Last month when there was a run on groceries it was a bit alarming to walk through the stores and see all of the empty shelves. For us, going to the store isn't critical. We have a large freezer, canned jellies, sauces, and vegetables, and eggs from our hens, but I can only imagine how scary it must be for those who don't. If you depend on the grocery store for all of your food, seeing empty shelves and hearing news about food shortages must be terrifying! But it doesn't have to be, with the arrival of spring, now is the perfect time to start taking back some of your food security.
Gardening - Something for Everyone
I know many of you are planning on gardening this year, some of you for the first time. How do I know? Because nearly every seed and plant company that I order from is either sold out or experiencing major backlog. I will admit I am a bit frustrated at the fact that we have had to scour stores and websites to piece together our seeds and lights and trays for this year but I'm excited that so many are getting into an activity that I am so passionate about!
If you're new to gardening, you may feel a bit intimidated. Don't worry, you're going to mess up and that's okay! I can't tell you how many seedlings died, or tomatoes got eating by slugs, or plants froze off before harvesting in my garden. It happens, and every gardening mistake is an opportunity to observe and learn and hone your techniques. And also, for every mistake you will most likely have infinitely more successes, always focus on what went right.
The Garden Bed
So where to begin? If you are fortunate enough to have a yard, then in the ground is going to be the easiest way to start a garden. There are many techniques including tilling (ask a neighbor or friend to help you so you don't incur the expense of buying a rototiller), lasagna gardening (layering cardboard over the grass to create a weed barrier than layering dirt and compost to plant in), or raised beds (wood or metal boxes filled with dirt and compost).
If you don't have a yard or are not able to tear up your grass then container gardening is the perfect solution. Large pots, window boxes, or even storage totes can be filled with soil and compost and used the same way as an in-ground garden, with just a few adjustments. The main thing to keep in mind is to not over plant. Most garden vegetables like a lot of space for their roots so resist the urge to fill up your planting boxes, give your veggies plenty of room to fill in as they grow.
What to Plant
The next step is deciding what to plant. The first rule - plant what you will eat. Some of my favorites that are easy to grow and give you lots to harvest are green beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. These plants are vigorous and will provide you with a variety of tastes, textures, and harvesting times. But your list will probably look different. Think of what you and your family likes and what you most often buy at the store. Try to plant things that will help eliminate some of your grocery bill.
Keeping it Healthy
Number one, make sure your garden has water. Here in Wisconsin our summers are typically wet enough where we don't have to water all that often. In hotter, dryer climates, watering may be a daily chore. Set up an inexpensive sprinkler to make it as easy as turning the spigot. Over watering can be an issue as well. Check the soil by digging down a bit to see how moist it is. Most plants don't appreciate standing water so don't flood your garden when watering.
Next, keep your garden safe. Pest control is often met with extreme force. We don't use any toxic chemicals in our garden, we want the space to be full of life so why would we poison it? But garden pest can do a number on your plants. Fuzzy pests like bunnies and deer can be deterred with fencing, lights, music, or plants with strong smells like herbs or onions. Strong smelling herbs can also ward off bug that like to chomp on your hard work. The best remedy though is to have a diverse landscape. Make your garden with a variety of plants and flowers to attract all kinds of insects and animals. Nature will work towards balance, giving you bugs like dragon flies, praying mantis, and even wasps that will help keep the destructive bugs in check.
And don't forget to fertilize! Adding compost to your garden is a great way to add nutrients. Composted horse, chicken or rabbit manure are also great amendments. There are a variety of organic fertilizers on the market as well, just make sure to follow all of the label directions for best results.
The very best part of the garden is the harvest. When you have toiled over a little seedling, watching it grow for months, and you see your first red ripe tomato your heart will sing with joy. Harvesting your crops will be not only rewarding for your body but also for your soul. And even in this time of scarcity and fear, please share your bounty with those who cannot garden for themselves, share what you've learned and help others get started, and rejoice in the freedom of being just that much more self-reliant.
Need More Guidance?
If you're taking the gardening plunge this year and need some help along the way, please feel free to reach out! Send me an email or shoot me a message through facebook with your questions, concerns, and dilemmas (and also your successes and harvest!). I love to talk gardening just about as much as I love talking about essential oils! It would be my honor to help you on your gardening journey.