Hoosiers tackle residence gardening

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As Hoosiers get used to housing at home, many in search of healthy activities and safe, sustainable sources of food are turning to growing their own gardens.

The home vegetable garden has grown in popularity every year since the financial crisis of 2008. According to the National Gardening Association, one in three households in the US now grows groceries, with the 18- to 35-year-old age group increasing year on year.

Illustration by Sophia Chryssovergis

In addition to eliminating the boredom of home isolation, gardening has many physical, mental, economic, and environmental benefits, said Tamara Benjamin, assistant program director for Purdue University Extension in Diversified Agriculture and Food Systems.

“Home gardens are the three-legged stools of sustainability – socially, economically and environmentally,” she said. “We are creating a biodiversity area that becomes part of the community.”

Benjamin has a PhD in home gardening and has transformed her front yard into a garden with more than 60 types of fruit and vegetables. She has also taught a farm planning class for many years.

“Gardens create an economic incentive for someone,” she said. “You can start producing your own fruits and vegetables that you can eat and not buy.”

Illustration by Sophia Chryssovergis

Home gardens also provide access to healthy foods that some may not be readily available.

“To begin with, invite your family and neighbors to eat more healthy foods,” said Jodee Ellett, Indiana University’s director of engagement for Sustainable Food Systems Science. “With the increase in home gardening, entire households naturally increase their consumption and access to a variety of healthy foods.”

The sooner children try healthy foods, the more long-term they will crave them, said Ellett, who directs the Indiana Food Council Network, which helps local food councils build a better food supply chain for Indiana.

Home gardens also create a social activity either within the household or with neighbors who can stop and ask questions about what has been planted.

“You begin to interact with your community members and teach children where their food is coming from. They explain what a raspberry bush is, how it tastes, ”said Benjamin.

Home gardening also has the added benefit of reducing noise pollution, reducing carbon dioxide in the environment and helping to preserve natural ecosystems.

Illustration by Sophia Chryssovergis

“I would say our little little home garden does more to fix carbon in the soil and recycle water than most of the lawns that are here,” said Benjamin. “Almost every year it rains very heavily and all of the water is completely absorbed in our small house garden. All of the water seeps back into the aquifer and just doesn’t drain and into the river. ”

For those looking to start a garden now, it may be difficult to find seeds.

The seed buying season typically runs from January to March, with sales manipulated until the end of the month when planting begins. This year, however, seed companies have seen a huge surge in demand and sales continue to peak as buyers plant gardens to keep busy or provide for an uncertain future.

Seed companies fulfill orders, but lead times are a little longer than usual due to demand. Garden centers are open and there is a lot of traffic.

Illustration by Sophia Chryssovergis

“The economy shows that panic buying is a reality and supply and demand are affected by these emotional states we get into,” said Benjamin. “We’re in a really weird time right now where people aren’t really sure what to think and are therefore reacting to the potential they think might happen to them in the future.”

However, most seeds are only viable for a year, and Benjamin said the point is for people to buy seeds that they may not use or that they may sell at a higher price.

She said it was better for new gardeners to start small with containers or a raised bed.

“You control how much you produce, how many weeds you have to process, what water you have to water everything with, all of these things,” she said.

It is also important to consider which vegetables to plant and the environmental conditions in the garden area, including the climate and soil. You can use online resources to identify the best plants for each region and the best time to plant each plant.

Illustration by Sophia Chryssovergis

Benjamin said a lot of people plant zucchini but don’t know how overwhelming the plant can be.

“Unless you have a lot of great zucchini recipes and you know how you’re going to eat the zucchini, you probably aren’t going to be very happy and wasting your money, time, and resources on this zucchini plant.” She said. “So I would definitely think about the things you like.”

Benjamin recommends gardeners test the soil for contamination before planting. Ground tests can cost anywhere from $ 10 to $ 20, depending on the type of tests you run. She also advises gardeners to understand the timing and maintenance of a garden.

“Do you take two weeks vacation every summer to go on vacation somewhere? Who will take care of it? “She said.” It’s like having a pet. You can’t just leave it and wait to come back and it’s still alive. I’m a big advocate of home gardening, but I think you have to want to do that too and do the work and have the right conditions for it. ”

There are also initial costs for setting up a garden. If that’s an obstacle, then Ellett says a community garden might be a good option.

Illustration by Sophia Chryssovergis

“People can get started without a huge upfront investment,” she said. “Generally there is a tool shed with everything you need and you can just go in and out into the garden. You can also ask questions, share information and, as the name suggests, build a community. ”

Ellett said that while life is more stressful because of the coronavirus, she hopes something good will come of it as people reconnect with where the food comes from and how it is grown.

“With COVID-19, it will be interesting to see the impact on home cooking and interest in home gardening,” she said. “I hope it brings out all of this older knowledge that we have in our communities about gardening and self-sufficiency and inspires people who need to be at home because we are socially distant to rethink what we do at home and what we do with our garden. “