Starting a garden can be easy and affordable. Nicky Schauder shares how to start today by using items you already have in your kitchen. Whether you have a larger garden or simply grow vegetables and herbs in containers you can follow these easy gardening tips for planting your pantry and you’ll be harvesting fresh food in no time!
If every spring you say “This is the year I will finally grow my kitchen garden!” but never do, or if the thought of a garden is too daunting for you right now, then read on. This post was written with you in mind.
I know exactly what that garden overwhelm feels like. I used to think that gardening was too much work, especially back in 2006 and 2008 when the first and second of my 6 kids developed severe food allergies. Just trying to cook an entirely allergy-free menu (when I wasn’t even used to cooking at all) was like having a second job.
How could I even think of growing my own food when I hardly had time to make it myself?
But in my problem lay the solution. If I wanted my children to grow out of their allergies, we needed to make sure they were getting healthy, nutritious and therefore organic food.
Benefits of Gardening
There are so many good reasons we could all benefit from growing our own food.
For one thing, eating organic helps us get rid of the toxins that accumulate in our bodies. In the book, “Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemical Out of Our Bodies and Our World” (Lourie & Smith, 2005), the authors recommend eating organic as one of the primary ways to eliminate environmental bodily toxins.
Organic food, however, is expensive. And any organic produce that is store-bought would have already lost a lot of the nutrients it originally had upon harvesting (assuming that it was ripe and ready for the picking at all!)
Another reason for growing at least some of your food is that we know that commercially available produce is less nutritious today than it was 30 years ago (Souci, Fachmann and Kraut, 2002). So much so that to consume the equivalent nutrition of one peach in 1951, you would have to eat 53 peaches today!
So even if you are able to grow only one thing, your homegrown fruit or vegetable would be incomparably more nutritious and possibly more delicious than its supermarket counterpart.
Personally, the other compelling reason I have for growing my own food is that the act of keeping a garden can lead me to contemplation and prayer.
Gardening helps me to stop and actually notice things. It keeps me from checking Facebook one last time. It helps me pause and reflect. Nowadays, we need to impose these “slow-it-down” moments on ourselves. What better way to kill two birds with one stone than to grow your own and slow it down.
OK, so now that we have put in place the reasons that compel us to garden, where do we actually begin?
Since Kitchen Stewardship is all about baby steps and manageable bites, what better way to start than small? We need to find confidence until we can eventually integrate gardening into the rhythm of our daily lives.
Here’s the good news. Everything you need to grow a garden may already be in your pantry or your fridge! Here are a few examples.
How to Grow Your Own Bean Sprouts
RELATED: Have you ever tried sprouting your dried beans before cooking them? It’s a great way to reduce its flatulent effects.
If you already sprout your beans in water simply move some of the sprouted beans to some organic soil and watch them grow. Make sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy and plant the beans as deep as its size.
The beans will soon grow into seedlings.
After only a week of growing, you can harvest them and add them to soups or stir fry.
If you live in warmer climates, you can also grow your very own bean plants by transplanting them outdoors. If you live in temperate zones, you can also grow your bean plants indoors in a 14-inch pot or larger planter during winter.
How to Grow Mint from a Cutting
Mint, when bought as a live plant is one of the easiest plants to cultivate as the roots will grow runners. It is generally very prolific (which also means it will take over an area if not placed in a pot). It makes a great perennial patio plant, perfect for cutting fresh for recipes and tea.
If you’ve recently bought mint from the grocery store, you can actually re-grow it! The best way is to remove the bottom leaves of a cutting (so you have a longer stem) and stick it in a cup of water. Wait 2-4 weeks for it to grow roots in the water. Once it forms a root, wait a few more days for the roots to get stronger. When you see that you have a cluster of roots dab a little honey onto the fragile root area and stick gently into a pot of organic soil. The honey can help the mint deal with the shock of transplanting from water to soil.
Keep the soil moist and water regularly as it grows!
RELATED: Use your fresh mint to make this easy Cherry Tomato and Fresh Mint Salad Recipe!
How to Grow Rosemary from a Cutting
You can easily grow rosemary just as you do mint. Remove the bottom leaves of a cutting (so you have a longer stem) and stick it in a cup of water. Wait 2-4 weeks for it to grow roots in water. Once it forms a root, wait a few more days for the roots to get stronger. When you see that you have a cluster of roots dab a little honey onto the fragile root area and stick gently into a pot of organic soil. The honey can help the mint deal with the shock of transplanting from water to soil.
Related: Rosemary plants are perfect for container gardens!
How to Save Seeds from Tomatoes
The next time you buy “fresh” whole tomatoes (not canned) from the supermarket make sure that they are organic. It is important that they are or else you might be growing GMO varieties that never rot off the vine!
A Master Gardener once showed me a picture of a new tomato plant growing from a whole tomato that never rotted. Scary.
Save the organic tomato seeds.
Do you ever come across recipes that call for separating the tomato seeds from the tomato flesh? Perfect! If you are like me and try to shortcut this extra step, you can pride yourself in actually following the recipe this time now that you have a second reason to separate the seeds.
Rinse the seeds in a fine-mesh strainer and dry on a paper towel. Once dried, you can start them indoors as early as February by sowing them in a pot or tray. But do not transplant outdoors until the early summer.
How to Re-Grow Ginger
Ginger is one plant that grows best in the tropics but in temperate climates can be grown in a pot and kept indoors during the winter months. Some growers say it takes 8-10 months to harvest. I have seen it fully grown in the ground here in the Northeast by late summer and return again next year. Ginger roots will go dormant in the winter and provided it is a mild one, may reappear as a stronger ginger plant the following year.
To grow ginger you must purchase ones that have pointy “eyes” or “buds” already protruding from the ginger’s body. I like getting my ginger from Asian supermarkets. Somehow they are not as old and dried up as the regular grocery ones. If yours already has buds, that’s the perfect one to use. In the end, use whatever fresh ginger you have on hand.
Soak it in water and then place it into a pot as deep as its size with the eyes pointing up. Make sure the soil it is growing in is rich and moist. You must be patient with this one as it will grow slowly in our temperate regions, but once it’s palm-like fronds shoot up from your pot it will be well worth the wait.
RELATED: Here’s a Truckload of Ginger Recipes for when you harvest!
4 Extra Tips for an Easy Garden
I like to put my pantry plants close to the kitchen so that I notice them. Also, I can easily dump the leftover water cups that my children don’t drink into the growing pots. If the water from the sink is not soapy, I use that to water the plants as well.
Many of these plants grow very well in containers that you can place on your patio or deck!
Remember the plants need sun too, so place them as close to a window as possible if you’re growing them indoors.
Use organic, compost-rich soil. This will help your plant get the nutrients it needs to grow properly and give you the best harvest possible.
Be patient. Be positive.
The truth is there is so much more you can plant from your pantry and this is just a start! Re-growing food you already have is a frugal first step to gardening. It’s so easy and barely takes any time at all.
Every month, they teach lazy gardening through their “Grow Your Own Food” webinars, you can Sign-up and learn how to “Grow Your Own Food!”