It’s Easy Being Green: Get Your Hands Dirty

Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be a simple, cost effective way to help the planet and stay healthier.

Concerns about food contamination, rising food prices, and increasingly large carbon footprints are driving many Americans to look for healthy, sustainable alternatives to buying food at the grocery store. Growing fruits and vegetables on a patio or in a backyard can be a simple, cost-effective way to be good to the planet and stay healthy. From simple square foot gardens to elaborate orchards in lieu of backyards, more people are bypassing the supermarket and getting their hands dirty.

Starting Simple

Square foot gardening is an option for anyone with a balcony, porch, or even a small patch of land. The idea is to plant fruits, vegetables, and flowers in raised beds, one per species, each measuring one square foot. Square foot gardens are practical for those with space constraints, infertile soil, or temporary living situations. Having a home garden minimizes the resources used to ship food, reduces pesticide use, protects against e coli outbreaks, and provides vegetables at cost efficient prices. Since new soil is used, weeds are rare, and the grower has control over chemicals used.

Community Benefits

Many people who would never maintain a garden on their own are finding that community gardens provide a balance between environmentalism and a realistic personal commitment. Community gardens are found in rural and urban communities and maintained by locals. They can take many forms, from the one-block peace garden on Lake Street in Minneapolis, MN to Food Project’s urban farms in Massachusetts. Like individual gardens, they reduce the carbon footprint of fruits and vegetables, but they can also be used to combat poverty and create a sense of community.

Dedicated? Try Converting Your Lawn

Some environmentalists are taking the traditional backyard or community garden a step further and replacing their entire lawn with garden space. San Diego Food Not Lawns, a grassroots group based in San Diego, CA, focuses on issues of food security, sustainable agriculture, genetically engineered food, environmental and social justice, and a host of other environmental concerns by encouraging residents to replace their lawns with gardens. Across the country, individuals are taking steps to transform their backyards into full orchards, yielding both shade and fresh fruit mere feet from their houses.

In California, it’s possible to harvest apples from July till December, and more moderate climates can yield crops into late fall. These environmentalists enjoy the fruits of their labor and the knowledge that they’re helping the planet. Replacing lawns with gardens can cut down on water and pesticide usage, maintain biodiversity, and prevent soil erosion.

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