When I moved to the Raleigh area in North Carolina nearly 3 years ago, I moved to a place with about an acre of land. I was thrilled to have a space where I could put in gardens. Being a vegetarian, my diet obviously contains a lot of vegetables, so it was only natural that I would put energy into creating space to grow our own food. I have lived with gardens most of my life, and find that working in them helps to calm my mind. It is also an excellent form of exercise, what with all the bending, digging, stretching, and lifting. (Who needs a gym?)
Having your own garden is an excellent way to conserve resources, given the state of the economy today. Higher gas prices mean higher food prices. By growing our own vegetables, I am able to drastically reduce the amount of money spent on groceries each week. Of course, the water bill does go up, especially during the hotter, drier months, but I offset this as much as possible by capturing rainwater from the roof and using it to water the garden. I did find that rain barrels are extremely expensive ($50 to $85 apiece). I combatted this by buying a whole bunch of trashcans for $10 each, several of which were placed in strategic locations around the outside the home. When they fill up, I use 5-gallon buckets to transfer the water to the trashcans near the garden. (A great substitute for weight-lifting). Using a watering can from there is a nice, inexpensive, and peaceful watering experience.
The land is very interesting. There area areas that are a mixture of sand and rock, some areas that are pure red clay, and other areas that have good topsoil. Fortunately, the sunny, open area where we wanted to place the vegetable gardens had pretty good topsoil, so it made it a little easier. I chose to build raised beds, as that way the soil would be easier to work in years to come, and added compost to it to build the soil up.
I have learned that it is actually possible to grow vegetables year round in the area I live. Of course, I do find myself covering up plants when frost is predicted, and I have built little hoop houses to make that process easier. (These also help keep the neighborhood cats from using the freshly planted areas as a litter box.) There is an excellent book that I find myself constantly referring to, called Month-by-month Gardening In The Carolinas
Last year was my first year here with a garden. I was able to can spaghetti sauce, pickles, and pizza sauce, and freeze lots of pesto, squash, broccoli, beans, and okra. I continue to learn a lot more, and hope this year I am able to have a garden that produces year round. I am even experimenting with growing navy beans for a source of protein.
There is nothing better than home-grown vegetables on your plate for dinner. If you have the space, and some time, I higly recommend that you try growing your own food.