There has been a surge in growing food at home since COVID shutdowns began in early 2020. While many of the initial food distribution disturbances have balanced out, the trend of home- grown food hasn't dissipated much even as things begin to slowly open back up. Home gardens, commonly dubbed modern-day "victory gardens" have now popped up in cities and neighborhoods across the country. Growing food at home may sound like a great idea for a property owner, but there are things to know and consider before you grow.
What are victory gardens?
Victory gardens were a call from the government during World War II for American citizens to do their part in supplementing the food supply. The government released informational brochures encouraging people to grow some of their own food, not just for food security but for morale and beautification as well. These brochures would provide tips on dealing with pests, keeping animals out of your garden, harvesting methods, and preserving techniques. At its peak, there were over 20 million victory gardens that produced 40% of the nation's vegetable supply. A staggering amount from untrained, nonprofessional gardeners, a full two-thirds of which were growing in cities, towns, and suburban areas.
What are the benefits of growing food at home?
One of the biggest benefits of having a home garden or growing food at home is that it can positively impact your health. A compilation study, which analyzed the impacts of gardening on specific health issues from around the globe, found that gardening had a positive effect on both physical and mental health across the board. Gardening created improvements in everything from body mass index to depression. It also created a sense of community and increased life satisfaction. During this stressful time of lockdowns and a global pandemic, gardening offers an opportunity for a positive and productive hobby while maintaining safe social distancing practices and nourishing food for you and your family.
Eating fresh-picked produce is also more nutritious for you. Montclair State University analyzed the nutritional value of fresh-picked versus shipped broccoli and found that there was half the vitamin C content in the broccoli that was shipped from out of the country. Most of the fresh vegetables that are sold in our grocery stores today are shipped in from across the country or even around the world. Growing your own food and harvesting it as it's used allows you to get the most nutrients from the fruits or vegetables -- not to mention the cost savings over time and the benefit of having access to food in the event of future food shortages or complications regarding visiting grocery stores.
What are the issues to be aware of?
The biggest question to concern yourself with is your location. Although many states and municipalities allow gardening in the front or backyard, there are still areas where antiquated laws technically state that you are not to grow food in your front yard. This is starting to change, but it's certainly something to be aware of before you start building garden beds. In 2019 the state of Florida passed a bill which prohibits local governments from banning vegetable gardens on any part of a residential property. Homeowners associations are also notorious for banning edibles in front yards, and they do supersede local ordinances, so do your research before you put your time and effort into building and planting your garden beds.
If you're considering getting your own backyard chickens, there will be a whole separate set of rules to adhere to. Livestock laws are typically more consistently enforced and tighter in their regulations. These will vary drastically from city to city, but all of them will have a set of guidelines, including the maximum number of poultry per site, whether you can keep a rooster, setbacks for the coop from your property line, and more. It's also a good idea to chat with your neighbors about it prior to getting your feathered friends. Even if you get hens and not a rooster, chickens still make noise and potentially smell, so it's not a decision you'd be able to keep secret.
You also have to consider the impact this could have on resale value. While you, and a growing number of others, may enjoy gardening, having an entire front or backyard of garden beds and chicken coops could be a deterrent to many buyers.
Is home gardening a good idea?
In most cases, the benefits of a home garden outweigh the drawbacks. Growing a modern-day victory garden can be a wonderful way to get outdoors in a safe environment. It can help boost your overall mental and physical health, which could certainly be a boon during this global pandemic. If you have kids, it can also give you a creative outlet to expend some of the cooped up energy.
If you're new to gardening or concerned about resale value, start small or possibly grow food in moveable containers that can be taken to you from home to home. There are lots of creative ways to grow food at home without having traditional raised-bed gardens. Just make sure to research your local ordinances and laws before deciding where to put your garden, chickens, or compost pile. You don't want to have to dig things up just as they start producing.