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Why Growing a Vegetable Garden is the
Healthiest New Years Resolution You Can Make
by one of our readers

health benefits of a vegetable gardenWith the new year approaching, many of us will begin thinking about new years resolutions and one that seems to crop up every year is a promise to become more healthy. This may include losing weight, exercising more and eating better. What many people don't realize is that all of this can be achieved through taking up a new hobby and growing a vegetable garden. This is something that can include and benefit all of the family to varying degrees and is a rewarding hobby that is good for the mind, body and soul - not to mention the bank balance. Here is everything you need to know about planning and growing your new year's vegetable garden:

What are the health benefits of growing a vegetable garden?

The health benefits of growing a vegetable garden are endless. Like most gardening projects, it will involve a lot of manual labor and moderate exercise such as digging, lifting and bending which is great for heart health, muscle strength and overall fitness. Many people also view gardening as a therapeutic and almost meditative pastime with it's rhythmic movements and being at one with the calming influence of Mother Nature. For this reason it is thought to benefit mental health with many clinic and rehabilitation centers across the country offering gardening programs to help people suffering from mental and physical disorders.

Of course much of this can be achieved by conventional gardening; growing a vegetable garden gives you the extra opportunity to grow your own fresh, produce. What can be more rewarding than seeing the finished result of your planting and nurturing and being able to feed your family with it? Kids in particular will be fascinated when the first little shoots start appearing and many studies have proven that children who partake in growing vegetables are more likely to take an interest in cooking with and eating them and also more open to trying new foods. This will help encourage their health through a varied diet packed full of fresh vegetables. With Kwikmed indicating that childhood obesity levels are on the rise, this could be exactly the boost your kids need to develop a healthy interest in healthy food.

What do I need to get started?

The most important thing that you need to do before starting your vegetable garden is plan it so that it is as effective and efficient as possible. This involves deciding the style, location and planting system of your garden.

You need to allocate a certain area with varying amounts of direct sunlight and shade to support different crops (most require between 6-8 hours of sunlight a day) and then decide whether your planting system will involve traditional rows, raised beds or intensive cropping where the plants are all quite close together. This will depend heavily on the amount of space that you have.

You also need to concentrate on the quality of the soil, ensuring that it is rich in organic matter and well drained before you begin digging. This may mean you have to support it with compost or peat.

Compost BinAnd of course you will need to go shopping for some essential tools including a spade, rake and hoe along with more specialized items such as trellis for high growing plants (such as beans) and propagation containers to help protect new plants from the cold.

It is also worth considering using a home biomass system in order to create your own compost to maintain the soil with essential nutrients. A composter is a quick and simple way to transform all of your household organic waste into useful matter for your garden.

What shall I grow?

What you grow in your garden is entirely up to you but it is best not to be overly ambitious to begin with otherwise you may end up overcrowding your garden and being left with too much produce when it comes to harvest.

If you are growing the garden with the kids then it is always good to grow things that will flower quickly in order to hold their interest. This may include crops such as radishes and beans. They will also love things that they can pluck and eat straight from the plant like tomatoes, which are also great because they continue to re-grow without replanting meaning that you will get a lot of produce from one, cheap tomato plant.

And although most planting usually begins in spring, there are more robust vegetables such as onions, asparagus and peas that can thrive in the colder months.

If you really want to get a health boost from your crops then consider planting brightly colored vegetables such as peppers or branching out onto berries such as strawberries and blueberries which are all packed full of antioxidants.