Jose German is a New Jersey environmental activist, Essex County certified master gardener and Montclair resident. He is the founder of the Northeast Earth Coalition


(, a nonprofit environmental organization.


“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” — Gertrude Jekyll

Since starting the “Gardening for Life” column, we have been promoting a holistic approach to gardening and its benefits. Growing your own food is part of creating a perfect balance in your backyard. You may already have a flower garden offering a beautiful relaxing environment for you and your family, but you can further enhance your home environment

by growing your own food within steps of your kitchen.

Are you interested in getting the most value out of your vegetable buck? Most of us recognize the importance of moving towards a more vegetable-based diet. The nutrients in vegetables are vital for health and the maintenance of the body, and eating a diet rich in vegetables may reduce risk for heart disease, cancer, and Type-2 diabetes.

One to four cups of vegetables are recommended each day, depending on your overall calorie intake, but not all vegetables are created equal. The varieties planted and the ways they are grown affect their nutritional quality. It is important to learn about the nutritional facts of vegetables when you learn to grow your own food throughout the year. Whether you are an omnivore, a vegetarian, or a vegan, learning about this topic is a key to a healthier life.





Growing your own food has great benefits for you and your family:

    • You can feed your family with fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables from your own garden. Because they are fresher, they will be richer in nutrients, especially in phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, vitamin C, vitamin A, and folate, than ones that have traveled several thousand miles to reach your closest supermarket. Think of the value of getting your food just outside your kitchen door!
    • Involving your family members, especially children, in assisting in the garden makes it more likely that they will eat the fruits and vegetables they have helped grow. Growing your own vegetables is also a great way to engage the whole family in physical activity, while letting them take responsibility for the garden and feel the pride of growing their own food.
    • Growing your own fruits and vegetables offers an excellent opportunity to eliminate the use of pesticides and chemicals in your garden, making your produce healthier. You don’t need to use chemicals, since you can grow your food organically.
    • Growing your own produce will save you money at the grocery store.
    • Gardening gives you a real sense of appreciation when you can see the bounty of your efforts.
    • You can feel the human connection with food since you witnessed the whole process. It gives you a new appreciation for nature when you can see how things grow. What a pleasure it is to taste the difference between a supermarket tomato and one of your home-grown tomatoes!
    • You can start planning your garden in the next few weeks before spring arrives. It’s not necessary to start big; you can begin with a small space to experiment and learn. Look into seasonal planting, decide what produce you would like to grow, and start ordering your seeds.

Dream about your garden, plan it, spread the seeds, nurture it, and get ready to enjoy the harvest!