What are your excuses not to grow your own food? Are you looking for ways to overcome your lack of space, time, knowledge, money, energy and/or motivation?
I encounter many people in my daily life that don’t grow their own food. When I ask them why, they start giving me excuses. And these excuses seem to all fall into six categories.
What about you? Do you also have excuses not to grow your own food? Or maybe you do grow food at home and want to expand what you grow. Or maybe you simply want to encourage others to ditch their excuses and get started growing food.
There are many reasons for growing your own food. It is healthier and fresher than you can get in any store. And the taste and smell! Everything (yes, even brussel sprouts) tastes better grown in your own garden.
So let’s look at these excuses and see what we can do to send them packing, and get our would-be gardeners to start their food gardens.
Excuse #1: “I don’t have the space to grow vegetables in my garden” or “I don’t have a garden”
Not everyone has the luxury of having an acre or more of backyard where they can plant rows upon rows of vegetables, have a large orchard and extensive greenhouses to grow everything under the sun. There are other places where you can grow food successfully.
Growing food doesn’t have to take up much space. One small 4 foot by 8 foot raised bed can actually grow quite a bit of food and is a great way to start gardening. You can then expand and add more raised beds as your interest, time and money allow.
Combine a small bed with vertical gardening where plants are trellised so that they grow up instead of out. You can do this with beans, peas, squash, melons and cucumbers. Just make sure not to shade the other plants by putting the trellis on the north side of the bed if possible. And for heavy melons and squash you may need to use some slings (made from t-shirts or pantyhose.)
You can also grow many vegetables and small fruit bushes in your existing flower beds. Some vegetables in particular are very attractive such as these examples:
- purple eggplant, especially the long, thin Asian varieties
- rainbow chard, ‘Bright Lights’ has yellow, red, green and white colours
- peppers, many colours including green, red, orange, yellow, purple, black
- amaranth and quinoa
- tomatoes, not just red ones but also yellow and orange and tiger striped
- root vegetables/greens – use to fill in bare spots in your flower garden (some have interesting foliage that creates a satisfying backdrop to the more traditional flower plants)
- currants and blueberries have beautifully coloured berries and usually are compact bushes (or can be pruned to stay compact)
- strawberries can serve as a good ground cover with cute white flowers when blooming and then red berries when ripe
That’s all great, Marc, but I simply don’t have a garden so what do you suggest?
If you live in a condo or apartment you may only have a small balcony. Or you may be renting the basement suite in a house and only have a small walk-out patio available for your use. I’ve already touched on what you can do in small spaces to make the most of the space.
That’s where container gardening comes in. You can grow a whole salad garden in one big pot: one tomato plant, one cucumber plant and some lettuce. Just make sure you have enough sunlight and be sure to water well every day, especially if your balcony is sun drenched and is breezy – wind tends to dry out pots very quickly.
You can plant several strawberry plants in a specially designed planter or a strawberry crate tower and harvest enough every few days to put on your cereal in the morning or have with some ice cream for dessert.
You can even grow some forms of dwarf fruit trees in a larger pot. Lemons grow well in a pot and produce fruit throughout the year.
No balcony or patio? You can grow microgreens indoors under grow lights very easily. Or use a sunny windowsill to grow some herbs.
There are also community gardens you can become a member of and have a small bed to call your own.
Excuse #2: “I have no time to garden”
My post on the best ways to make progress provides some tips on how to find more time to garden and how to be motivated to get work done.
You can actually do a lot in 15 minutes of gardening. How do you find 15 minutes?
- get up 15 minutes earlier and spend that 15 minutes doing a garden maintenance walk or use it to pick some vegetables or water containers before the heat of the day
- if you work relatively close to home, go home for lunch and after eating lunch get out into the garden until it is time to head back to work – just don’t get carried away and miss an important meeting at work!
- If you are waiting on other family members to get ready to leave home, step outside to do some work that doesn’t involve mess and dirt – I usually deadhead some flowers or pull some weeds carefully
Other ways to find more time to garden is to get help from others. This is especially important if you are doing more laborious gardening tasks such as double-digging, building new garden beds, turning your compost or doing a massive seeding. Who can help?
- other members of your family, get your children involved early as I have with my daughter
- your friends or neighbours
- hired help – especially in summer there are many students looking for casual work
While this may not sound popular, consider replacing part of the time you are doing another activity with gardening. Perhaps you spend lots of time on social media, playing video games, watching videos, going out to parties/dinners or chatting on the phone.
While I’m not suggesting you quit any of those leisure pursuits cold-turkey, you may be able to at least reduce time spent on some of them by an hour a week, which you can then use for gardening. Gardening also has many health benefits which you may not get with these other activities.
Excuse #3: “I don’t know how to get started”
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the thought of starting something new such as gardening. There is so much information out there about gardening and some of it is too complex to follow. Also there is a lot of misinformation out there.
So you may want to start slowly with growing food and work your way up once you have more experience. That is how I started out.
The resources that are available include:
- books – check out my recommended books
- eBooks such as my Tranquil Garden eBook
- seed catalogues – most have planting info for all types of vegetables, flowers and some fruit
- internet – especially YouTube for instructional videos
- other gardeners, neighbours, work colleagues
- garden clubs – try and go to an open house or some clubs allow you to come to a few meetings before you have to pay the membership fee
- nurseries (careful though as they are in the business of selling)
And of course keep reading this blog!
Excuse #4: “Gardening is just too expensive”
Simple answer to this: so are a lot of other things you do. Going out for lunch or dinner several times per week, buying an expensive coffee or other drink from a coffee shop every day, travelling, buying electronics, other hobbies such as golfing, fishing, etc.
While I’m not suggesting you give all of those up to instead spend lots of money on gardening, even just a hundred dollars a year that you can free up will go a long ways to purchasing some gardening tools and supplies. And as you become more experienced you may find that your expenses actually go down as you will have the tools you need, be able to save seeds and have your own compost to amend your garden beds.
Check out my money saving tips where I list six ways to save money. If you do a search online you will find even more ideas.
You can also make money from your gardening, at least enough to pay your expenses, but in some cases actually make additional money that you can use for other things or save up for a larger garden purchase.
Some ideas for monetizing your garden by selling stuff:
- extra seeds
- your produce, either roadside or at a farmer’s market
- products created from your produce – think jams, preserves, pies and other baked goods
Keep in mind though your municipal bylaws and in some jurisdictions you may need to get a business license the moment you start selling something. If you are selling prepared foods you may also need other licenses. And make sure to declare any income and pay taxes on it!
Excuse #5: “I don’t have the energy or motivation to garden – it looks like a lot of hard work”
The biggest benefit of gardening on your health is that you get to eat much healthier and fresher vegetables and fruit. This will naturally give you more energy and stamina to make it through the worst gardening days.
Sunshine provides us with vitamin D. And the warmth of the sun serves as a mental stimulus to invigorate us. Exercising has been proven to actually give you more energy – the first few days of gardening may seem tiring but once you get into a groove (and perhaps lose some weight if you have excess weight) you will find you have more energy.
You need to have the right motivation to garden. Read my post on how gardening affects your family’s health, where I cover the reasons why gardening is so beneficial to the overall health of your family. Especially read the section entitled “Sense of accomplishment.”
If you don’t have the physical energy to spend a few hours in the garden, that is okay. You can get quite a bit of gardening done in even as little as 15 minutes (as already mentioned above) at a time. Sometimes though you will find that you can’t stop after 15 minutes – that shows you are getting passionate about gardening!
And if you have children, your motivation may be to teach them how to grow their own food. Building a children’s garden planter box and helping them plant it may inspire you to get started yourself.
Excuse #6: “I hate getting my hands and clothes messy and being cold and wet”
Gardening has a bad reputation as being messy. Gardeners are easy to spot as they have dirt under their fingernails and literally have dirt ground into the skin of their fingertips. So much for having a “green thumb” – mine are usually brown! It doesn’t have to be that way though.
You can protect your hands not only from injury but also from getting dirty with a good pair of garden gloves. There are even muck gloves that protect you from really nasty muddy chores such as cleaning out a pond or cleaning up slimy, half-rotted vegetation.
Gardening is often portrayed in photos with the sun shining and the gardener dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. In reality you will get rained on, have to brave wind and storm and even have to go out into the snow to brush snow off a prized bush or off your greenhouse roof.
Having the right gear to protect your whole body is important. You may already have rain gear such as rain pants, gum boots/wellies, a weather-proof hat and a good rain jacket (no gardening with an umbrella, although I have seen this!). Otherwise you may just have to wait out a rainstorm or snowstorm. Or send someone else from the family out!
Coming in from working in the cold and wet is a relief as you can strip out of your wet clothes, have a warm shower and drink a nice cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate to warm up your insides and pamper yourself. You can then think about all the good work you were able to do in the inclement weather!
We all make excuses for not doing something. It is easy to blame something that seems outside of our control. But it pays to be persistent, think outside of the box and come up with ways to achieve what sometimes seems impossible. The rewards are just too precious and valuable to allow a few excuses to stop you from achieving them.
Are there any other excuses not to grow your own food that you have used in the past or have heard from others? Leave a comment and I’ll respond with a reply on how you can overcome the excuse and finally grow your own food! 🙂
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Tranquil Garden Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC