Translated by Nick R
Nowadays. the attention that people dedicate to eating healthy has increased enormously. This has led to an intensification of the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Thus, I’m sure that, if you came to this blog is because you’re eager to learn more about this topic and how you can grow your own fruits and vegetables from scratch.
Here you’ll find the benefits of growing these foods in your garden, some guidelines to follow and several features of the most common fruits and vegetables.
Table of Contents
Benefits of growing fruits and vegetables
It’s better to be clear about what we’re referring to when we talk about fruits and vegetables as they are either the whole or an edible part of plants. On one side, fruits contain seeds inside, such as papaya, apple, melon, watermelon, passion fruit, etc. We can also find citrus fruits such as orange, lemon, or lime.
And, on the contrary, in vegetables, we find several species which are cultivated for their leaves, roots, flowers and stems. When referring to leaves; we focus on lettuce, chard, spinach and watercress; as for flowers, there are broccoli and cauliflower; and stems such as celery.
In terms of roots, we find carrots, radishes and beets, as well as onions and garlic, which are classified as bulbs. There are also those with a high starch content such as potato, cassava and sweet potato.
Some foods are considered vegetables but botanically are fruits, such as tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, pumpkin or squash and avocado. This group also includes aromatic and medicinal plants and seasonings such as parsley, basil, mint, lemon balm, oregano, and rosemary, among others.
By growing your own food, you also contribute to environment preservation, to the creation of learning spaces – not only for your family but also for your community – and to healthy food consumption.
Nowadays we see that many people are choosing to grow their own food. They do this activity on their terraces, inside homes, at schools so that the community benefits as well and even at some universities.
And this is due to the multiple benefits that the practice of growing, fruits and vegetables, brings.
- You can establish a connection with the earth and nature. This is considered therapeutic as it helps you reduce stress levels, anxiety, depression, and other conditions.
- Both you and your family, friends and acquaintances can acquire new knowledge regarding the growth and cultivation of fruits and vegetables. Besides, they’ll be encouraged to try out new things.
- It’s an activity that helps to create a bond not only with nature but also with those involved in the garden together with you.
- The food that comes to the market sometimes may contain pollutants from different sources. This could affect the health of those you love. Therefore, by having your own garden, you ensure the good condition of your food.
- The garden requires commitment and responsibility from its caretakers. In such a way it encourages the younger ones to take responsibility and learn respect for farming.
- Having your own fruit and vegetable garden will guarantee that the food is always fresh. In addition, you’ll be able to treat them with natural products such as homemade insecticides, in case it is required, and thus, the crop won’t be affected by the side effects of chemical insecticides.
- You’ll have the possibility to save money with your crop as sometimes fruits and vegetables increase their prices in the markets.
- Something really important is that you avoid using plastics. Sometimes food is packaged in single-use plastics that pollute the environment.
Tips for growing fruits and vegetables
As I mentioned in the beginning, sometimes fruits and vegetables are contaminated with microorganisms or germs they acquire where they were grown, either by poor hygiene or by the people in charge of the cultivation.
This, in addition to the economics of home gardening, is a reason why many people choose to buy cleaner food. Contracting food-borne diseases may not be very pleasant.
People affected by these diseases may experience symptoms such as stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. In addition, they can occur about 24 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated food.
How do these contaminants reach the crop? Several ways contribute to food contamination in crop fields.
- Poor personnel hygiene practices by workers.
- Presence of human and animal feces in the crop.
- Use of improperly disposed fecal residues.
- Contaminated water source.
- Dirty machinery, tools and storage facilities.
To prevent fruits and vegetables from being affected by any of these contaminating agents, I’d like to give you 5 tips.
- Practice good personal hygiene: wash your hands after using the bathroom, being in contact with your pet or after changing your baby. If you have any cuts or wounds you should cover them before handling your garden. Also, change your clothes regularly if you spend a lot of time in the garden as they can also transfer microorganisms to the fruits and vegetables.
- Protect the garden from animals: this is because animal feces also contaminate the crops. So it’s better to keep them away from it and even from the water you use for irrigation.
- Use fertilizer from treated manure: as you already know, there are several types of organic fertilizers that you can use to fertilize the soil in which you plant the crop so that it can grow properly. One of these types of fertilizer is manure, however, they must be previously treated and suitable to avoid contaminating the garden.
- Evaluate the water sources for irrigation: as I have mentioned, water can also contaminate your fruits and vegetables. This is why you must make sure that the water has not come into contact with fecal matter or any type of chemical that may alter the crop and affect the final consumer.
- Maintain proper tool cleanliness: whenever you use any type of tools such as pruning shears, rakes, shovels and others, you must make sure they are very clean before and after use. You should place them in an area free of any contamination risks.
Fruits and vegetables that you can grow in the garden
Now that you know why growing your own food is beneficial for you and the people around you, I want to tell you about some of the most common fruits and vegetables that you can have in your garden.
It’s a fruit of bright red color, with a pleasant aroma and a laxative effect due to the fiber, acids, enzymes and pigments. You can consume it raw, in jam, compote, juices, smoothies, ice cream, yogurt, and others.
This fruit should be kept in the refrigerator or in a cool dark and ventilated place. It’s not advisable to freeze strawberries because, when defrosted, they may lose water and thus won’t have a pleasant smell or taste. It’s advisable to wash them before consumption to remove any remaining dirt.
The plant has the same name as the fruit, is herbaceous and its leaves have serrated edges which can be hairy or hairless. This is a perennial plant with small and short stems.
Strawberries contain no fat but are rich in vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and fiber. Vitamin F is an antioxidant and provides protection to gums, skin, and muscles and facilitates iron absorption.
Fiber protects you from digestive tract disorders and potassium is good for your muscles and nervous system. Therefore, thanks to all its properties strawberry is highly recommended for consumption.
How to grow strawberries?
You can do it by seeds or stolons.
Reproduction of strawberry by seeds
If you want to use seeds, you can acquire them from the fruit itself, seeds are those little yellow dots all over the strawberry. To take them you must remove the surface layer of the strawberry that contains them as if you were peeling it.
Once you do this, put the pieces of fruit on a plate and leave them near a window with good lighting to dry. After 4 days, you can easily remove the seeds from the peel by gently running your finger over it.
When you have all the seeds you need, store them in a bag or container until it is the right season to sow them, that is to say in spring or at the end of summer. They should be stored in a dark, cool and dry place so that they preserve.
At the time of sowing the seeds, you should prepare everything you need. You’ll need a seedbed, worm castings compost with perlite and vermiculite, and water.
Pour the substrate into the seedbed leaving a 1 cm space at the top to sow the seeds. You must water sufficiently so that the substrate gets very humid; strawberry benefits from this condition.
As the seeds are very small, sprinkle them evenly over the substrate. Do not limit yourself in quantity because not all the seeds always manage to germinate. Finally, cover the seeds with a thin layer of substrate, they can’t be covered for more than 2 ml. Water again to moisten the substrate and repeat every 4 or 5 days.
As strawberries require a humid and warm environment you can create a kind of home greenhouse made of a large bottle. Leave the seedling there so that this greenhouse can provide it with the required temperature of 18 to 20 °C (64 to 68 °F).
Then wait 4 to 5 weeks to see the first sprouts and after that, wait another month for them to grow enough to be transplanted into individual containers. The ideal size will be 4 to 5 cm.
Reproduction of strawberry by stolons
Although sowing by seeds is an option, stolons are more recommended. These aerial shots give off more shoots from their stems that work to propagate the plant.
You can get them from a plant you already have or directly from a nursery. If you buy them, they’ll already come with their respective roots and it’ll be much easier to grow them. The first thing to do is to prepare the substrate you will use.
It should be very nutrient-rich and well-drained so you can use worm castings, perlite and coconut fiber to improve drainage. You must mix everything thoroughly to make it uniform.
Once the substrate is ready, proceed to plant the stolons. This can be done in March or late winter. Strawberry roots don’t require much depth, so 10 to 20 cm is fine for planting.
If the stolon already has roots, you should cut them back a little the longest ones. The size should be the same as the stem. Open the roots a little so that it covers the substrate surface and sow until the stem is at surface level.
You’ll place them 20 cm apart and cover them with the substrate. Finally, water the substrate to keep it moist, the frequency will be based on this principle. You should not flood the plant but only moisten the substrate.
It’s a plant that doesn’t require too much light so you can place it in a semi-shade or inside your house.
How to care for strawberry
It’s in spring when the plant begins to bear its first fruits, buds and flowers so it’s important to apply fertilizer rich in potassium. Water every 4 or 5 days and remove the dry leaves. At this time, you can also start consuming the first fruits of the strawberry.
In the summer, the plant will be at its peak to grow, forming fruits and stolons which are the ones that help the strawberry to reproduce faster. You can also cut them close to the base so that the plant doesn’t reproduce if you don’t want it to.
Watering in summer is done every 2 days or daily if temperatures are very high and the substrate dries out. At the beginning of this period, you can apply a mulch of straw or dry grass so that the fruits don’t rot when coming into contact with the substrate.
In autumn the plant begins to stop growing to accumulate nutrient reserves in its roots and prepare for winter. At this time, you can add a little compost such as worm castings to support it. Watering will be reduced as rainfall may occur and will provide the plant with the water it needs.
When winter arrives, the plant completely stops growing like a kind of hibernation. At this stage, it accumulates hours of cold at temperatures below 7 °C, in this way it will produce abundant fruiting and vegetation in spring.
You can harvest the fruit from spring to early autumn. You should cut it with scissors and a piece of the stem so the plant is not damaged. Wash the strawberry to consume it with confidence.
As they can also suffer from pests or diseases, you must be very attentive to both the fruit and the leaves. Diseases such as botrytis (on the fruit), purple blotch (on the leaves) and powdery mildew (on the leaves). You can remove affected fruits and leaves to prevent the propagation, or in the case of powdery mildew, use a fungicide.
Other pests that can affect this plant are: red spider mites, caterpillars, snails or slugs. These can be removed by using homemade insecticides.
What can you prepare with strawberries?
As I mentioned before, you can consume this fruit in different ways. This time I’ll show you how to make a strawberry smoothie. This is for 2 people and will take about 15 minutes to prepare. You’ll need a blender and two glasses or special cups.
The ingredients are:
- 500 g strawberries
- 500 ml of milk
- 4 scoops of vanilla ice cream
- 3 spoonsful of honey
The preparation is very simple. First, you must wash the strawberries thoroughly and remove the leaves on top. Then mix all the ingredients in a blender until uniform. Finally, add the smoothie to the glasses and decorate with some mint leaves.
The apple is a fruit that you can eat at any time of the day, besides being one of the most popular fruits in the world. Apple peel can be green, red or yellow and it can taste very sweet or sour at times.
You can eat this fruit for dessert, between meals, at school or at work. Also as puree, compote, juice or jams. Because it contains fiber, apples work as a regulator of intestinal discomfort, besides favoring gums and teeth whitening.
They have high water content and provide mineral salts such as potassium, calcium, iron and phosphorus. They have vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C and E, and a low protein, fat and sodium content.
On the other hand, the apple tree doesn’t exceed 10 m in height, although smaller trees can be found, which facilitates farming. They provide the fruit with better lighting, which improves the quality of the apple.
In a natural environment, apple trees can live between 60 and 80 years; however, at home, they may have a slightly shorter life expectancy.
How to grow an apple tree?
The cultivation can be by 2 ways, either seeds or directly from the tree.
Reproduction of apple by seeds
Seeds may not germinate and delay the planting process; however, you can use the seed germination method.
To do this you must extract the center seeds from the fruit. Those that don’t look very healthy or “fleshy” should be excluded. In a kitchen napkin, you’re going to place the seeds with a good space between them and then cover them with the same napkin.
You’ll keep them in a container with a lid and moisten them a little, but not too much. Then, leave the covered container with the seeds in the refrigerator, not in the freezer, for 4 to 6 weeks. The cold helps these apple seeds to germinate. It’s important to check whether or not they are lacking water, but as they are covered, the moisture remains.
Once the time has elapsed, you’ll check to see if the seeds have rooted or not. If they have, proceed to sow them in soil. The substrate you use must contain good nutrients and good drainage.
With the help of a toothpick or pencil make the hole in which you’ll sow the seed. The pot depth should be significant, but that of the hole in which you’ll plant the seed will correspond to the root size; cover the seed only a little.
When you have already sown the seeds, water enough to moisten the substrate. Apple trees don’t require large amounts of water, you should water every time you see the substrate’s surface dry.
This germination process can be done indoors, but the seed should receive good sunlight. So place it near a window where sunlight can reach it. You can transplant the apple tree the following spring.
If you would rather plant the apple tree directly, you can do that too. Just go to your local nursery and buy the tree. It’ll already come with roots and a trunk.
You’ll need to prepare the land to plant it. If you’re going to leave it outside, you’ll have to dig a significantly deep hole in the ground, also depending on the tree size you bought. It can be from 20 to 50 cm.
To this soil, add some earthworm humus and peat to supply it with the necessary nutrients. While you prepare the soil, you’ll leave the tree’s roots submerged in water for about 15 minutes so that it absorbs water.
Once this time has passed and the soil is ready, proceed to plant the tree. The soil should cover the roots, but not the trunk, so make sure it isn’t covered. Finally, with the water, you used for the roots, sprinkle the substrate to moisten it and stabilize the tree.
You can insert a stake next to the tree to tie it down and make sure it grows straight so the wind doesn’t knock it over.
How to care for an apple tree
Once you have planted your apple tree, either in the ground or in a pot, you should leave it in direct sunlight for at least 6 to 8 hours, at temperatures of 18 to 24 °C (64 to 75 °F). This way, it’ll be able to flower and bear fruit better.
As I said, watering doesn’t need to be excessive, just make sure that the substrate doesn’t dry out for a long time, especially in very hot periods. The watering will be done when the sun’s intensity has lowered so that the water doesn’t evaporate.
Avoid excessive watering in winter to prevent the soil from freezing as this plant doesn’t like cold weather. It isn’t necessary to use fertilizers, if the soil has adequate pH it will be enough, which you can achieve through the substrate. But in case you need fertilizer, it should be preferably organic.
This plant usually flowers between April and May, and during June and July, the tender fruits come out and must be sheltered from birds and insects. In August and October, you can harvest the fruits for consumption.
What can you prepare with apples?
As I mentioned at the beginning, there are several recipes in which you can include apples, they will provide your meals with a delicious touch. This time I’ll show you how to prepare an apple pie for 4 people.
The ingredients you need are:
- 4 apples
- 2 tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon
- 5 ml of kirsch (cherry liqueur)
- 150 g flour
- 125 ml of beer
- 2 eggs
- Olive oil
First peel and de-core the apples, and then cut them into round slices. Take the kirsch, sugar and cinnamon and spread them over the slices. Then separate the yolks from the eggs, beat the whites and mix them with the rest of the ingredients.
You’ll dip the apple slices in the mixture and then add a little olive oil to fry them; sprinkle them with a pinch of cinnamon and sugar. Finally, serve the hot slices with vanilla cream.
It’s one of the most popular vegetables grown for its large leaves, which can tighten and form a kind of compact cabbages. Its leaves are large and are arranged one above the other.
It can be eaten raw in salads together with tomatoes, onions and other ingredients. The wide variety of lettuces has a high water content and few calories, which makes them perfect for diets.
It supplies vitamins A and C and can also fight constipation and exhaustion. It’s a diuretic and vermifuge plant, that is to say, it eliminates intestinal worms. Lettuce is an annual plant with little branching and a radicular stem.
The leaves can be rounded or elongated with smooth, wavy or serrated edges. Their color can be green and red. Lettuce is usually harvested in the head stage, which is when its leaves haven’t yet opened.
How to grow lettuce?
You can grow lettuce from seeds or from the base of the lettuce stems.
Reproduction of lettuce by seeds
For seeds, you have to use seedbeds. These can be bought in nurseries or made at home from a Tetrapak. What matters is the drainage holes.
It’s recommended to prepare the seedbed in the waning moon. The substrate mixture for sowing lettuce seeds is 40% peat, 40% earthworm humus and 5% vermiculite and perlite. The latter helps water drainage and nutrient retention.
Once you mix the substrate well, add it to the seedbed and distribute it evenly. Leave about 1 cm at the surface level without a substrate to place the seeds. Take a good amount and spread them over the seedbed to finally cover them with a thin substrate layer.
You should make a generous first watering to moisten the substrate sufficiently. Lettuce doesn’t tolerate long periods of drought, so don’t forget to water it. Place the seedbed where it receives direct sunlight. When the temperature is 12 to 15 °C or below 5 °C, you can place your plant in a home greenhouse during the night or very cold seasons.
After 4 to 5 days, the lettuces will germinate, but you should wait a little longer until they sprout true leaves. After this time, it’s necessary to pick the lettuce out to be able to transplant it to its final spot.
This process is done when the plants have grown too much and the seedbed is too small for them. However, although they are transferred to a larger container this won’t be the definitive one. In this new container, the plants will develop further and get in good condition for transplanting.
For pricking out you’ll need to use the same substrate you used for the seedbeds, individual containers and a fork. Extract the lettuce with the fork as if it were a piece of cake. This way, you’ll affect the roots the least possible.
Once you extract the lettuces with their respective roots, discard those that are too small, this process is called thinning. After this, add the substrate mixture to each container and make a hole in the middle of the thickness of the roots. Do not forget the drainage holes in the pot.
Sow the lettuce, in what is also called individual seedlings, leaving the stem uncovered. Apply sufficient watering to moisten the substrate and settle. After a few weeks, when the lettuce has grown a little more, you can proceed to transplant it to the definitive place.
The first thing to do is to prepare the substrate in the pot or place where you are going to put the lettuce. It must have good drainage and be rich in nutrients, so a 40% of worm humus would be perfect.
Transplant the lettuces that you have separated in individual seedbeds with at least 20 or 25 cm of distance from each other. Make a hole in the substrate taking as a reference the depth of the container used as a seedbed. These can be small cups.
Then, take the lettuce out of the seedbed and sow it in the new substrate. This is one of the most advisable crops to start with as it is not very difficult to take care of. In addition, it’s a vegetable that develops very quickly, in at least 5 weeks.
Reproduction of lettuce by stem
On the other hand, you can also reproduce lettuce without seeds. For that, take one lettuce that you have already harvested or bought from the supermarket and cut the stem two fingers up from the lettuce base.
Remove those small leaves that are left around the stem and put the stem in a bowl. Add a little water to cover it halfway and place it in a window that gets good light.
Make sure that the water doesn’t dry out by evaporation and if it does, add a little more. You can do this in May, and after 15 days you’ll see some sprouts and roots.
At this point, you can plant the stem in soil with worm castings and peat. Fill almost to the edge, and in the center make a hole to put the stem two fingers deep.
Cover the gaps left by the hole so that the stem and the substrate can settle. Water abundantly, but don’t overwater so the plant doesn’t flood. Place the plant in a semi-shaded place where it can grow comfortably.
How to care for lettuce
Lettuce doesn’t tolerate high temperatures so it’s not planted in summer. They like cool, humid climates and semi-shaded spots. Besides, as this plant doesn’t tolerate drought, you’ll have to water it frequently.
When the lettuce gets bigger and bears buds, you can add a little potassium-rich fertilizer. These plants can be affected by snails and birds, but through various means you can protect the crop.
With homemade insecticides, you’ll scare away the snails, and to avoid the birds you can use a plastic bottle. You’ll cut it at both ends and inside, you place the lettuce already planted as a sort of dome. Bury it slightly so that the wind doesn’t blow it away.
What can you prepare with lettuce?
You can create several delicious recipes with lettuce, so I want to show you how to make an avocado salad with lettuce. This one will be for 4 people.
The ingredients you need are:
- 3 avocados
- 2 oranges
- 1 lettuce
- Olive oil
The first thing you should do is clean and drain the lettuce very well to remove dirt residues. Then cut the avocados in half, and remove the center pit and the peel.
Peel the orange and separate it into segments. Then, in a salad bowl pour the lettuce leaves and add the orange and avocado.
Finally, flavor the salad with a vinaigrette made of chopped onion, olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice and salt.
This is a vegetable whose stem has very long, fleshy and succulent stalks. Celery can be consumed raw, cooked, in sauces, as a condiment, etc. Besides being edible, it’s also a medicinal plant with antioxidant properties, and diuretic effects, among other ailments.
The celery plant is herbaceous, and its stem elongates reaching 30 cm to 1 m in height. The leaves are the main edible part of this plant, they are large and sprout in a crown shape.
The color of the stems can vary from yellowish-green to dark green. The flavor of the leaves is intense, pleasant and slightly bitter. The stalk is much milder and crunchy.
How to grow celery?
You can grow celery by seed using seedlings. They shouldn’t be buried too deep because they are too small and may not germinate. Celery doesn’t tolerate cold weather very well so you should plant it in temperate climates at temperatures of 15 to 20 °C (59 to 68 °F).
For the seedbeds, you can use a substrate that contains blond peat, black peat and perlite. Add 2 to 3 seeds in each section and sprinkle some more substrate to cover the seeds slightly.
Keep the substrate moist and leave the seeds there until they germinate and grow large enough to be transplanted. In case many seeds germinate in the same space, as you did with lettuce, you can apply the pricking out technique.
This will allow each plant to grow individually in optimal conditions. Finally, transplant the celery to its final location, separating each plant approximately 30 cm from the other.
The substrate you use should be loose, light, contain organic matter rich, and have good drainage. Place it in a semi-shade so that it develops without problems and fertilize the soil before planting the celery with manure compost and nitrogen-rich fertilizer.
How to care for celery
You can harvest celery in the first year after it has grown. Remember not to remove many of the leaves or the youngest leaves so that the plant is not affected.
It’s a very demanding plant in terms of irrigation, so it needs constant moisture without exceeding to avoid waterlogging. The frequency will depend on the time of year in which you are or the climate of the area in which you live.
To make sure that your plant is not lacking water, you can use your finger to insert it at least 1 cm into the soil. If it comes out dry, you should water the crop, otherwise, wait until the next day.
You should check the plant constantly to avoid pests or diseases, and in case they appear, you can treat them in time so you don’t lose the crop.
If you want to grow celery in pots the processes are the same, but the container shouldn’t have less than 10 liters of capacity.
What can you prepare with celery?
Just like the previous foods, celery can be prepared and consumed in different ways. This time I’ll talk about a crunchy Moroccan salad for 4.
The ingredients you need are:
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 red onion
- 1 guindilla pepper
- 1 large celery
- A bunch of fresh parsley
- A handful of fresh mint leaves
- 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
- Lime or lemon juice
- Ground black pepper
The first thing you need to do is wash and dry well all the vegetables. Then chop the peppers well, discarding the seeds, the onion and the celery, peeling the filaments if necessary.
You’re going to open the guindilla and remove the seeds, followed by chopping it finely. Then mix all the vegetables in a large bowl, chop the parsley and mint and add them to the mixture.
Finally, season to taste with salt and pepper and add the olive oil and freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice. Serve and enjoy.
Now that you know the benefits of healthy eating, take the plunge and start growing your own fruits and vegetables. You'll learn a lot from each one of them, and you can include your family, friends and people in your community in the process.Not only you gain benefits, but you also contribute to environmental preservation and food security. Don't get left behind!