Plant-Based Diets: Growing Your Own Health Food

Half Circle

My experience with growing edibles

I have several major goals for my garden. One goal is to create a vibrant space I can enjoy along with local wildlife. That’s right – I welcome the possums, anoles, hummingbirds, bees, and even the pesky squirrels and mosquitos. Another goal is to foster a natural space full of plants growing together in harmony. Lastly, I like to grow plants I can consume. 

Growing fruits and vegetables enhances my diet and gardening experience, and the herbs I grow provide me with culinary and medicinal support. Right now, I have nectarines, peaches, blueberries, blackberries and grapes fruiting and flowering. This is the greatest harvest I have ever seen coming to fruition in my garden, and I am looking forward to eating some home grown fruit!

I have tomatoes and peppers growing, but it’s still early in the season for their harvest. Many of my herbs are flowering, like lavender and cilantro, and others are newly planted and taking root. 

Growing your own food is a wonderful way to connect with nature as well as eat fresh & nutritious food. In this blog, I will share some of the key lessons I have learned from growing food in my garden.

I grew this massive cucumber in my garden

The key lessons I’ve learned from growing food

One of the major lessons I learned is to be aware of what you can manage and what you can’t. Early in the season, it can be exciting to start hundreds of seeds or buy dozens of life plants and get them in our soil. But, the work doesn’t end there. Will you need to protect them from birds and squirrels? Will you be able to take the time to address an infestation if one develops? When it’s time to harvest, do you have the space required to process what you collect? Will you be prepared to eat or preserve what you grow? 

These questions might seem unnecessary, but I know many people who have let potential harvests go to waste because tending to the plants became too much between work and responsibilities. Some people simply forget about their edible food when they get busy! Growing nectarines sounds like a great idea, but you have to be faster than the squirrels! This year, I took time to wrap my ripening nectarines in mesh bags in hopes of keeping them out of reach from interested wildlife.

It’s important to know what will grow where you are. For example, people in northern Canada might be able to get a pineapple propagation to root in water, but it’s unlikely to grow to the point of producing fruit in that cold climate. It’s one thing to propagate the pineapple for fun, but if your goal is to truly grow your own fruit, you need to be deliberate with what you plant. 

I had a mature pineapple plant come to fruiting here in Texas, but since we started having annual freezes, the plants don’t do well here and none of my plants have made it that far. So, I grow pineapple plants because I like how they look, but not because I plan to enrich my diet with home grown pineapples. 

This is a pineapple top I propagated & rooted in water

We also must consider what our plants or trees need in order to fruit. For example, some trees and plants need a partner to produce fruit. Not everything is self-pollinating or able to produce on its own.

My recommendation to people who want to grow food is to visit their local nursery and talk to the staff. They should be able to tell you about what will grow best where you are, and how you can optimize the process with your space and resources. 

How to start growing food 

If you’re new to gardening and you want to begin growing your own food, I think you should start with a couple herbs such as basil and rosemary, and a vegetable plant like sweet pepper. Once you start flavoring your omelets, salads, soups, or bread with home grown herbs, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner! The pepper plant will take more patience and monitoring, but the experience will increase your understanding of what edible plants entail. This will also help you get into the routine of monitoring your edible plants, using what you grow, and figuring out what you can fit into your schedule. 

I encourage everyone to grow their own food in the space available to them (backyard, balcony, spare room, rented plot), while reminding everyone to pace themselves. The last thing we want is garden burnout, which can lead to wasted efforts or feeling discouraged. 

I also think that growing edibles is the perfect opportunity for people to come together and share the labor and the reward. If growing food seems daunting, talk to your friends and family – you might have somebody in your life who is interested in getting started with you.

This is a hydroponic growing system

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