It’s that time of year when trees are budding, birds are singing, and a fresh variety of produce is available at the local farmers markets. It’s also that time of year to get your hands in the dirt and start up a spring/summer garden. Here at the food bank, we are big advocates of gardening because it can improve your overall health, reduce stress, and provide low-cost clean and healthy food.
The health benefits of being outdoors and working the earth are truly amazing. Studies have shown that working outdoors a mere thirty minutes a day reduces cortisol, a stress hormone that makes the body weak and more prone to sickness. We tend to have so much going on in our lives, that everybody can benefit from a daily destresser. Nature has a way of making people feel better. Just watch out for harmful bugs and animals like mosquitos, wasps, and scorpions.
Gardening also promotes physical activity. Only 20% of American adults meets the recommended level of weekly physical activity. The US Department of Health and Human Services suggests 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week to reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Digging a garden, pulling weeds, trimming shrubs, carrying bags of soil, and squatting in your garden to work with the plants are excellent ways to meet that requirement for a healthy life. People who garden tend to not only get a good workout, but if you have an edible garden, your body reaps the nutritious benefits as well.
Absorb Vitamin D
Another great health benefit is that only 15 minutes of working outdoors in the sun allows our bodies to absorb vitamin D, a necessary nutrient for bone health and organ function. Just be sure to protect your skin if you’re going to be outside for long periods. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing, like a sun hat, and use a good sunscreen. This Texas heat is nothing to be messed with.
Knowing how to grow your own food is a useful skill. Knowing where your food comes from or how it is grown can make you more conscious about what you eat. When you pay attention to how your food is grown or where it comes from, you may start to care more about what and how much you put into our bodies. Studies have shown that kids who are taught how to grow their own food or have easy access to gardens tend to eat more servings of fruits and vegetables.
Growing your own food can be easy, and it can save you money! Start small. Fresh herbs from the grocery store can be expensive. Begin your gardening adventure with an herb garden on your back porch or next to a partially sunny window. Even an apartment has enough space! Add flavor to your food at a fraction of what you used to spend. Rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, basil, and chives are great starters. Fresh herbs are also rich in antioxidants that protect the cells in your body from damage. So, flavor away!
Even the food bank has a small herb garden on site. Volunteer Shawna has updated and beautified it so that food bank clients can reap the delicious benefits.
It’s no secret that gardening can be an investment of time and energy. Grow a little bigger at a time, and if you get overwhelmed, just scale it back. You already have your herb garden, so now it’s time for some easy vegetables. Add a couple 5 gallon buckets of tomato or squash plants on your back porch. Sweet and hot peppers also work in buckets. Once you get the hang of it, you can slowly grow more and expand your back porch garden.
Join A Community Garden
Don’t have the space or want to plant more delicious things? Join a community garden. Sign up for a plot with your family or friends and share the work of watering, weeding, and harvesting. Think about vegetables and fruits that are easy to grow in the Central Texas area like okra, tomatoes, basil, squash, and cucumbers. If you plant too much, you can always donate to the food bank. We love receiving fresh produce from our amazing community. Share your green thumb!
If you are interested in joining a community garden in the San Marcos area, check out Holland Street Garden at First Lutheran Church, Alamo Community Garden, and Dunbar Neighborhood Garden. These are all local gardens that allow people from the community to have plots.
Support Local, Eat Seasonally
If you don’t have a green thumb or are unable to plant your own garden, you can still support the local farmers and gardeners. Eat ‘in season’. Visit your local farmers market to find out what’s in season. Strike up a conversation with vendors and they may even share pointers for when you are ready to start your own garden. When you eat food that is in season, it benefits the environment and your local economy.
Benefits to Environment
Purchasing food that is in season or growing your own also reduces the need for fossil fuels. Greenhouses that run on fossil fuels are not needed to keep out of season produce warm and planes and trucks aren’t required to transport non-local or out of season foods. Food shipped by planes and freight trucks are responsible for quite a bit of the carbon emissions that damage the protective layer around our planet that protects us from excess heat and harmful light rays.
Produce in season in Central Texas for early spring:
lettuce, spinach, broccoli cauliflower, turnips,
beets, sweet potatoes, cabbage, peas, carrots, asparagus,
grapefruits, bella mandarins, and blueberries.
Hays County Food Bank receives regular drop-offs of fresh garden produce from a variety of local gardens including Dunbar Neighborhood Garden, CTMC Creation Health, the San Marcos Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and Spring Lake Garden Club. We are also working on a small plot at our food bank location where we grow fresh herbs, and we hope to add vegetables in the spring.
- University of Utah. “Community gardens may produce more than vegetables.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418162135.htm>
- Leeds Universityhttps://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3083454/Sowing-seeds-healthy-eating-Children-grow-veg-FIVE-times-likely-eat-them.html