Baby Steps: Get growing!

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This week’s baby step is:

Very simple. It is to grow something edible, anything at all, this summer. And eat it!

Why this step is important:

I think there is something crucial about connecting with the seasons and the way that food grows. Though I find it difficult to express in words, there is something so life giving, so beautiful, so invigorating and exciting about it. It develops in me such an appreciation for the goodness of God and the miracle of His creation.

With all the talk of the economy and rising food costs, developing skills that promote self-sustainability is a very, very good thing.

For me, though, it’s not even just about the costs. It’s that I want to have the knowledge and experience in growing and harvesting my own food, to know where it’s coming from (and what’s on or in it- this is important!), to have tended to it with my own hands, to have had the dirt under my fingernails, to watch those delicate little seedlings pop up from teensy little seeds and then marvel at the miracle it is as they grow into full fledged, food producing plants.

So why grow?

  • Pure and simple, for the self-satisfaction of growing something yourself!
  • to teach your children where food really comes from, and to let them participate and learn from the process
  • For organic/natural foods, right in your backyard
  • Because nothing tastes better than a freshly picked tomato, or the candy sweetness of home garden carrots, or the juicy crunch of a snow pea right off the vine
  • 0 mile food- walk out back door, pick food from garden, and eat. I love it!
  • It costs so little to grow your own food, and every little bit counts with the food and gas costs rising as they are

How to get started with this step:

It is entirely up to you how you go about this step. It could be starting your own square foot garden, or tilling a plot in your yard. It could be adding a tomato plant in a container onto your deck. It could be as simple as placing a potted herb on your kitchen window, or growing your own sprouts for sandwiches using a canning jar. It is entirely what works for you!

Just choose something that feels manageable to you. If you really don’t feel that you have the time and energy to take on something big, then start very small and you can always add a little more next year. It has to be achievable, so that you can feel successful in it! Don’t bite off more than you can chew! (This coming from the girl whose first garden was 16 x 16 feet, at a community garden she had to walk or bike to with her 1 1/2 year old, with about 12 different kinds of vegetables, and she knew nothing, truly nothing, about gardening- but that’s besides the point!)

Online Resources:

Here are a few links to get your going and inspire you!

Homegrown Revolution- watch this video and be amazed at what can be done in a city lot!

Growing tomatoes in containers– Some great tips from a farmer, for my friend Lindsay who’s trying her very first tomato plants on her deck this year!

Square Foot Gardening (official site)- This is a great method, and you can start as simple or elaborate as you like. Lots of good info here!

How to grow potatoes in a garbage can- I’m pretty sure I’m going to do this (I better get started soon)- it looks so simple!

You Grow Girl– A fun site with lots of interesting articles, tips, etc.

Organic Gardening- Site of the magazine by the same name, with lots of info about how to grow different types of vegetables and fruits, and many other helpful articles.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds– The site where I purchased my seeds this year. Here is a link to their Gardening Guide (good, overall info), and also to their page with gardening related links. As well, they now have a forum that looks to have much helpful info!

Sprouting seeds– A simple tutorial for sprouting seeds using only a canning jar and a cloth. I’ve done this myself, using broccoli and clover seeds to make sandwich sprouts, and it was so easy, and the sprouts were more delicious, fresh and crisp than those I buy at the store!

Reading Resources:

Here are the books that have been inspiring me this year (well, the last is highly recommended by others and not read by myself yet, but hopefully next on my list of books to buy).

The second one, How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method, is an oldie but a true classic (first published in 1959). I have learned so much by pouring over this book, and it is just filled to the brim with info on every fruit or vegetable you could think of, growing seasons, garden planning, minerals and deficiencies, fertilizing, mulching, composting, seedlings, etc. You name it, it’s in there.

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  1. We planted our first vegetable garden this year. Kept it small and simple (to see if I could and would want to take care of it!) and planted fast growing produce (potatoes and onions)so that the kids wouldn’t get bored with it. We harvested potatoes last week and I’ve been using green onions for several weeks now. WE LOVE IT so much that when we dug up the potatoes we immediately planted bell peppers and tomatoes where the potatoes were. We plan to till up a bigger plot (thank goodness we have a 3 city lot yard!) next year.

  2. Perhaps some of your readers can help me out here: we would love to have a container garden on our apartment patio, but we only get enough sunlight for two tomato plants (which is what we did this year).

    Does anyone know of vegetables or herbs that grow in partial or complete shade? We’d like to expand our “garden” next year, but it would have to be shade plants.


  3. And my kids are more willing to eat a vegetable if they had something to do with getting it there. We always say, “Here is some of _your_ squash that _you_ picked!”

  4. lizzykristine, I found this link for you:

    I would attest to the fact that salad greens and peas do great, even without sun. We’ve been in a cold, cloudy snap for several weeks now, and it’s definitely been my lettuce and peas that have been growing the nicest this whole time! Oh yes, my turnips and radishes have also done pretty decently without the sun. So there’s hope!

  5. We are growing a garden this year, but this is only my second year doing this. I accidentally planted too early for this brisk Indiana weather so some of my stuff didn’t take off, but I haven’t given up hope. I can’t wait to see what will happen this year. It is always an adventure with my black thumb 🙂

  6. The kids and I planted our container garden over the Memorial Day weekend. Tomatoes, green peppers and basil. We got our first baby tomato this week!

  7. To help out the previous commenter-

    from what I have read and understood and seen, the root crops and leaf crops do better in partial shade than other things. Especially things like lettuce and spinach acutally can grow in the shadier spots in the later heat of the summer when otherwise they would bolt. I grew lettuce in the shade last year this way. Many people buy shade cloth for those crops for the later heat. Right now I have had a ton of cool weather and hardly any sun and what is doing well is the peas, radishes, onions, lettuces and spinach and carrots. Root and leaf crops!

    Overall, I think you could experiment and see what works best. Its the fruiting crops that need the most light. Even if, say, you did some herbs, I think they might grow a bit better with more light, but they are leaf crops and do okay with partial shade, and you would still get something.

    Have you considered also doing some hanging planters? Not sure if that is an option. I know seed catalogues often have varities specifically for planters or hanging baskets. Or doing a tiered system of stacking boxes with things growing in them (visaulize like a stair case) so that you can make better use of your sunny spot by thinking vertically? Or even things like a strawberry planter that also uses vertical space? The new square foot gardening book gave me inspiration to think that way. They also describe how to make planters to hang over the balcony etc like window boxes.

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