Mrs. T grew up on a farm in Denmark and helped with growing produce and tending farm animals. As a result, she has always wanted to grow her own food in a kitchen garden. For me, because both sides of my grandparents were farmers, I spent hours in rice fields as a kid before we immigrated to Canada. I still have fond memories of planting and harvesting different crops, picking and eating fresh lychees, and digging dirt tunnels.
Given our childhood experiences, when we started looking for a place in the Vancouver suburbs, we wanted to have a backyard so we could create our own kitchen garden and grow our own produce.
If you are a longtime reader, you have probably seen pictures of our backyard garden in my monthly dividend income reports. Our kitchen garden started with us ripping out grass to create a circle four metres in diameter (~13 feet). In the middle, we created a circular stone mount to grow herbs. Mrs. T then divided up the rest of the circle into sections, growing different plants each year and rotating them annually to maintain soil fertility.
Each year, the kitchen garden “circle” has slowly expanded. A few years ago, we purchased a greenhouse from Costco to grow plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, etc. We also created sections at both ends of the backyard to grow raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, and jostaberries.
This year, we decided on a major expansion of the kitchen garden by ripping out more grass. After discussing with both kids, we also gave them a small section of the kitchen garden so they could grow vegetables of their choice.
It is nice to not have to buy produce from grocery stores and be self-sustainable in the summer and fall. However, things like manure, water, seeds, and new plants do cost money. I have not calculated the complete monetary benefits of a kitchen garden, although I have no doubt that we are saving money in the long run.
While our backyard kitchen garden has provided some financial and monetary benefits, there are also many non-monetary benefits and value of having a kitchen garden that may not be obvious.
What are some benefits of a kitchen garden?
Better mental health
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, being locked up in our own home for the past sixteen months has taken a toll on all of us mentally. We had a lot of struggles and challenges when in-person learning was suspended and Mrs. T had to homeschool both kids last spring. Thanks to the backyard kitchen garden, it has helped us to have better mental health.
Both kids love spending time in the garden and picking out produce to eat. Mrs. T and I also enjoy working in the garden and taking care of it. It is nice and therapeutic to set foot in the backyard garden and get some fresh air.
Having a backyard kitchen garden also means there are always things to do, such as watering, weeding, or harvesting. The more time the entire family spends in the garden, the more quality family time we have, and less time we spend mindlessly watching something on the computer (we don’t have a TV).
Kids know where produce comes from
Both kids have developed green thumbs. They love to help in the kitchen garden by weeding, planting new plants, watering, and harvesting. They know what a strawberry plant looks like; they know that chives have purple flowers; they know that we can only harvest cauliflower plants once, whereas broccoli plants can be harvested multiple times.
It concerns me that some people don’t know that potatoes and carrots are grown underground and peppers and cucumbers come from plants rather than bushes.
Both kids have developed an appreciation for food when they know where their foods come from and work involved to grow them. I am glad that we are able to show and teach this valuable life lesson.
Fresh and delicious produce
Home-grown strawberries are super sweet and delicious. Once you have them, store-bought strawberries will taste like water.
Freshly harvested potatoes taste better than store-bought potatoes. They are moister and have a slightly different texture and an earthy flavour. They certainly taste different than store-bought potatoes which have been curing for weeks.
Both kids usually won’t eat store-bought cauliflower and broccoli, because they taste slightly bitter. However, cauliflower and broccoli from our garden do not taste bitter at all and our kids love eating them raw.
For me, my favourite is having a salad with home-grown vegetables like spinach, arugula, tomatoes, and cucumbers. It’s hard to beat fresh and delicious produce picked directly from our own kitchen garden.
Effective and fun workout
Let’s face it, it is physically demanding to be a farmer. Although a backyard kitchen garden is not to the same extent as having acreages, some levels of physical activity are still needed.
Shovelling manures, weeding, planting, watering, and harvesting can be physically demanding. Earlier this spring, we had to shovel eight yards of manures and it sure was not a stroll in the park type of work!
You know exactly what you eat
Growing our own vegetables, herbs, and even fruits in our kitchen garden means we can control how they are grown. Since we try to eat as much organic food as possible, things we grow in our kitchen garden are all organic.
This means we fertilize the garden with our own composts from organic raw food wastes, we use organic manure, and rely on companion plants to help increase soil nutrients and keep pests away rather than harmful chemicals.
Therefore, we aren’t too overly concerned if the kids pick something from the kitchen garden and eat them without washing them.
Summary – Five benefits of a kitchen garden
Having a kitchen garden has saved us money over the years as we can be somewhat self-sustainable during summer and fall. More importantly, there are a lot of values and non-monetary benefits of having a kitchen garden in our backyard. I am really glad that we have been able to create a kitchen garden and grow our own vegetables, herbs, and fruits.
Best of all, we can get both of our kids involved in the garden and learn some valuable life skills that they wouldn’t have learned from sitting in the classroom.
Dear readers, do you have a kitchen garden at home? What’s your favourite part of your kitchen garden?