Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday: Food Storage - Gardening

OK, not only has storing food become "cool" in this economy, but suddenly gardening is considered the new hip thing. Suddenly, anyone who is anyone is gardening.

I grew up in the 70s when the LDS church recommended that every family should have a garden. My dad heard that tidbit of advice, and decided to move across town, to a house that had a full acre in the backyard. It was seriously cool to have that much space. And the first spring, he planted a garden (well, we probably helped, but you know how "helpful" four young children can be in the planting process). My recollection is that it that the garden was about 1/4 of the yard. We grew peas, beans, corn (we did live in Nebraska, so I think it was required to plant lots of corn), swiss chard, tomatoes, strawberries, and rasberries. We also had a small patch of wild rhubarb that grew on the side of the house. My dad also planted fruit trees, although to be honest, I don't remember ever harvesting any fruit from them (we lived in that house for 7 years.) We had a chest freezer and my mother canned, and so we ate lots of food from our garden.

Last year was the first year that I tried to grow anything else but flowers in the garden. I have two very small garden areas. One is a raised bed that is 10 feel long by 2 feet wide. The other is about 5 feet wide by 3 feet long. I made a couple typical first timer mistakes of planting too much zucchini (I planted two plants. One would have been plenty.) and putting large leafy plants in too small of a space (the zucchni plants and broccoli). And the peas and beans were good, but took up quite a bit of space and didn't yield much.

But it was fun. The kids really enjoyed it. We ate what we grew (lettuce, zucchini, peas, beans, herbs, and broccoli), although we couldn't have survived on just what was in our garden.

My plan this year is to use our garden for berries and tomatoes, and to grow the remainder of our food in a plot behind our church. But I think the key to gardening is to just do it. Even if you can't do much, most people at least have the space for container gardening. Or check to see if there is a community garden in your community. We were at Jelly Bean's T-ball game last summer and discovered a community garden behind the church next door. The sign said that anyone was free to take whatever they wanted, but that they would appreciate people also returning to help with maintenance, or planting the next year. And I would recommend starting small. Don't go with a huge garden your first year. And buy seedlings instead of starting from seeds that first year - you'll have more success. Here are some tips and links about gardening from the Provident Living website.

My goal for next year is to be a complete LOCAVORE - growing as much as I can, and then buying everything else local (either from farmer's market or local co-ops - there are two within less than 50 miles of me. Local readers - the local co-ops' websites, Common Ground and First Fruits Produce Company are listed in my Simple Blog list) and preserve food - both in the freezer and canning. But my goal for this year is to learn more about becoming a locavore - learn more about gardening, more about what is available at the farmer's market and co-ops, learn more about canning and freezing. If you would like more information about eating local, you can click here, or you can click on the 100 Mile Diet link in my Simple Blogs list.

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