It has been over a month since I have posted in this blog. My daughter and I have been busy learning a new skill, and this takes a lot of time. This might be one of the most important skills we have ever learned and I am surprised it is not taught in most schools. What is it?
I wanted to do this when we lived in South Korea, but we didn’t have the space or resources. I thought about joining the older korean women in their renegade gardening, but never got around to it. (They grow food anywhere, any lot that is not developed yet, hillsides by the highway, etc. ).
Sadly, we have not bought a house yet, we haven’t found the “right one”. Instead of waiting another year, I signed up for a community garden. It has been an incredible experience so far.
When I learn something new I usually read a few books on the topic before I start. This time I started sprouting seeds before reading a book about it. That was a mistake. I ended up with cucumber seedlings on my windowsill because it was too cold to put them in the ground. Fortunately, I read a book about gardening before I put any seeds or seedlings into the garden. I found one book invaluable; it has completely changed my gardening experience. The book is; “All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space“, by Mel Bartholomew. After reading this book I would not waste space on planting in rows, (unless I own a commercial farm). Mel Bartholomew’s method of gardening is innovative and efficient. Square foot gardening allows you to plant a large variety of crops in a small space. If you are a first time gardener, like me, I highly recommend reading it. Do it before the growing season starts so you have time to start your plants from seed, which will save you money.
Some people don’t understand why anyone would want to grow their own food when you can buy almost anything you need at the grocery store. (I used to feel that way). But now there are so many reasons to grow food for your family. Here are my reasons:
1. Our food supply has been compromised. Pesticides, antibiotics, genetically modified organisms, and garlic raised in fecal matter in China. I have had it, I am fed up. It has become very difficult to eat food that is not contaminated with something. By growing the food myself I can be assured that the quality is good. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it is better than complacency. (I also buy local grown).
2. I want my daughter to know where food comes from. When I was child, my aunt had a peach tree in her backyard. I wouldn’t dream of picking a peach from it an eating it because that just seemed odd to me. (Life of a city girl, sigh). I also remember digging up scallions in my grandmother’s yard, but I was afraid to eat it because it didn’t come from the store. I want my daughter to know and understand what food is and where it really comes from.
3. Save money. Real food is expensive, very expensive. I track our family expenses and we spend a lot on food. I am trying to reduce that cost. Sure, there are expenses involved with growing food, but the overall cost is less than buying organic produce at the store. One thing I like about the Square Foot Gardening method is you don’t need a lot of equipment. The initial cost of setting up your raised gardens is a little high, but then it costs next to nothing to maintain it. (If you make your own compost that is all you need to add every year once you set everything up). I have some high hopes for my bell peppers, (organic bell peppers are expensive).
4. Diversification. I have not been able to find Korean radishes to make kimchi. No problem, I can grow my own. Organic jalapenos, no luck. No problem, I can grow my own. It is even difficult for me to find decent organic cabbages sometimes. When you grow your own food, you can increase the variety in the fruits and vegetables that you eat.
5. Self reliance. Have you heard about the drought in California? Apparently it is pretty bad this year. A lot of our produce comes from California. Droughts, storms, economic problems, etc. Hey, you never know, life is unpredictable. If I know how to grow and preserve food, at least we won’t be hungry if the food supply suffered some sort of disruption.
6. It’s a challenge. I loved setting up my Square Foot Garden. I told my husband it reminded me of that game Sudoku. There are some plants that are not supposed to be next to each other, and some plants that thrive together. I changed the layout of my garden many, many times, (I have 3 different excel spreadsheet tables of my garden). The battle with garden pests and weather issues is constant. It is challenging, but it encourages creativity and innovation.
7. It’s fun. Seriously, it is. I look forward to driving to our little garden just to see how our plants are doing. My daughter and I harvested our first vegetable from the garden yesterday morning. It was a French Breakfast radish, (grown from an heirloom organic seed). It was delicious. I have never had any luck growing plants, I always had a black thumb. This time it is different, I really enjoy it. I even grew some sweet potato slips from am organic sweet potato I bought at the store … and it actually worked! Now I have 10 sweet potato slips grown from half a sweet potato. (I had a hard time finding organic sweet potato slips anywhere so I am glad I started that project in early April). I am having a blast, and so is my daughter. I have high hopes for the pumpkin we plan on growing up a trellis. If we pull it off it will be a great accomplishment. Just look at this cabbage, isn’t it beautiful? I can’t wait to use it to make sauerkraut!!!
So that is what we have been up to.
Do you like to grow your own food? What are some of the accomplishments and challenges you have had?