Growing Food at Home
April 9, 2020
While 2020 certainly has been off to a rocky start complete with a major flood and pandemic, I seek solace in the promise of another spring and the simple joys of harvesting my own food helps to keep me steady. After a chilly early March, I'm thrilled to see the apricot tree has started to bloom, the rhubarb is poking through the soil and the spinach is germinating in the raised beds. I've sown an inordinate amount of seeds in my basement under grow lights and have dragged my husband into helping me plant a variety of paw paws, elderberry, and persimmons on the hillside. And now, I'm here to talk you into trying a garden too!
To be perfectly honest, my main reason for growing my own food is that I'm a food snob. Once you begin eating fruits and veggies from your own garden, you'll have a really hard time going back to grocery store veggies. Trust me, the taste is incomparable. And not just the tomatoes either. I now loathe store-bought zucchini, strawberries, apples, and spinach to name a few. You've been warned.
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, I've noticed a surge in interest for home gardening. While the intent of this article is not to push people to garden out of fear or scarcity, it's certainly worth mentioning the benefits of having control of a portion of your food supply during times of uncertainty. However, if you are practicing social distancing and have some time on your hands, now is a great time to learn a new skill! It will help keep boredom at bay, get you outside, and will result in some delicious produce. Can't beat that.
I'd be remiss if I didn't also touch on the environmental and social benefits of having a food garden. Growing your own food is a great use of your outdoor space and the miles your food travels will go from hundreds or thousands of miles to tens of feet. Growing your food can lead to reduced carbon emissions, reduced or no spraying of pesticides or herbicides, and heathier produce for you. I also suggest growing a little extra and gifting to friends or donating to the Waitsburg Resource Center (they take fresh produce!)
The great thing is that you can grow food in all sorts of ways. The traditional method is tilling up a swath of yard for a vegetable garden. Pretty straightforward and probably what most people envision when I say "vegetable garden." The next method is to use raised beds. Raised beds can provide a more landscaped appeal to your garden and also can help folks with mobility issues that cannot repeatedly bend over to the ground. Beds can be raised as little as 6 inches or can even be designed to be wheelchair-accessible if needed. We primarily grow in 12" raised beds but it's more to keep the gophers out than anything else! The third method I would recommend includes using containers. This is a perfect solution for those with limited space or for folks that are renters. You can grow anything from small pollinator gardens, to greens, to tomatoes, all on your patio. The final method that I've become interested in is "foodscaping" or incorporating various edible plants into your landscaping. This is a unique approach that can circumvent zoning rules or less-than-supportive neighbors. What's more, it can be absolutely beautiful. It might take a little more planning, but I've seen elaborate vegetable gardens tucked discreetly into a front yard landscaped bed and if you didn't know what you were looking for, you wouldn't see the bounty at your feet. There are about a million different techniques for growing your own food but these large categories can give you some ideas of how to start.
Regardless of why you choose to grow food, what varieties you opt to grow, and how you decide to grow them, I want to assure you it's not at all hard but there is a learning curve. My recommendation is to start small with quick-growing crops like spinach or radishes. This will teach you the basics and as you learn skills, you can work your way up to long-season food such as tomatoes and peppers. I read a statistic somewhere that approximately 90% of new gardeners stop after one year and I want to change that. Here are some of my favorite resources to get you started. If you're a podcast person, I highly recommend you download the Joe Gardener Show and Epic Gardening. Be sure to listen to all the old episodes- they're completely free and full of wonderful information. Maybe you prefer books? Try The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith, The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour, Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway, or an oldie but goodie- The New Victory Garden by Bob Thompson. Instagram addict? No judgement here! Follow @vegetableacademy, @seedtofork, and @deannacat3.
If you have some unplanned free time due to recent events, I encourage you to consider starting a small garden, be it for growing veggies or just to support your local native pollinators. My hope is to continue publishing articles to help you learn how to garden and provide tips, tricks, and resources along the way.
And now it's time for me to put my money where my mouth is: I have a mixed variety of tomato starts available for planting and will be happy to give them away for FREE. But there's a catch... I'm asking you to give away a portion of your harvest bounty to those in your local community or donate directly to the Waitsburg Resource Center. It's up to you on how much you want to give, but this is my way of trying to pay the kindness forward and do something positive in our community during this crazy and stressful time. If you would prefer trying some easier veggies, I can provide seeds for those as needed. Please note that this is first come, first serve and I truly want this to be a pay-it-forward system. If you're financially able, I would also highly recommend Nancy's Dream Garden Center in Waitsburg for purchasing seeds and starts. I will be happy to provide you information and advice on how to grow veggies with the assurance that you will pay it forward and help put food on someone's table.
If you'd like to request some plants/seeds, chat or have just questions on how to begin, you can email me at AliGrowsFood@gmail.com