More families are growing their own - vegetables, that is

Molly Frances, 9, of Plymouth waters the plants in her family's new vegetable garden.
Molly Frances, 9, of Plymouth waters the plants in her family's new vegetable garden.Sara Grady

Time on your hands, no place to go, the weather warming up, and grocery shopping a production? Some regional families are addressing a range of needs by growing their own produce.

Living in a rented house in Braintree, Tania Taranovski wasn’t planning on starting a garden this year. But when the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown of schools and workplaces began, backyard gardening “seemed like a good idea,” Taranovski said.

“I wanted access to fresh vegetables,” she said. Her two growing sons go through a lot of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.

Growing your own, Taranovski said, “is so much better than ... having to run out for things all the time.”


Because their property is rented, Taranovski said, her family is planting in a raised bed that can easily be removed.

Advocates cite a variety of motivations for taking up gardening this year. It’s educational for home-schooled children; Preparing the ground, planting, caring for plants, and harvesting the results become a family project. Growing some of your food is a practical way to ensure food security and cut down on the costs.

“Food prices are up about 20 percent in my grocery bill,” said Peter Swanson, former science department chairman of Quincy High School and an active gardener at his home in Hingham. “With green peppers costing a buck a piece, for the homegrown gardener that offers real saving for other essentials.”

According to a survey by Bonnie Plants, a commercial grower, growing food at home at a time of “staying home safer” is a national trend. The company’s national survey found that 30 percent of all households growing food products this year are doing it for the first time.

In fact, Taranovski said, if you’re starting a garden this year it’s easy to find others to share information and experience.


"I'm coordinating advice, seed purchases, and more with a group of friends that are all starting new gardens as well, so we have a support group," said Taranovski, whose family lost their home to fire last year.

An employee of Farm to Institution New England, a nonprofit that connects local growers to hospitals and schools, Taranovski also hopes to donate some produce to a local food pantry.

Inspired by a heavy diet of homeschooling and a new growing season, Sara Grady of Plymouth and her family are building and planting a pair of vegetable gardens this year.

Grady, who works as an ecologist for the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, said an earlier gardening project fell by the wayside a few years back. This year she and husband, Joseph Francese, assembled a raised bed garden in which to plant an array of veggies in 1-foot squares and also planted a “Three Sisters Garden” [corn, beans, and squash].

"We had more time," Grady said.

When you’re staying at home, she said, “It’s a lot easier to have a vegetable plot out in the back this year. We can keep an eye on it. And our daughter Molly [age 9] gets to water it. It’s nice to have that as an alternative activity that gets everybody outside. And it’s something to focus on.”

Grady and Francese are planting a full menu: four different kinds of tomatoes, green peppers, radishes, beats, turnips, soy beans, carrots, broccoli, eggplant, three kinds of cucumbers.


And based on a growing technique that “taps into the traditional ecological knowledge” of Native Americans, they’re also planting a Three Sisters Garden. Because corn has a vertical structure, bean plants will climb up the corn stalks while adding nitrogen to the soil, and squash plants grow outward along the ground, shading out weeds.

Eaten together, "they form a complete meal." Corn supplies carbohydrates, beans protein, and squash amino acids.

Not only is gardening a good piece of at-home education, Grady said, it's an outdoor "focus" that moves through the seasons.

Robert Knox can be contacted at rc.knox2@gmail.com.