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BellaOnline's Allergies and Colds Editor

Grow a garden

Garden season is in full bloom. If you haven't planted a garden, there is still time. In fact, I just planted most of my garden. Here are some good reasons why you should consider getting your green thumb in gear.

Many who believe they have food allergies or food intolerances may be reacting instead to the many chemicals and toxins that have made their way into our food supply. The best way to avoid eating lots of food chemicals is to eat organic foods. Unfortunately, organic foods can cost 10-33 percent more than non-organic foods or roughly $330-990 more per year.

The extra expense is worth it if you consider your long-term health. The truth is many people donít have any extra money. Growing your own garden this summer may be one way to eat organic produce and meals prepared from your home-grown crops without breaking the bank. In fact, growing your own garden may save your money in tough economic times.

How much can growing your own organic produce save you? The amount will vary but could run $500+. According to National Gardening Association, a garden can yield an estimated half pound of fresh produce per square foot, or a $500 return on average when considering a typical gardenerís investment and the market price of produce.

You will save more if you grow your plants from seeds as opposed to starter plants. Seed packets run about $2. A seed packet may contain between 800 and 2,000 seeds. If you only harvested half of those seeds (about a 40-foot row) youíd be spending $140-$200 less than if you had purchased those mature vegetables from the grocery store. If you were to buy organic produce, the savings could be upwards of $180-$300. Starter plants will cost about $2 per plant. You will still save money but not as much as when you grow your garden from seeds.

Growing a garden is hard work but worth the time and investment in supplies. Each year, I grow a modest garden but am able to eat organic zucchini, lettuce, beets, spinach, butternut squash, kale, swiss chard, tomatoes, peppers and more.

I have never calculated my savings but each time I come in with a basket of fresh, off-the-plant produce, I feel like I have struck gold. Freshly-picked produce is brimming with nutrition to which nothing can compare.

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