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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Why home gardens outshine grocery stores

Mar 15, 2024 02:45PM ● By Bryan Reed

Recently I’ve been asked why I advocate for having a garden when our grocery stores provide us with organic food and other necessities year-round. Some argue that the cost of seeds, tools and water usage far exceeds buying a bag of potatoes at the store. 

One of my students shared an article with me that claims urban gardening has a higher carbon footprint than large-scale farming. According to the article (link below), large farms have more efficient harvesting and processing capabilities, allowing them to produce more food per labor hour compared to home gardeners. The article also factors in gasoline for rototillers and common garden features like raised beds and fertilizers in its carbon footprint calculations, none of which I use.

However, these discussions are valuable as they encourage us to reflect on our values and goals.


Gardens play a key role in the ecosystem by providing green spaces that absorb more rainfall than impervious surfaces such as concrete patios. City parks and greenery also help reduce rainwater runoff and mitigate flooding.

Gardens are habitats for pollinators, which are essential for the production of fruits and vegetables. With the global decline in bee populations, creating safe environments for these pollinators is vital for their survival and growth. Gardens also support other beneficial insects, such as praying mantises and rove beetles, which contribute to the local food chain and help decompose organic matter, recycling nutrients into the soil for surrounding trees and shrubs.


Vegetation helps absorb solar energy, reducing the amount of heat reflected back into the atmosphere, which can contribute to global warming. Additionally, it shades the soil from excessive heat during the summer and captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


Once harvested, fruits and vegetables quickly move past their prime, losing nutrients rapidly as they can no longer renew their food and energy supplies. 

Vitamin C, an important antioxidant, is one of the first nutrients to diminish. Green peas lose half their Vitamin C within just two days of harvest, with broccoli and beans showing similar trends. Exposure to air and light (photo-oxidation), along with natural enzymes in foods, can further degrade nutrients. The browning of a cut apple is a visible example of vitamin oxidation. Flavor-wise, corn stored at room temperature can lose 25% of its sugars, while peas and beans can lose even more.

After harvest, produce starts to lose water and spoil. Refrigeration only slows down the enzymatic actions that cause quality loss; it doesn’t halt deterioration. Therefore, food that has traveled thousands of miles and passed through several holding facilities can never match the nutrient content of freshly harvested produce from your garden. Additionally, you have control over the trace minerals and nutrients in your garden soil, which directly impacts the nutritional content of your produce.


I’ve often heard growers refer to their operation as their “farm-nasium.” Gardening is a wonderful physical activity that enhances our dexterity and strength, gets us outside in the sunlight (boosting vitamin D production), allows us to breathe fresh air and gets us moving. 

What I appreciate most is that gardening can be done at our own pace and it’s accessible for everyone. I’ve seen community gardens designed for individuals in wheelchairs, with elevated bathtubs and troughs on concrete blocks filled with soil and plants. 

For upright people, carrying garden hoses and harvest totes serves as load-bearing exercises for our bone health.

The emotional health benefits of gardening are a big reason I maintain a garden, even though my day job involves working in the soil. Numerous studies highlight that gardening enhances our sense of well-being and emotional balance while reducing stress and anxiety levels. 

Horticulture therapy is making a positive impact in youth correction programs and among veterans recovering from emotional trauma. It’s rewarding to see the fruits of your labor (literally!) and feel a sense of connectedness as you cultivate plants and watch them grow. 

I teach students about working meditations to focus the mind and body during repetitive chores. It’s a chance to focus solely on the task at hand and be present in the moment. Some call it mindfulness; I call it being thorough. 

Many find that gardening provides a spiritual experience, connecting us with the divine forces of nature. Integrated gardening welcomes not just bees and ladybugs but also us, as part of the grand picture. It offers an opportunity to immerse ourselves in nature without the need for a car or plane ticket. 

You might also like Technology Network's article: “Community Gardens have Six Times the Carbon Footprint of Agriculture” (January 22, 2024)  


April is an excellent time to start a garden and improve your diet, health and emotional well-being. For those following the biodynamic calendar, April 12-25 are the ideal days to plant seeds.

Send your gardening questions to Bryan in care of the BEACON, or email him at: [email protected]

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