Thursday, March 26, 2009

Growing vegetables relieves stress and financial strain

When tough economic times hit, our collective money belts cinch tighter and tighter. People stop looking for entertainment out of doors and hunker down for the at-home experience, including eating in.

Yet—there is a silver lining. Although the current economy may cause us to make the move from sidewalk cafĂ© to sideboard jockey (for a while), there is much to gain along the way. Say hello to stress relief. It may sound counterintuitive—“I’m stressed because everyone is stressed, so I should be frugal and grocery shop and stay home and cook my own dinner.”

But, cooking—and by extension, growing your own food—is an age-old holistic health practice, which promotes relaxation by shifting your focus from mental worry to physical exertion. As anxiety chills, your immune system and cardiovascular systems work better (otherwise known as, “I feel good.”)

It’s a win-win. You feel better AND your wallet feels better, because GIY (grow-it-yourself) gardening gives you fresh vegetables at a fraction of the store-bought price.

How do you get started?

Seed starting. True, you can also save money with month-old plants from your local nursery or home-supply store, but why would you? Seeds are a fraction of the price and produce more of what you want—lots’o’veggies.

One of the best ways to seed start, according to Master Gardener and ACHS Senior Vice President Erika Yigzaw, is with a seedling heat mat. These mats are portable and lightweight (which means apartment friendly), and allow you to bottom water, minimize the risk of mold.

Seed starting, Yigzaw shared at the ACHS Organic Gardening workshop March 21, has several personal and health benefits:
  • It’s fun and easy.
  • Fresh, on-hand food.
  • You know where your food comes from (if you spend a little time researching your seeds and seed starting mix, you can be sure your food is organic, free of synthetic pesticide and chemicals).
  • Saves money.
  • Lengthens the growing season.
Start gardening...

  1. Check the Farmer’s Almanac for your region to see when the last frost is scheduled to arrive.
  2. Consult a gardening encyclopedia-type reference to see what veggies will grow best in your area. (In Oregon, the Oregon State University Master Gardener program is a good resource.)
  3. Find your local, organic gardening store, where you can purchase your seeds, seedling starting mix, and seedling heat mat.
  4. Read any and all instructions that come with your products.
  5. When it is time to replant your seedlings into larger containers, re-use household materials like old plastic and/or ceramic planters, bowls, glasses, or tubs.
  6. If you plan to transplant your veggies into larger plots, consult a local expert in advance. If you plan to build a container garden, the Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food is a very user-friendly resource.

Tip: Make sure the container is large enough to avoid root-bound plants. And, you will want to sterilize your containers in a 10% solution of bleach.

For questions about organic, at-home gardening, contact the OSU Master Gardeners or your local organization.

For information about personal nutrition, or holistic nutrition career training, contact the Australasian College of Health Sciences.

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