Five Unorthodox Reasons Why You Should Grow Some Your Own Food (A Little…or a Lot)

| June 23, 2015 | 5 Comments

In no particular order:

When you grow your own stuff, you can tell Monsanto to shove it.

In September of 2014, GMO giant Syngenta Crop Protection LLC asked the US Environmental Protection Agency to increase the legal tolerance for neonicotinoid pesticides on crops. Neonicotinoids, as you may have read, are now widely regarded as the bee-killing class of pesticides, which are now banned in most of Europe but still demonstrably killing off bees by the billions here in the U.S.

So, you say, surely our government would take seriously a natural resource that is responsible for pollinating — and thus assuring we’ll get to eat — over 70% of our major food sources in the United States? Naaaaaaaa. We live in a world where money talks. And sets public policy. Observe a similar case: New standards adopted by the EPA in 2013 raised the amount of allowable glyphosate (Roundup) in oilseed crops such as flax, soybeans and canola from 20 parts per million to 40 ppm, which sources like GM Watch acknowledge is over 100,000 times the amount needed to induce growth in breast cancer cells. Additionally, the EPA increased limits on allowable glyphosate in food crops from 200 ppm to 6,000 ppm.

Sometimes I feel like we’re living in some sort of parallel universe, where the worst possible things can be happening, and rather than the peoples’ representatives doing anything about it, they smile like the village idiot and clap.

If you’re not super interested in your tax dollars subsidizing the protection of profit margins of companies that make herbicides, pesticides, food waxes, dyes, genetically modified (and largely untested) organisms, and the like, you can get mad as hell and make your opinion known, and perhaps it will do some good. But if you just want them off your plate, you can start growing a few things yourself, organically, in order to stop buying the products that come slathered in those products. Which may, some day, put the sorry bastards out of business. Hey, a girl can hope.

You won’t want to eat out as often, because cooking dinner with your own herbs and ingredients makes things so amazingly delicious you’ll turn up your nose at Chez BooBoo.

Usually we’re pretty frugal with meals, but tonight we’re celebrating a killer grocery store sale with wild-caught Alaskan salmon, its sauce made from lemon, fresh scallions and fresh dill . . . as in “honey, could you go yank it out of the garden.” Cost for the same meal at our local foo-foo restaurant: $28.00, times two. We paid less than a fifth of that for hunk of salmon and another 25 cents for a lemon (no lemons in our Rocky Mountain garden).

Do you like chicken? Grilled chicken is good, but grilled chicken marinated with garlic and fresh tarragon is ridiculous. Better yet, a tarragon cream sauce over pasta with shredded grilled chicken.

Salsa made with your own just-picked tomatoes, onion, jalapeños and cilantro will make you fall to your knees. Add some organic corn chips, an ice-cold yellow beer and some friends on a hot summer day and it’ll make you feel like the luckiest person alive.

Don’t even get me started on the fresh crunchy green sugar snap peas, or the sweet corn that tastes like candy (because the sugars in it haven’t broken down by a week of transit).

Don’t get me wrong, we do like to go out to eat. But we no longer do it because what we can get “out there” is so much better than what we can get at home. In fact, it’s the other way around. But on those nights when you just want some else to do the cooking and don’t feel like doing the dishes? Having a garden can’t help you there. We often lean toward a place like Kimbal Musk’s chain of Kitchen restaurants, coming soon to city near you I hope. ‘Cause, daaaaaaaaamn.

The science is clear: Getting your hands in a little dirt relieves depression.

All of the gardeners I know view digging around in the soil as the cheapest therapy there is (and you get tomatoes) (thanks Jane). We all seem to feel better after we’ve been out there in the dirt, even if it’s just to plant a few seeds or murder a few weeds. So when researchers from several colleges around the world, including Bristol University and University College London, studied and found that naturally occurring “good” bacteria found in soil may have the same effect on our brains as antidepressant drugs, it made me go, “Hm.”

Studies over the past decade have already linked childhood exposure to certain soil-borne bacteria to protection against allergies and asthma. That I could easily see, but depression?

It seems these researchers became interested in a certain bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae (oh, just call it Mike for short) after findings that showed lung cancer patients treated with the bacteria reported better quality of life and less nausea and pain. The scientists theorized – and found – that “Mike” stimulates serotonin production, which is the feel-good hormone at play whenever we feel just great. (Chronically low serotonin levels are linked to a number of disorders including debilitating anxiety, depression, OCD, and bipolar disorder.) Higher levels of serotonin = more happy.

Gardeners inhale the bacteria, have topical contact with it, and get it into their bloodstreams when there is a cut or opening in the skin. The natural effects of the soil bacteria antidepressant can be felt for up to 3 weeks if the experiments with rodents are any indication. So get out and play in the dirt and improve your mood and your life.

By getting to use cool vessels, like galvanized tubs, livestock troughs, rain gutters, and wine barrels, gardening brings out your inner artist.

I don’t consider myself a crafty person, or even a particularly creative one, when compared to others. I bow to those who can make a light fixture out of an old milk bottle or a handbag out of used Target shopping bags (no kidding, I have one of these).

But with a little bit of inspiration from others who’ve dreamed up wildly cool containers to grow their food plants in, even I can see the potential in a discarded pair of hiking boots or a rusty clawfoot bathtub. It makes me feel like my right brain is expanding. I’ll just show you a few of my favorites:


Wine barrels (courtesy



Rain gutters  (courtesy Suzanne Forsling)

stocktanks2 stocktanks

Left and right: Stock tanks (courtesy
Apartment Therapy
and Two Men and a Little Farm )





Toolbox  (courtesy Eclectically Vintage)



Shoe keepers  (courtesy Instructables)



Tin cans  (courtesy Dos Family)



Toy trucks (courtesy Junk Market)



Colander (courtesy HGTV)



Old sinks (courtesy My Home Ideas)


Wagons (courtesy HGTV)


Growing a few things is not hard, and for a modest effort you save a shit-ton of money. Do you really want to pay $3.00 for a tiny sprig of basil? I don’t.

A pithy anecdote:  We are complete pesto freaks. So the year before last, I grew a little row of basil, no more than 6 feet. By pinching back the plants periodically (so the foliage would divide and make more and more branches) they turned into tubby little shrubs, and we harvested enough basil to fill half the freezer with pesto, chopped basil in ice cubes, roasted tomato soup with basil, and on and on.

In comparing this little row with the tufts of basil sold in little $2.99 plastic packages in a typical grocery store, we estimated we grew about $150.00 worth of basil. The price? Watering every other day, trimming it back once in a while (making soups and sauces out of the trimmings) and a few hours with the food processor.

By choosing the most expensive things to grow yourself — priced shallots or organic brussels sprouts lately? — it can be quite a coup.


Have you thought about starting a few containers, a couple of rows, a little patch of a food garden? It can help you stick it to a company that doesn’t give a shit, improve your love of eating, make an artist out of you, help cure your depression, and save money …..what’s not to love?







Category: Art, Food, Food Stamp Challenge Recipes, Fun, Garden, Home, Leisure, Mental Health, Money Saving, Organic, Pets, Products (Green and hedonistic), Sustainable

Comments (5)

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  1. GivenTrees says:

    Great read Margaret! I see you found the info on soils and antidepressants. It’s worked for me for more years than I care to admit! Also have to steal the photos of the toy trucks…love the dishes in the sink as well. Good Job siStar!

  2. Stacy McDonald says:

    LOVE THIS!!!! I always love getting your posts! So enlightening!

  3. Debbie says:

    Thanks for sharing these insights, Margaret. Science, economics and art – all of which support my love for being out in the garden.

    For me, gardening is a meditative experience (even weeding!!). I don’t think about anything else while I’m out there – not all the unanswered emails, what I’m supposed to be doing at work, whether I should be worried about that funny sound the car is making… I just focus on the plants, clearing the space so they can thrive, checking that the drip system is working properly, and marveling that I can just put in a few seeds and seedlings and nature does the rest!

    And I’m rewarded with a colander full of fat, juicy blueberries!! And fun kinds of lettuce for salads. And green beans, snow peas, and garlic. All organic. What could be better?

    P.S. I love the photo of those rain gutters full of lettuce. You could literally just reach out the kitchen window for your salad. Nice.

    • greenhedonist says:

      Thanks, Debbie. I feel the same. Our garlic (which we put in the ground last September and have done nothing with except water it from time to time) is starting down the slope toward being ready to harvest, and the stalks are as big around as my big toe. 52 heads – one for each week of the coming year! Working in technology, it’s especially calming to just go hang out with the plants and ladybugs and hummingbirds.

  4. mindofjim says:

    Thanks for the post, really awesome. I found your blog via a post about plastic crap in an anti-consumption forum and knew I had to stick around! I wanted you to know that your succulent trucks are the absolute best!

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