your own food are endless. You are not only producing fresh food but also enjoying physical, mental and environmental benefits. Now, you may realize that gardening has many benefits not only to the owner but also to the community and the environment.

You can start gardening as a hobby and can improve with the help of the gardening community in your area and of online gardening communities. There are many ways of starting your own garden. Read more from our DIY gardening ideas. People start something and do not practice it regularly; this applies to gardening as well. When you are in touch with our gardening community, you will be more motivated, get recognized and perform better.

Related: Do you want a 30 Minute Plan to Define a DIY Urban Garden? Here is our Proven Method to Get Things Right the First Time. Click here now.

We all have time for social media at it can be used to discuss and share experiences with the gardening community. Urban Gardeners Republic is the right place for a person who is interested in gardening and who needs some support. Follow our Instagram page and the tag #urbangardenersrepublic to stay updated. Let’s make our blue planet have enough greenery!

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EVERY LITTLE FARM MAKES A DIFFERENCE: FEASIBILITY ANALYSIS OF BACKYARD FARMING BUSINESS IN STATE COLLEGE

My goal for my experience was to independently investigate the feasibility of an at-home gardening service in State College. This service is modeled after a Portland, Oregon small business: Your Backyard Farmer. Your Backyard Farmer farms clients’ backyards based on their family’s eating habits, provides urban farming expertise, as well as tending and harvesting of the garden. In order to investigate the feasibility and possible benefits for a business such as Your Backyard Farmer in State College, I mapped the farmable parcels of residential land, surveyed to evaluate interest of target State College residents, and researched the health benefits and charitable opportunities of this initiative. I made a prototype home garden in my own backyard in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, which has a similar climate to State College due to proximity. This prototype allowed me to estimate cost, time, labor, and challenges associated with building a raised bed garden.

The experience allowed me to explore a project I’m passionate about independently. It also allowed me to expand my research skillset beyond wet lab skills. I needed to educate myself and others about social issues such as food insecurity and food deserts, as well as public health initiatives to combat them to properly conduct research on this initiative. This business has the potential for charitable donations to local foodbanks with the extra fresh produce grown. This importance of fresh produce within a healthy diet cannot be underestimated and I hope I can move this farming initiative forward this year now that I have several areas to target as a customer base within State College as well as knowledge of the limitations involved with this business model.This experience was quite different from my normal academic studies. As a biochemistry and molecular biology major, I’m used to working in research labs and studying molecular cellular operations. Expanding my research experience to humanitarian projects was very fulfilling. I felt that my research work ethic translated into my research with this farming initiative, but allowed me to explore a new field.This experience has made me more proactive, and more independent with my projects. The independence has been fostered through this remote experience because I did not always have access to the software or people I needed for this project. I had to find ways to accomplish my goals differently, or work around a different time frame to meet with people on their schedules. I had to learn how to reach out to professionals for advice and find people with the resources and knowledge to help my research. I feel that this experience has made me work more efficiently, independently, and learn important problem-solving skills. This experience also expanded my view of what my post-graduation career could look like. I found this experience to be very valuable to my professional and personal growth. 

Construction of raised bed garden prototype.

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What is Urban Farming and is it Profitable?

Urban farming includes a wide array of food-producing projects and activities. And with the recent resurgence of farming in and around cities, people have been reconnecting to agriculture by growing food themselves and visiting farmer’s markets. This fast-growing phenomenon has the potential to nourish communities and create economic opportunities. Urban farming is popular for several reasons such as sustainability, affordability, health, and convenience.

Today urban agriculture exists in many forms including: community and backyard gardens; rooftop and balcony gardening; growing in vacant lots, parks the list goes on.


What is Urban Farming?

Urban farming is often confused with community gardening, homesteading or subsistence farming. Simply put urban farming focuses more in selling produce, produce grown as sold as opposed to being grown for personal consumption or sharing.

Urban farming can support the well-being of individuals and communities in many ways. From providing fresh produce to communities, creating a sense of community belonging, job creating and promoting health lifestyles.

Being a community enterprise, urban farming helps stimulate the local economy through job creation, income generation, and the growth of small businesses. More importantly, urban farming makes fresh food more affordable. It is fast becoming an important component of a city’s food system.

From the production, to the processing to distribution it brings together a variety of community benefits. The benefits vary according to the type of urban farming. This includes personal consumption, institutional, educational, for-profit, or nonprofit. Successful urban farming projects however require considerable planning and commitment.


Space and pollution can be major challenges for urban farmers but also motivates them to develop new farming strategies aided with technology. However, because they are closer to local restaurants and supermarkets, urban farmers can supply fresh produce faster and easier.

How to Get Started

Do your Research

Educate yourself on the best practices in urban farming. Check your local, state, and federal laws for permits.

Identify the Project and Define its Purpose

You will first need to identify your target customers, what to produce, how and where it will be distributed, and what the existing market is. These will be critical to the success of the business.https://fade2cae0c44c7963799a7bc1346c98a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Engage the Community

Work with community members and friends to identify what is needed and is desired. Brainstorm and network.


Check out the Competition

Visit existing farms to learn what others are doing. How will your project be the same or differ? Ask other farmers to share lessons they have learned.

Plan how to be Profitable

Identify your customer and determine what you will produce. Will you be selling direct to consumers or to restaurants or to the local farmers market?

Establish the type, scale and method for the project: vertical farming of micro-greens, aquaponics, hydroponics, organic or natural? Before investing in structures start small and develop a market. Then, if you see the demand growing then expand.

What Types of Urban Farming are There?

More and more people are pursuing urban agriculture as a business venture. Focusing on niche markets, higher-margin products, and specialized services. Some urban farming enterprises are successfully negotiating the profit landscape.


Start-up expenses for an urban farm can vary widely depending on location because many of the components (such as land or utilities) are site-specific. Start-up expenses can be broken down into a few categories, location, site preparation and structures.

Structures include both infrastructure necessary for growing (such as high tunnels) and storage (such as a cooler). The type of structure you need will depend on location, types of crops grown, and the length of the growing season.

Vegetable Landscaping

Also called edible landscaping, this includes mixing flowers and vegetables throughout the garden. This allows for flexible opportunities with a small startup capital. Your investments will mostly be investing in tools to grow vegetables either on freshly tilled soil or in containers.

You have wide repertoire of plants to work with from herbs, onions, garlic, to strawberries and even fruit trees.


Products and Services

Besides your urban farm, you can generate another revenue line in your business through providing seedlings and compost. With a growing market for environmentally friendly products and services, many are starting to look at waste in a new way.

Composting today is no longer a method of disposal in rural areas. It is fast becoming a common way to manage waste and produce a usable product- creating a viable business opportunity. Your customers could be landscaping companies as well as fellow urban farmers.

Hydroponic Farming

Hydroponics is the process of growing crops with nutrient-rich water kept in contact with the plant roots without using soil. This process is touted to significantly reduce the risk of wastage and pollution that can harm the produce and cause diseases, making it popular to health-conscious consumers.

A well-designed hydroponic system is characterized by less wastage of water and nutrients than soil-based farms. Both water and nutrients are fed directly to the root structure of the plants and recycled through the hydroponic system. This also eliminates the typical land and water pollution possibilities due to overland flow and runoff.


Mushroom Farming

Mushrooms are relatively easy to cultivate. A profitable mushroom will depend on knowing which mushroom strain to cultivate and how to maximize your production. Growing mushrooms doesn’t require a full-time commitment.

You can still have a full-time job, and produce enough to become a steady supplier to other businesses. Mushroom farmers harvest an average of 25 pounds of produce per square foot every year. Prior to harvest, contact local restaurants and take orders from them for a quick sale.

Beekeeping

Beekeeping can help you produce extra products for you, as well as having other indirect benefits like making your existing crops better pollinated. Having bees around your vegetable plants will dramatically increase your yield.

You will however need to do a thorough research before embarking in apiculture. You will need to consider the size of the bee colony, the health of the work force, weather conditions, the availability of nectar for the bees to collect will affect your bottom line.


Rooftop Tea Gardens

Finding the right amount of space is often a challenge in cities. Rooftop gardens provide a solution for those with an inclination towards trying their hand at urban farming but don’t have a plot of land to use. By starting a rooftop tea garden, you can grow a variety of aromatic and medicinal herbs and greens to sell directly to your customers.

Urban Chicken Farms

Backyard chicken keeping is an easy and popular way to get into urban farming without spending a lot of money or the need for a lot of space for gardening. Chickens require relatively little space for the number of eggs and meat they produce and are easy to care for. Therefore you can initially start by investing in a modest chicken house in your background and gradually grow in capacity.

Organic Farming

Generally speaking, organic farming is a method of raising crops and livestock and has evolved into a niche of its own. A growing number of restaurants and supermarkets market specifically for organic produce.

These businesses rely on organic farmers to supply them with organically grown fruits and vegetables and organically raised, or free-roaming livestock. Organic farming is highly sought because they provide customers with safe, wholesome food from a toxin-free environment.


Flowers Growing

If you know your roses and lilies well and have a green thumb, perhaps you should look into growing flowers. There are ample avenues you can pursue from selling to florists (cut), for nurseries, direct to the public and others. Growing flowers can also dramatically increase the yield of your land.

Cannabis Farming

If you live in a state where cannabis use is legal, you might take advantage of the available space and start your own small cannabis business. If you have a large backyard it can helps keep your investment low, while giving you a flexible space with which to work. You can also grow your business by building a small greenhouse.

Processing

Beyond selling simply farm produce, you can also venture into value-added products. By transforming the raw farm products into food, personal care, craft products and more. Value added products can help boost your income and expand the market season.

Deciding to get involved in creating new products generally calls for a long-term commitment in that it requires additional capital for infrastructure, compliance with food safety and labeling requirements, liability insurance, and marketing.



Takeaway

To start an urban farming business, you don’t necessarily need a background in urban farming. All you need is to educate yourself on the abundant resources on urban farming found online. Today there are many small businesses popping up across America focusing on urban farming. The demand is not only for green thumbs but also for people with sales, marketing and other skills in the value chain.

If you can reach large production capacity look towards a business to business farming model. This is a business method that farmers use when producing agricultural products to supply business clients. Businesses prefer to deal with farmers directly for the low cost and quality by getting produce directly from the source. Examples of business clients are grocery stores and restaurants that re-sell these products in their original or processed form to customers.

The key to profits is creating a niche for your business. While creating your business plan, be sure to include opportunities to get small business grants to help fund your new venture. For this reason, always look towards diversifying your revenue streams and build strong relationships with your customers.

Urban farming is all about making the most of the space you have. You can start off using your own garden to start growing food, and may eventually expand and start growing on other plots in your area.



Having an urban farming business can be particularly satisfying as you get to make your own contribution to making the world a better place as well.

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10 Reasons to Grow Your Own Organic Food

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Do you ever wonder whether growing your own food is worth the time and effort? Here are some benefits to growing your own organic food for you, your family, and the environment.https://b2dd86d2216684fcf6f3aba7c3e0bf3a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

There is nothing like biting into a ripe tomato handpicked from the vine. It delights all your senses from its vibrant red color, sun-warmed skin, and the firm snap as your teeth sink in. Then the flavor, aroma, and juiciness burst forth as you take your first mouthful. This is just one of the pleasures you can enjoy when you grow your own food.


There was a time when I didn’t give much thought about the foods we buy in the grocery stores. That changed when food recalls became more frequently reported in the news. One food recall in particular caught my attention because the local news reported E. coli contamination of spinach that was sold at my grocery store. It was the fall of 2006, and this recall eventually affected 26 states stretching from Wyoming to Maine. (Source: FDA)about:blankabout:blankSponsored by Advertising PartnerSponsored VideoWatch to learn moreSEE MORE

The first question that came to mind was, “Why was my grocery store selling spinach from California when it grows quite well here in New England?” Even though I was likely to purchase produce in season, I just didn’t realize that most of it was shipped three thousand miles across the country. Call me naive, but I believed that all food was grown locally, and brand names had regional plants across the country that packaged the foods to sell in our grocery stores.

This was an eye-opening experience for me.
I wondered what else didn’t I know?

I had a little garden at the time, and I planted plenty of basic summer crops for fresh eating, but the news of contaminated spinach urged me to learn more about growing different crops. I began to look at everything I purchased from the produce department and wondered if I could grow it in the garden. I also began to shop at local farm stands and farmers’ markets during the warmer months.

Food safety was one of my main reasons for growing more of my own organic foods, but there are so many other reasons too. Here are my top 10 reasons to grow your own organic food:https://b2dd86d2216684fcf6f3aba7c3e0bf3a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

10 Reasons to Grow Your Own Organic Food:

1. Homegrown Vegetables Taste Better:

There is nothing like biting into a fresh ripe tomato plucked from the vine. Or snacking on string beans as you putter through the garden. Flavor is just one of the pleasures you can enjoy when you grow your own food.

Many of the varieties of fruits and vegetables sold in grocery stores are adapted for commercial farming. Through selecting and breeding specific traits, these strains are developed to produce more per plant, be ready for harvesting all at once, have a longer shelf life, be uniform size and shape, ship without bruising, and often times finish ripening on trucks during shipping. Even when you purchase organic vegetables, this breeding can compromise flavor. The taste and texture of a grocery store tomato cannot compare to one that is freshly picked from a plant growing in your own garden.

There is nothing like biting into a ripe tomato handpicked from the vine. It delights all your senses from its vibrant red color, sun-warmed skin, and the firm snap as your teeth sink in. Then the flavor, aroma, and juiciness burst forth as you take your first mouthful. This is just one of the pleasures you can enjoy when you grow your own food.

2. You Can Grow More Varieties in Your Garden:

Growing from quality transplants from your local nursery or starting your own seedlings under lights allows you to select from so many different varieties that offer greater flavor and texture than what is available in the grocery stores. You can choose from hundreds of varieties based on flavor, shape, and color. When you grow your own, you can select varieties that are adapted to your growing area or mature in a short period.

3. No Chemical Pesticides:

You control the growing environment of your garden. There is no need for chemicals and pesticides in your backyard garden. If you have problems with disease or pests, there is usually an organic remedy to solve it. In worst-case scenarios, you simply chalk that particular crop up to a loss, pull the plants, and plant something else in its place. (See what to do when late blight strikes)

Each year, The Environmental Working Group releases its Dirty Dozen™ list. This list includes the top twelve USDA tested produce with the highest pesticide loads. Vegetables on the list in 2017 include, celery, spinach, potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes. (Source: EWG) These are some of the easiest garden vegetables to grow in your own backyard garden without using pesticides.https://b2dd86d2216684fcf6f3aba7c3e0bf3a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

4. Reduced Danger of Food Contamination:

Growing and harvesting food from your backyard garden ensures you know where your food came from. I cringe every single time I hear about a food-borne illness on the news and there have been many since my eye-opening experience back in 2006. The US Federal Government estimates that 48 million people get sick from a food-borne illness each year, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. (Source: FDA)

E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria are the most common food borne outbreaks that affect fruits and vegetables in multiple states. At the time of writing this article, the CDC was investigating Listeria contaminated packaged salads and cucumbers tainted with Salmonella. (Source: CDC) There is no need to worry when you grow your own salad vegetables.Slo Bolt Lettuce Harvest | Grow a Good Life

Slo Bolt Lettucehttps://b2dd86d2216684fcf6f3aba7c3e0bf3a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

5. You will Eat Fresh, In-Season Vegetables:

Tending to your garden and growing your own food will teach you to eat in season when flavors and nutrients are at peak. When you have a lot of harvests to use up, you tend to eat more vegetables and think of creative ways to prepare them so nothing goes to waste. Since they are harvested fresh, the natural flavors of the vegetables shine and do not need additional oils, salt, or other additives to make them taste good.

Fruits and vegetables that ripen naturally in the garden and are consumed within days of harvest have more nutrients than store-bought vegetables. Most of the vegetables that line the grocery store produce section are picked early, shipped to warehouses, distributed to the stores, and stay in storage or on the shelf for a while until you purchase them. Over time, the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables declines. Not only do freshly picked fruits and vegetables taste better, but they also have a higher nutritional value.

6. Gardening Provides Outdoor Exercise:

During the growing season, gardening gets you out in the fresh air and sunshine regularly. There are a lot of different movements in gardening that require strength or stretching. Digging, planting, weeding, and other repetitive tasks are excellent forms of low-impact exercise.https://b2dd86d2216684fcf6f3aba7c3e0bf3a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Did you know that 45 minutes of gardening burns the same amount of calories as running 1.5 miles in 15 minutes? (Source: NHLBI) Regular physical activity can help you feel better and improve your well-being because it relieves stress, boosts energy and releases tension.

framed-garden-beds-growagoodlife

7. You will Waste Less Food when You Garden:

Organic waste is the second highest component of landfills in the US and the largest source of methane emissions. It is estimated that 30% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. (Source: UNEP)

None of the fruits and vegetables harvested on our property go to waste. We make every effort to eat or preserve all the food harvested from the garden. Whatever scraps or trimmings we don’t consume is either fed to our hens or added to the compost bin to be returned to the garden again as nutrients. We also give away excess harvests if we are unable to use it. When you grow your own vegetables, you understand the value more clearly.

8. Gardening Saves Money at the Grocery Store:

Many will challenge that gardening actually saves money. When the garden bug hits, it is easy to find yourself purchasing cute pots, plant stakes, and gardening gadgets on the market. If you stick to the basics, gardening really doesn’t cost much in supplies in comparison to the amount of food it produces.

Even if you grow a small garden for fresh eating, you will save money. For example, a package of organic salad greens cost at least $5 at my local grocery store and is usually only enough for a few servings. If you grow your own from a package of good-quality organic seeds, it costs half that and produces for a longer period of time yielding about 6 pounds of salad greens.

9. Growing a Vegetable Garden Contributes to Your Food Security:

The World Health Organization states that food security is achieved when “all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” (Source: WHO)

Growing your own food garden contributes to your food security by providing direct access to food that can be harvested, prepared and fed to your family daily during the growing season. If you learn how to preserve your harvest, you will be able to stock your Pantry and feed your family even when the growing season is over.

10. Gardening Makes You Feel Good:

Planting a seed, watching it sprout and grow to produce food for you, and your family is one of the most gratifying feelings. Sure, many of us work hard to earn a living and provide for our family, but the close association of this simple effort and direct reward is fulfilling.

I love the feeling of pride as I look over a meal I prepared with vegetables from my garden. I revel in the sensation of accomplishment as I stock our cellar with potatoes, onions, garlic, other storage crops and canned goods to get us through the winter.

How to Get Started Gardening

You don’t need a lot of land or gardening experience to benefit from growing your own food. You can start out with just a few herbs on your windowsill, a simple container of salad greens on the porch, or you could even try gardening in containers along your walkway.

Gardens do not have to be big in order to be beneficial. Choose a small area that receives at least six hours of sunlight each day and has access to water. Build a few raised beds and plant the foods you like to eat. Expand a little each year and experiment with growing different crops. You will quickly gain knowledge and learn how to take care of your garden plants, and they will reward you with great-tasting food.

If you live in an area that makes gardening outside impossible, or if you are physically limited, consider growing an indoor garden. There are many things you can grow indoors under the right lighting or even near a sunny window.

If you don’t have space for a garden at home, a community garden is another option. You can find one in your community through the American Community Gardening Association.

As you can see, the rewards for the effort of growing your own food are impressive. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your garden today!

Do you grow a food garden? If so, what inspired you to grow your own food?

Good planning is key to a successful vegetable garden

Whether you are new to growing your own food or have been growing a vegetable garden for years, you will benefit from some planning each year. You will find everything you need to organize and plan your vegetable garden in my PDF eBook, Grow a Good Life Guide to Planning Your Vegetable Garden.

Grow a Good Life Guide to Planning Your Vegetable Garden
Do you ever wonder whether growing your own food is worth the time and effort? Here are some benefits to growing your own organic food for you, your family, and the environment.
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Can a Vegetable Garden Save You Money?

Sampling of Peppers
This is a sampling of peppers that can be grown in the home garden.

By Cindy Haynes
Extension Horticulturist
Iowa State University

With today’s tight economy, everyone is looking for ways to cut expenses. Growing a garden has the potential to reduce the amount of money spent on groceries. But this “potential” depends on the costs involved in growing the crops, types and amounts of vegetables grown, yields that are derived from the garden, and other factors. So, the answer to the above question is “yes” – if done correctly.

It’s possible to spend a small fortune on a garden. The humorous book, “The $64 Tomato” by William Alexander, discusses one man’s quest for the perfect garden and how it ended up costing him $64 per tomato (among other things). This astonishing figure is the result of all of the input costs (tools and equipment, fertilizers, pesticides, water, etc.) associated with gardening. These costs can add up quickly, even for a small vegetable garden. The trick to saving money with a vegetable garden is limiting the costs while maximizing yield.

While saving money may be one of the benefits to growing a vegetable garden – let’s not forget that there are others as well. Gardens are a potential means to increase our confidence in food safety and security. We know where the food is coming from and all the history of plants grown in our own gardens. We know what chemicals were used, we know what pests were problems and we essentially eliminated the whole resource-gobbling transportation chain to get the food to your plate. And all that gardening is good for you. It is a great form of physical exercise, and I haven’t met a nutritionist yet who didn’t think that fresh produce was “good for you” too!

So, growing your own vegetables can be rewarding, regardless of the potential savings. But with a few tips, it can save you some money on a grocery bill or two. First – you have to know a couple of basics of growing vegetables.

Vegetable Growing Basics

There are a wide variety of vegetables that can be successfully grown in Iowa. As I walk through the produce section of my grocery store, there are only a few things I see that are difficult to grow in Iowa. The location of the vegetable garden is crucial. Nearly all vegetables need full-sun and a well-drained soil. The vegetable garden also should be located near a source of water. 
Iowa’s climate allows production of both cool and warm season vegetables.

Cool season vegetables (carrots, beets, lettuce, cauliflower, etc.) are planted in early spring and harvested by mid-summer. Warm season vegetables (tomatoes, pepper, eggplant, squash, etc.) are planted after the danger of frost has passed and harvested by early fall. With proper planning, it’s possible to grow two or three crops in a given area during the growing season. Using the same space for two or more crops is called succession planting. Other techniques, such as interplanting and companion planting, are other ways to make efficient use of garden space. The more efficiently you use garden space and resources the larger the potential savings.

Below are several other important factors to consider when growing a vegetable garden to save you money.

Select vegetables that you like. This is simple – you’re not likely to take care of …or eat things you don’t like. So don’t waste your time or money planting them in the garden.

Select vegetables that can be easily stored or preserved.Selecting vegetables that have a long storage life or that can easily be canned or frozen is a great way to stretch your grocery dollar. Potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, and winter squash can be stored for several months when stored at the appropriate temperature. Other vegetables, like beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and sweet corn, can be preserved by canning or freezing. Preserving vegetables is a great way to enjoy the “extra” produce later in the year.

Select vegetables that are expensive to buy in the grocery store. To save money, grow more expensive items, like tomatoes and melons, or large quantities of vegetables that you purchase regularly. Consider vegetables like beans, beets, onions, spinach, broccoli, peppers, carrots, summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, peas, and Swiss chard. These vegetables provide the biggest returns on your investment of space and time in the garden.

Do some research and start with a plan. Decide what you want to grow and determine what will be necessary to be successful. Plan the garden on paper first. Establish a network of family members, neighbors, or friends that can help you answer your questions. Don’t forget about your local county extension office. There are more than 20 vegetable gardening publications from Iowa State University Extension that can help you (see table below). Each of these can be picked up at your county extension office. They can also be ordered or downloaded online at https://store.extension.iastate.edu. County extension offices are also the meeting centers for Master Gardeners – many of whom have the knowledge and experience to keep your garden growing successfully.

Research and consider ways to reduce your inputs. Collect rainwater for irrigation. Add compost and well-rotted manure to the garden to improve the soil and reduce the use of fertilizers. Practice the principles of Integrated Pest Management to control insects and diseases, reducing your reliance on pesticides. Start with high quality seeds – most are relatively inexpensive, and most can be stored for at least one or two years. Find ways to reuse containers, flats, stakes, ties, etc. Remember that saving money with vegetables usually means keeping the costs as low as possible while still growing productive plants.

Start small. Like many things, gardening takes practice. Plants will require regular watering, maintenance and harvesting. Growing many different vegetables in a large garden can be overwhelming for new gardeners and can ultimately lead to failure. Limit yourself to just a few types of vegetables the first year. When you become more confident in your abilities and resources, you can increase the size of your vegetable garden and grow a wider variety of crops.

Finally, have fun growing your own vegetables. Encourage your neighbors to grow a few vegetables as well. Visit each other’s gardens and trade “extra produce” regularly. It’s surprising how something as simple as a vegetable garden can impact your life…and hopefully your pocketbook as well!

Iowa State University Extension publications on growing vegetables in home gardens area available from county ISU Extension offices or online at https://store.extension.iastate.edu .

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4 Advantages of Urban Farming vs Traditional Farming

It’s been a few years now, since Urban farming (growing food in urban areas), became a worldwide trend. And every year the amount of people trying it keeps growing and growing.
We all know that it looks nice and stylish at homes, futuristic buildings and city roofs. And field experts believe urban farming is the future of food production…

But what is it really that makes it so much better than traditional farming?

1. Production
Urban farming using hydroponics can produce as much as 10 times more food than regular farming per square foot. This is possible in part because of the vertical design that hydroponic systems allow. That makes easier to produce on as many levels as possible by square foot. This means that if you have 2 square feet of free space in your house or apartment you can have a nice looking indoor vertical garden system with lettuce, kale, tomatoes and other herbs and veggies growing in shelves, instead of having a corner full of soil, which can destroy your walls. And the best thing about this type of urban farming using hydroponics systems: you can grow fresh food all year round, without worrying about the weather!

2. Sustainability
Unlike traditional farming and some other methods, urban farming using hydroponics use 90% less water and a lot less space. This makes this type of indoor farming a far more sustainable  food growing method. Also, since it can use no chemical pesticides or herbicides and require less power, this hydroponic techniques for agriculture are helping decrease drought, soil erosion and similar problems associated with regular massive farming productions. Now, that’s the most important fact about sustainability: every time people switch their food production to urban farming, they are helping out conserve the environment.

3. Simplicity
If you haven’t tried it already, urban farming is really easy to do. You don’t need a huge budget or the gardening skills and special knowledge necessary to maintain a whole garden. With the Vios Hydroponic Growing System we have replaced all those necessary skills and effort with technology. No need to use get dirty. Just plant the seeds in the system, fill the tank with water, add the natural growing formula, operate the system through smartphone app and you are good to GO!

4. Decrease “food miles”.
Growing your own food within urban areas not only gives you the freshest produce you can get (talk about farm to table) but it also saves a lot of food miles, thus decreasing contamination due to transportation, packaging and the whole logistics associated with massive food production in rural areas. So not only is more environmentally friendly, but being local and as fresh as it can be, it also encourages people doing urban farming to eat healthier and in season.

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The Environmental Benefits of Gardening

People turn to the garden for a variety of reasons; filling open areas in the yard, improving the curbside appeal, fulfilling a personal desire to create, and even partaking for the many health benefits it provides are all great reasons to garden. But what many people are unaware of is how amazing these activities are for the environment.

Gardening impacts everything from the air we breathe to the minimizing of carbon footprints we leave behind. If you have an area to plant in, even if it’s simply containers on a terrace, take advantage of this space and become part of a healthy environmental impact.

Plants Naturally Clean the Air and Ground

Plants produce oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. They take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through their leaves and use it to help expel oxygen and water. Carbon dioxide is what we expel when we breathe- it is a waste product by all means, and plants help recycle it into something we need to survive! They also remove any chemicals and bacterias that may be floating around in the air, providing an overall healthier environment to be within.

Plants don’t just take in through what is found above ground, their roots also uptake much of what they come in contact with. This includes chemicals and heavy metals in the soils and groundwater, and work towards an overall healthier ground. This may not always be what’s best for your plant, but an indication of a poorly growing plant can alert you to problems with what lays below the surface.

Reduce Cooling Costs with Well Placed Trees and Shrubs

The sun’s energy can heat up your home quickly, causing many people to run air conditioners and other cooling devices for extended periods of time. This has an impact on the environment- both in how that energy is being created and the costs of said cooling effects. Trees and shrubs planted in areas that help block the sun are incredibly efficient in keeping your living space cooler and reduce the use of fossil fuels to do so.

Growing Your Own Food Reduces Carbon Footprints

When you grow your own food you simply do not have to make as many trips to the store to buy what you need. Plus, much of what you buy at a store may have traveled halfway around the world to get there! Thus you save on energy, waste, time, and money by growing your own. It isn’t hard to grow staple vegetable and herbs, and in many instances, you can do so year-round.

Plus, all you need is a little ground (containers work nicely too), something easy to water with (check out these affordable, professional-grade, watering nozzles), and the will to do so.

Prevents Soils Erosion

The roots of your plants help bind your soils together, making them less likely to wash away after particularly heavy rain and protecting slopes from sliding downhill. Topsoils are more likely to be affected by water movement, and these are often the soils you most want as they contain organic debris and leaf litter that eventually breakdown to help add nutrients into the soils. Good ground cover with extensive root systems help keep this from happening.

Replenishes Nutrients in the Soil

As mentioned above, topsoils are created by leaf litter and other organic materials that fall from plants. Dead or decaying plants, especially annual vegetation, provides materials both above and under the surface of the soils- providing available to the following season’s growth. Certain types of vegetation help fix certain nutrients into the ground as well, and choosing those types of plants can help reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers.

Helps to Reduce Noise Pollution

Vegetation absorbs sound, and if you are looking for a natural sound barrier, planing a row of trees and/or shrubbery can be very effective. The higher the incidence of green spaces also reduces urban noises, creating a quieter atmosphere.

Supports Beneficial Insects and Birds

It’s no secret that wildlife is drawn to greener spaces. Pollinator, in particular, need all the support they can get, and you can provide much more than just a food source. Your plants also provide protection from predators and weather and even give space for them to complete their lifecycles.

Birds are also drawn to quieter, more protected areas and can help keep unwanted insects away. You also provide places for them to nest. Birds are an integral part of the environment as they help spread vegetative seeds, are a food source for other wildlife, and also can help protect against unwanted predators and insects.

Conclusion

Gardening is well worth your efforts for both personal, and environmental concerns. Any sort of greenery that you can grow is going to provide a positive impact on your environmental surroundings. Gardens are not just aesthetically pleasing, they are a building block of a healthy space and a reduction in carbon footprints.

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10 Impressive Benefits of Urban Farming

The benefits of urban farming improve the lives of those in the community as well as the farmer’s life.

Urban farming refers to growing crops in a metropolitan area. Examples of urban farms include indoor farms, rooftop greenhouses, vertical farms, living (edible) walls, community gardens, and more!

A traditional farm is often far away from the community it serves; meanwhile, urban farms rely on proximity to consumers to build a blooming business.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most impressive benefits of urban farming.

Proximity

Urban farms are grown in city centers and other densely populated areas, so they’re closer to their consumers than field farms.

Traditional farms ship food across the state, country, or even world. Urban farms cut the cost of transporting goods down by selling to customers who live in the same area.

This leads to farm-to-table produce, meaning the food didn’t pass through any third parties like supermarkets, resulting in fresher produce.

Accessible

Urban farms can help increase food security by providing inexpensive, fresh produce to low-income communities.

In 2018, 37.2 million people were food insecure in the United States, meaning they didn’t have access to enough affordable, nutritious food.

Being in the heart of the community means transportation doesn’t have to be included in the cost of the produce, resulting in cheaper, more accessible food for the people who live near the farm.

Adaptable

One of the benefits of urban farming is that it’s adaptable.

Urban farms can be opened in spare rooms, backyards, rooftops, warehouses, shipping containers, or basically anywhere else. This cuts the need for purchasing and building on new land by repurposing indoor and outdoor spaces.

They can also be ran by one person, a family, or an entire community, creating jobs and volunteer opportunities that help people build new skills.https://www.youtube.com/embed/kSQm09twKEE?feature=oembed

Low-Risk

Urban farming allows you to start small by using space you already own. This is a huge advantage because purchasing land or buildings big enough for large-scale operations is expensive.

Not having a huge financial burden on your shoulders from the start lets you work on your urban farm without the pressure of bankruptcy.

As a result, you can experiment with systems and crops to find what works best.

Builds Community

Another one of the benefits of urban farming is it helps build strong communities by stimulating the economy and providing a mutually beneficial experience.

Urban farms can be multifunctional by providing a space for social gathering, which enriches the ties between members of the community.

These farms, such as community gardens, have been shown to help during crises, leverage resources, and foster social interaction between diverse groups of people.

Improves Mood

Urban farms can also provide mental and physical benefits for farmers and visitors.

Plants can lower blood pressure, increase attentiveness, increase productivity, and improve well-being of people in the same vicinity, according to Psychology Today magazine.

This is great news for farmers, but also for the community. Urban farms ran by a collective community can provide a healthy escape for residents from the hustle and bustle of industrial cities.

Property Value

Urban farms can also positively impact the value of the neighborhood it’s in, especially if the neighborhood is poor.

A total of 13 studies found that property values increased when there was a community garden nearby.

When this happens, people are more likely to purchase homes and move into the area. One study found that over a 10-year period in St. Louis, Missouri, home ownership in neighborhoods with a community garden increased by 13%.https://www.youtube.com/embed/fj5itkZiJ_s?feature=oembed

Local Demand

Nielsen research found that 48% of consumers prefer locally produced ingredients and food. Urban farms supply this demand.  

In urban farming, the farmer is more connected to the community they serve, allowing them to be more familiar with the community’s wants and needs.

When planning crops, small farmers should identify unmet demand for certain produce in the local market. Urban farms make it easier to supply trendy food to meet this demand.

Saves Space

Urban farming saves space because a variety of growing systems can be used to cultivate crops.

Vertical and hydroponic technology allow urban farms to grow high volumes of plants without the sprawling land that field farming uses.

Vertical farms grow more per square foot because plants are grown in stacks. Meanwhile, hydroponically grown crops don’t use soil. As a result, crops can be planted closer together, fitting more crops in a smaller space.

Higher Yields

The ability to grow vertically and hydroponically also allows urban farms to yield more produce per square foot than field farms.

Oftentimes, hydroponic and vertical systems are used together for maximizing yields per square foot. This process is referred to as cubic farming.

Vertical indoor farms have the potential to yield 50 times more harvest than field crops, according to a study published by the International Society for Horticultural Science.

Now that you know the benefits of urban farming, it’s time to get started.

Visit our website or call 602-753-3469 to find out more about how you can open an urban farm using our Pure Greens hydroponic container farms.

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