Today is January 1, 2015. This marks the first day of a new year and my very first blog post. How utterly exciting. I have decided to blog my experience with growing my own food for a few reasons. The first, because I had been keeping a journal on paper old-skool and that makes my hand cramp. Seriously, the art of writing is definitely long lost. The second reason is because I get asked for photos of my garden often and my Facebook page is getting cluttered. The third reason is because I have an inflated sense of importance and think people really, truly care about what I have to say. Finally, I am doing this is because I want to prove to myself the seemingly impossible, that is, work around the clock and also treat yourself well in the form of really really good food and save some moolah to boot.
So…let us begin this journey. As some of you may know, my garden began just a year ago, in early 2014. I raked the internets looking for directions on how to make a garden bed. There are so many sites and so many recommendations. I settled on the advice of this website, which provides directions for a 4′ x 8′ raised garden bed. I decided on raised garden beds in order to maximize efficiency by utilizing a form of Square Food Gardening, or SFG. This method of gardening relies on deep soil and maximized plant-to-space ratios over traditional row gardening. It reduces compaction because you don’t have to walk on the dirt. A 4′ x 8′ bed is ideal for me, because I can easily reach across 2 feet to plant, weed and hoe without so much trouble.
For the bed, I used untreated cedar. You can make a raised bed out of anything. Cedar is a good option as it is naturally rot resistant. Untreated is important for growing food. Treated lumber uses chemicals that, while better than the arsenic soup of years past, are still not meant to be sucked up into green leaf cells and consumed. Along with using untreated lumber, you will probably not want to seal or stain the wood for the very same reason, which is why a rot-resistant wood is important. Of course you could go crazy and use brick, cement or other durable materials. They are kind of heavy.
For my bed, I excavated a space large enough for the bed to sit. I lined the soil with black permeable weed cloth and a good layer of chicken wire to keep out those diggers/root thieves. I filled the box with a 50-50 mix of top soil and compost purchased in bulk locally. An entire truck load (1 yard) cost me a whopping $25. The delivery fee was $50. Somethings will never make sense. I also attached PVC pipe to assist in adding hoops for early plants. All in all, one bed cost approximately $150 to make, and should last 5-8 years.
After some surprising success with one 32 cubic foot garden bed, I decided to add another for this upcoming year. That is, two 4′ x 8′ raised garden
beds, 64 cubic feet of soil. In addition, I commandeered an old cement block 4′ x 4′ planting bed for 16 asparagus plants, revived a 20′ raspberry trellis, and put some TLC into existing pear trees (2) and a Montmorency tart cherry tree.
Another decision I made, which I feel very strongly about, was to use near-exclusively heirloom seeds. Just a little explanation on that one. Heirloom seeds are the seeds of yore, that are almost forgotten. They are seeds of delectable fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs and other plants that have been saved throughout the generations when agribusiness has all but made them extinct. Today, many people might be aware that there are literally hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, thanks to a bit of a revolution, but what about the hundreds of cucumber and sweet pea varieties? That’s right. We are only just beginning. My go-to for these seeds
is Seed Savers Exchange. SSE is a non-profit that focuses on saving the seeds of yesteryear for today’s enjoyment. They make a certain selection of these seeds available every year for people like me to purchase and grow. There are many organizations that do this, and now many seed companies that are selling heirloom varieties. When the catalogs arrive in the dead of winter, its like Christmas! The SSE seed packets usually run around $3/packet, which sounds like a bit much, but that is for hundreds, if not thousands of seeds. Compare that to $2.00/plant at a discount greenhouse. If that plant dies, or doesn’t make it to fruit, you need to spend another $2.00 to replace it. Meanwhile, you have seeds on seeds on seeds waiting to sprout.
Now we have established the basics: sunlight, water, soil, raised beds, and heirloom seeds. Take a look at my palette.
Everything appears dead. And brown. And yellow. But I know the truth. I know that those sad, withered canes are just hibernating. I know that those spindly trees will blossom once again. I know that under those feathery yellow asparagus ferns are starchy roots that will be the first sign of life come spring time. I know that those two empty wood boxes will become so overwhelmed by lush greenery that I will be fighting to contain it. What miracles, and what fun! I hope you enjoy this journey with me.