Happy December Everyone!
With the New Year just around the bend and a new growing season to plan, I am so excited to flip through some beautiful seed catalogs I recently received in the mail (online and paper). Inspiration abounds in the beautifully photographed pages. It summons the taste and smell of homegrown food that is still warm from the hot summer sun. If it isn’t already apparent, I am looking forward to another growing season and the hot summer sun.
Invest in Living a Life Well Nourished
To take my already overflowing garden dreams to the next level, I invested in a lovely new cookbook: Life in Balance: A Fresher Approach to Eating by Donna Hay. My preference is to invest in cookbooks and garden seeds over gym memberships. Cookbooks and garden seeds nourish, revitalize and teach; my gym memberships just collect dust after a about a month. Donna’s cookbook contains wonderful plant-based recipes (it contains meat-based recipes too and it’s what I would consider a ‘Paleo’ cookbook) but the thing is, vegetables aren’t just side dishes here, they are front and center in simple, creative and delicious ways. I am heartened to see more and more plant-based cookbooks hitting the market. See Cookbooks for a Plant-Based Diet for a list of my favorite plant-based cookbooks.
As I sit here dressed in a warm sweater sipping a hot morning coffee, my mind wanders to the warmest days of summer when we can use the harvest from our garden to host al fresco feasts for our neighbors and friends. It’s never early to start planning feast menus, is it?
However, long before we can enjoy our harvest, there’s got to be some serious planning. I have several goals to achieve in the garden this year:
- expand the garden and increase crop yield
- try different growing media (organic dirt vs. hay)
- set up an ecosystem that supports native and honey bees as well as other beneficial bugs
- use companion plants to naturally ward of pests
- grow juicy, plump tomatoes, zucchini, and cucumbers (see resources at the end of this post)
Inspiration from the Homesteading Summit
A few weekends ago, I watched some of the presentations from the thegrownetwork.com Online Homesteading Summit. Topics centered around permaculture and included an introduction to permaculture principles, water conservation, bee keeping, and home gardening among others.
I don’t come from an agricultural background by any stretch of the imagination. But one key piece of information that permeated all the presentations was that one does not need to be a biologist or geological expert. In fact, if one is a keen observer of nature and comes to understand its patterns and cycles, achieving nutritional and ecological sustainability by growing your own (with minimal effort) is an attainable-not lofty-goal.
Feeling inspired to grow more of our own food next year, I ran outside to put stakes in our front yard. These stakes are the beginning of an expanded home garden and a new project. I love projects!
Lessons from Last Year’s Growing Season
Last year was our first year of growing food in British Columbia. We grew our own vegetables and herbs on 80 square feet. This gave us enough fresh produce for 22 weeks in a row but the process was much like walking through a corn field in the dark – unpredictable. We never knew what was coming next and it was either feast or famine – a crop came all at once, inundating us for a week or not coming at all.
I planted trees and berries bushes without knowing how much spacing they required or that we already had a fig tree in the backyard and didn’t really need to buy another one. I learned that mint takes over the garden. In summary, I learned a lot about timing, spacing, and using the microclimates around our house to plant accordingly. Chalk this up to necessary experience for a perennial city dweller.
Growing Your Own is on the Rise
Growing food in the yard is not new but the way it is being done now is a bit revolutionary. It’s the re-ruralization of the urban and suburban centers. 48 million households in the US and 43 million in Australia are attempting to grow their own produce in whatever space they have. It seems like many of us are on the same journey so let’s support each other.
Geeking Out on Garden Planning
I was particularly inspired and moved to action by Stacey Murphy, backyard gardener, backyard geek, author of children’s books and recovering engineer. It was her simple and systematic approach to home gardening that really revved up my desire to replicate and extrapolate. Because the circumstances – climate, soil conditions, amount of space – are as unique as the people who choose to grow their own, this variability opens the door for guesswork but also a lot of creativity.
In summary, Stacey addressed 4 key ideas to take the guesswork out of backyard gardening:
- recognize patterns
- improve yield
- adapt/optimize patterns
- streamline effort
When Stacey began her backyard gardening project, she had a decent vegetable harvest but noticed that her garden could have produced better with better space utilization and a little planning ahead. This sounded a lot like us. The following year she got busy planning and put together her own road map for greater yield as well as to save energy, time and resources. All this by analyzing trends, patterns, and crunching some numbers.
Here are some wonderful resources from Tracy that anyone can use to increase their crop yield and to make their home garden a much more efficient and streamlined endeavor.
- Garden Geek Garden Template
- Your Guide to Understanding Growing Zones (sign up on Stacey’s Facebook Page and get this guide)
Other Resources to help you create a vibrant ecosystem in your yard with minimal effort:
- Permaculture Principles
- Creating a Bee Friendly ecosystem in your backyard
- Secrets to Growing Plump Tomatoes
- Companion Plants that Ward Off Unwanted Pests (including mosquitoes)
- City of Vancouver Urban Garden Agriculture Guidelines