Top 5: Reasons to have a Kitchen Garden

I feel like I’ve written a few negative posts of late – posts about the down sides of gardening – the pests and annoyances.  Today though I thought I’d look at the up side – the benefits of kitchen gardening.   This year I am keeping a record of how much I spend on the garden and how much I save in vegetable costs.  This record keeping is fraught though as I would love to think I’m saving money but it will take a while to cover the cost of those dwarf citrus….Actually if I don’t include them then  I am currently in the black so far this year but having just come through my most productive time of the year I would want to be.

Just in case it all goes wrong and I actually end up spending more than I save I thought it would be a good idea to re-iterate to myself the non-monetary reasons why having a kitchen garden is a really good idea.

1. Constant access to fresh ingredients – particularly herbs and flavourings:  I am something of a foodie, I enjoy food and most of all I enjoy fresh food.  There are few things I find more irritating* than not being able to cook what I want to, when I want to and having herbs etc in the garden enables me to do that.  For a good proportion of each year I have: Lemongrass, Kaffir Lime, Bay leaves, Parsley, Chervil, Oregano, Thyme, Mint, Thai Basil, Tarragon, Chives, Garlic Chives, Sage, Basil, Coriander and Curry Leaves.  If you add to that the veggies that I tend to grow year round: Beetroot, Celery, Chard & Lettuce then you’ve got the basis for a heap of soups, stocks, and salads ready and waiting in the garden.

*Actually I probably could name quite a few things that irritate me if pushed: queues,  slow internet connections, most people who call in to talk back radio, Sam Newman, not being able to fit into the jeans I wore as a teenager etc etc etc.

 2. I eat more vegetables – My theory is that if I’ve gone to all the trouble to grow it then I will actually cook and eat it – as opposed to it sitting in my fridge until it goes floppy and gets thrown out – which I have to admit being guilty of on more than one occasion.  Having a kitchen garden means that I am more likely to base a meal around a vegetable/s and as a result I eat more of them.   The other advantage is that gluts mean I am constantly widening my repertoire of meals I cook.  Once you’ve made you 2 eggplant recipes and you’ve still got crops coming in its time to get creative and actually try something new.

3. Kids – I always find those sections in books detailing the merits of gardening on children a little cringe worthy.  They invariably use really sentimental language about connecting kids with nature and understanding where our food comes from and all that.  Not that I don’t think these things are important – I do hugely, its just that if I’m honest my kids would gain that knowledge even without our kitchen garden as my parents live on a farm and their school has a veggie patch and chooks.  What they do get out of my garden though is fresh fruit and vegetables (they get very excited whenever they find a ripe strawberry).  But even better they have access to a large variety of bugs, and a mother who is always either trying to encourage more of them (bees and ladybirds etc) or trying to get rid of them.  As a result they have learnt a lot about bugs.  Good bugs, bad bugs, where they live, how to catch them and how to avoid them.

Incidentally while we’re on the subject of children and kitchen gardens I do think that all those people who tell you kids will eat something they’ve grown themselves are speaking absolute crap.  A kid that doesn’t like pumpkin isn’t going to like it because they put the seed in the ground.  They might claim it as theirs, play football with it, or carve it for Halloween but in my experience they still don’t eat it.

4. Sense of Achievement: I am a stay-at-home mum and although that has many benefits, achievements can be few and far between.  Sure I can occasionally get the kids to go to bed on time, or to pick up 3 of the 700 items that litter the floor, or to stop biting other kids at playgroup.  But I tend to think of these things with a sense of relief rather than pride or achievement.  Its just not the same as:  hitting your monthly sales target, getting your online training material signed off, going live with the L&D system or whatever other achievements used to fill my days in those that preceded kids.  I have long sections on my CV detailing them but strangely I can remember very few off the top of my head…..

With gardening you can have achievements all the time though – lots of them; the daily herb harvest, the big pile of potatoes, the happy ever-producing cucumbers, even the almost dead but still going..just…tomatoes.  Sure there are failures but that doesn’t bother me because I still get satisfaction from those that do work.

5. Knowing what goes into & onto your food – I have to admit that when I buy vegetables I don’t usually buy organic ones – although I know ideologically I should.  Growing my own means I get organic without the high cost which means I have one less thing to have parental angst about – which frankly is a huge plus in my world.

And there was my Top 5, and I haven’t even mentioned food miles which is also a huge plus too.  What would you include in yours?

Looking for more 5’s then head on over to The New Goodlife to see what she is thinking about this week.

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38 Responses to Top 5: Reasons to have a Kitchen Garden

  1. I think this is my favourite of your lists Liz, I should save it so I can re-read it when I need a boost. Your list of herbs in particular is impressive – I only have mint, rosemary, sage, thyme and parsley at the moment. Just today I added lots of manure, compost and blood and bone to the soil which was sadly depleted having been neglected for four years. Now I just need to add the ones I don’t have.
    What you wrote about kids I agree with absolutely. Yesterday Miss Two was wandering around munching on a stalk of silverbeet – much to my friends amazement – not that she would actually eat it if I dished it up at dinner time. The number of cherry tomatoes she ate while playing in the yard was huge (pity we only got four strawberries). But you’re so right about the not eating it even if they grow it!

    • Liz says:

      Thanks Barbara, your soil will be much happier now. Very impressed with Miss Three munching on a silverbeet stalk – I will try and tempt Mr 2 with a nice yellow one – I’m expecting sword play instead though.

  2. Daphne says:

    My number one isn’t even on your list. I wrote a post about it a year and a half ago.
    You can go to the link but my concluding paragraph summarizes it.

    “So I confess to not being an altruist in my gardening. I don’t do it to save the world, to eat locally and use less fuel. I don’t do it to save money even though I keep a tally. I do it because I’m drawn to the marvel of nature. I want to be a part of it all and to see it all happen before me. I do it for selfish reasons. If I’m ever stressed out, all I need to do is go into the garden and listen to the bees hum. I do it to be connected.”

    • Liz says:

      An absolutely lovely post to read – thanks for the link. For anyone who hasn’t had a look then please have a look, to me it articulates most of what I and I suspect others love about gardening but don’t always recongise.

  3. I have very picky eaters. All three of my children tend towards pickiness, but they will all at least try things that they have seen growing. This is a huge plus for me.

    I don’t buy organic, either, but I do feel a little relief when I can get my kids to eat veggies that we grew organically.

    This is a good list. I like your Top 5 series.

    • Liz says:

      Thats great that they’ll try things, I guess perhaps mine do eat a more varied diet because of the garden too.

  4. Andrea V says:

    Loving the photos Liz. Ditto with you and Barb about the kids, they get so so so much pleasure in helping in the garden or playing while I potter. Picking things is such a thrill for them and we love watching the worms! My top five would include the pleasurable feeling and relaxation that descends whilst pottering in the garden, the joy of seeing the garlic stalks poke through, feeling the warmth of the sun or the bite of the autumn air, thoughts, worry or annoyances simply evaporate. The produce is a bonus that adds to the sense of satisfaction.

    • Liz says:

      I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said – it is lovely to both experience the joy of nature and as you say just potter around.

  5. I agree with your five and would add that the flavour of home grown vegetables is far superior to anything bought. Also it’s an enjoyable way to take part in some outdoor activity.

    Martyn kept a record of cost to buy what we grew at supermarket prices and it was incredible especially for fruit. I guess we wouldn’t have actually bought all the fruit (e.g. raspberries/blueberries in tiny punnets, tasteless strawberries) that we grew so maybe we wouldn’t have saved that amount of money but as you mentioned it meant we ate more fresh produce

    • Liz says:

      Fruit is like that isn’t it – I harvested about $50 worth of passionfruit – now I wouldn’t usually spend that amount of money on them but I’m sure the Vit. C is doing me good. I agree with you on both flavour and being outside. I found the latter particularly true in Britain where without gardening (and the occasional walking holiday) I really didn’t have any outdoor pursuits at all. Here I am naturally outside more but it is still lovely to have a purpose while there.

  6. I would add how gardens bring people together; especially within a family. Our garden is a family garden and while we’re out there gardening….we talk, we laugh, we discuss, we teach, we learn….true family time. The garden also brings neighbors by to talk and have brought us closer to them as well.

    • Liz says:

      That is very true – when I think about it, it is my most frequent topic of conversation with my father. I do really value having a shared interest.

  7. Angela says:

    Great list! #1 and #5 were the reasons I started a kitchen garden, but later I did feel that sense of achievement. I wasn’t expecting it and it feels good! It still amazes me that a tiny little seed can grow into something delicious and nutritious, like a tomato or basket of beans. I’ve never kept good records of money saved, but this year I’m planning to track that better.

    • Liz says:

      I’m recording money saved for the first time and I have to admit to finding it fun – in a nerdy kind of way. Watching the spreadsheet grow is really satisfying – ahhh the sense of achievement thing again…

  8. I totally agree with you with #5 being my top-top priority – Knowing what goes into & onto my food. I have to be in charge of that, not some industrial monsters or chemical labs. Perfect post, Liz!

    • Liz says:

      Thanks Marina, Its interesting – it depends on what I’ve just read how much no. 5 matters to me, whilst the other 4 are constants that one for me anyway becomes more or less important with each passing health scare.

  9. leduesorelle says:

    All terrific reasons, a good reminder that it’s not all zero sum!

    • Liz says:

      It would be interesting to know if there is anyone who does actually garden purely for the monetary saving – my guess would be probably not in the WEstern world but elsewhere perhaps…

  10. Andrea says:

    Yep for all of those reasons…………………and top of my list is getting outside in the fresh air(even when its winter) looking at whats growing,checking for grubs,digging, raking leaves up, making compost ……………………just feels good.

    • Liz says:

      My favourite parts are planting and watching things grow. Both can be achieved pottering around while the kids examine bugs or jump on the trampoline, or ‘help’.

  11. Wendy says:

    Love these photos – your little guy is adorable. Had to laugh out loud about your comment about people who call into talk radio. They are usually a little annoying. 🙂

    • Liz says:

      And reactionary, or condescending, or ill informed, or partronising, or or or or just plain irritating. He he he. Actually I shouldn’t laugh too much I can imagine ringing in myself one day and no doubt the listeners will be thinking exactly the same of me.

  12. Frogdancer says:

    Number 4 is a biggie…. and I’m not even a SAHM!

    • Liz says:

      Its interesting how different people are motivated to do much the same thing – ie grow veggies by a range of different things. I wonder what else we could get people to do by looking at the different motivators behind them….

  13. Oh yeah, I reckon having your own herbs is the best. I have to disagree with you about the kids though. My littlest is a very fussy eater. And I know he wouldn’t even try half the stuff he has if he didn’t help water and pick it.

    • Liz says:

      Yay – glad it works for someone. My two love growing pumpkins but despite my trying to get them to eat it in about 3000 guises the end result is the same – it ends up in my tummy rather than theirs… Having said that I do think that for things they are more ambivalent about eg silver beet & beans, the fact that it is from the garden does mean they try a little bit more of it.

  14. Julie says:

    Oh I so needed this positive garden post.. I’ve been too busy lately and too frustrated. Somehow the end of the semester has arrived (I teach) with all the frantic students that comes with it, J has decided to start on the hardwood floors that have been sitting in the house for a month so the living room is ripped apart and the kitchen is now home to the couches and the kitchen table is in the garage! On top of this chaos, the squirrels have made me very angry and I think I just experienced my first cutworm destruction – 60 corn seedlings have been toppled!

    So thank you for your post to remind me of the great things about gardening!

    • Liz says:

      Very sad for your corn – 60 is a lot of plants, that would have been a great harvest in a few months. One thing I do like about gardening is that you can always try again, if not this year (and I assume you’d still have more than enough time to plant mroe corn for this year) then certainly next.

  15. Nina says:

    1, 4 and 5 are my motivators. Not having young children nor grandchildren yet (come on, K & M, get cracking!) number 3 isn’t up there, at the moment. I sort of dismissed no. 2, thinking I eat enough anyway but on reflection, I do probably eat more now that I grow my own. Sheesh, I put all that effort in and they suck the goodness out of the soil 24/7, so they need to pay!

    • Liz says:

      Even without the kids I think I’d still enjoy finding bugs – well the nice ones anyway. Even if you don’t eat more you probably eat them fresher thus more vitamins etc so your hard work is rewarded.

  16. kitsapFG says:

    I’ll see your five and raise the bid another five! LOL!

    I feel quite strongly that the food production garden is an oasis in a crazy modern world – in so many different ways.

    Thanks for posting this.

    • Liz says:

      When I was growing up my parents moved us to the country with the idea of self sufficiency. This was in 1980. They played around with the concept for a couple of years – never it that seriously and gradually they lost interest in it to the point where pretty much the only veg they grew were tomatoes. But over the past 8-10 years they have taken it up again. I definitely think that more people are either embracing it for the first time, or moving back into veg. gardening to both ensure they hand down the old skills, and also to connect with one of the basics of human survival. And I think you’re right both are reactions to how the modern world functions.

  17. Louise says:

    Love your post, agree with your lists (except that I dont have kids, so I have no personal expereince of that aspect). Can I add a two of my reasons?

    1. Getting dirty – I love it, its such an antidote to those of us who have to be neat and tidy during the week going to work. I love getting really dirty and sweaty and having dirty fingernails and feet.
    2. As some sort of minor revolt against the supermarkets…..

    • Liz says:

      Loved these! Absolutely perfect. I am not either a tidy gardener or a clean gardener so absolutely agree with number 1. Also being a little politicised at times No. 2 is great, perhaps the next stage of guerrilla gardening will be guerrilla stall holding where gardeners give away free produce in the Woolies car park.

      • Louise says:

        Oh I love it! What a great idea for an ‘action’ for a bunch of Sydney and Melbourne garden bloggers! Similtaneously.
        And with dirty feet in thongs too!

        • Liz says:

          He he it would be fun. We could be the real ‘fresh food people’, or should that be ‘fresh foot people’.

  18. Mark Willis says:

    A rather belated comment, Liz – I’ve been busy with grandparenting stuff… Just wanted to say how true is all that you say in this post. And (approriately for a gardener) how “down to earth”. You don’t beat about the bush, you just say what needs to be said. It struck me how similar gardening is to parenting: your plants become your “babies” and you do whatever you can to raise them well, accepting that there will be mistakes, trials and tribulations along the way, but most probably success at the end of it all! If I didn’t need the money that my employment provides, I’d retire now and be a full-time gardener.

    • Liz says:

      The comments are not that late at all, especially considering your recent familial addition. I agree about plants becoming your babies – if only my childeren were so well behaved though… Shame you are bound by financial considerations it would be lovely to garden full-time. But is the gardening world ready for that much order?

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