With the world still in recovery mode following the coronavirus pandemic-induced food supply challenges made worse by the Russia-Ukraine war, there has been growing interest to strengthen and intensify local food production in order to mitigate the adverse effect of global food shocks and food price volatilities.
As a result of this, much attention has turned to backyard or home gardens as a strategy to enhance household food security and nutrition.
Over the years, backyard gardens, have been documented as an important supplemental source to ward off food scarcity and contribute to the overall nutritional security of populations worldwide.
Recognising this, just last year, the Government of Jamaica, through its Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, launched a Backyard Gardening Programme geared at boosting the country’s food security and emphasising the importance of eating local produce.
Reasons to grow your own food
There are numerous benefits to be gained from growing your own found, some of which include:
- Guaranteed Fresh – When you purchase goods from your local grocery store, it isn’t usually communicated how long ago the crop was harvested or the period of time it has been sitting on the shelf. However, if you grow your own food, you cannot always guarantee it is fresh because you picked it!
- Saves Money – By growing your own food, you are able to save money on both gas and produce, which would ordinarily be spent travelling to the grocery store.
- More Nutritious – The majority of produce sold in grocery stores go through a long process of being picked, shipped and distributed to various stores. As a result, they may lose nutritional value, due to staying in storage or on the shelf for a while before being purchased.
- Broader Selection – When you buy fruits and vegetables from the grocery store, you’re limited to what they choose to offer. On the other hand, when you grow your own produce, there are endless options.
How to start a Home Garden
1. Consider what you would like to grow – Do your research on what fruits or vegetables are best suited for your climate region.
2. Choose your ideal garden location– Many fruits and vegetables require hours of direct sunlight a day, so keep this in mind when selecting your garden location.
3. Acquire basic gardening tools– At a minimum, you’ll need to invest in a sturdy shovel and a pair of gloves when you start your garden. But there are several other tools of the trade that might come in handy, such as a potting soil scoop to easily fill pots and planters and a standard kitchen knife to make precise cuts when harvesting vegetables.
4. Test your soil – Before going all-in with your selected garden location, get a soil test, to identify the proportions of clay, sand, silt and organic matter in your garden soil and whether you have any nutrient deficiencies.
5. Make your garden bed – The first step to creating a garden bed is clearing away the existing vegetation. Once this is complete you’ll need to prepare your planting space by digging holes for your seedlings or to transplant your produce.
6. Plant your crops. Once your bed is built, look at the requirements on your seed packs or online for each crop. Some only need a few inches of space, while others will take up a foot or more. Some need soil pressed over the top and others germinate better in loose earth.