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Inspirational Tuesday ~ Be A Part of the Growing-Your-Own Solution

“Fruit is nature’s purest and most immediate enjoyment, requiring nothing more than a rinse or simple rub on your shirt to clean it. From the fruit-eater’s point of view, it’s effortless pleasure. It demands non of the slicing, chopping soaking, or parboiling needed by vegetables.  Even on a chemical level, its energy is more accessible, more mobile, with no complex starches to break down.” (MK Wyle in Greenhorns: The next generation of American Farmers, pg 97)

Improved Well-Being Linked to Growing Your Own

This will come as a surprise to no one, connecting to nature creates improved well-being. Research has repeatedly shown that sensory gardens and the practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing practiced in Japan), for example, have direct positive effects on emotional, cognitive and physiological well-being.  So when I came upon a recent article from the Washington Post extolling the wonders and scientifically-proven benefits of involving children in gardening: building microbiomes, better attention skills and patience, trying the fruit and vegetables they helped to nurture along and growing happier and healthier kids overall, I wanted to share it and add to it. In my opinion, not only is growing food good for the individual, it is good for community and humanity; developing understanding, empathy, and compassion are direct side-effects of growing and sharing food.

It is encouraging to see that growing food as a family is becoming more common, again. As we pat ourselves on the back for reaching this get-back-in-the-garden milestone, it is important to remember that most of the world (other than North America) still grows its own food, as well as the food to satiate the ever expanding North American appetite. Families used to grow their own food in North America and Europe in the not-so-distant past. It’s what they needed to do in order to have something to eat. It’s important to not forget that growing our own food is not a new lofty ideal, it is imperative for health, food security and environmental regeneration.

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In a recent book I read, Greenhorns: The next generation of American farmers, 50 new generation farmers discussed their modern day challenges with feeding the North American inflated expectations that fly directly in the face of growing food naturally and in sync with nature.

“In our supermarket culture, fruit has become so visual, so linked to beauty and perfection, that people ignore the fundamental paradox of modern fruit production – high levels of chemical are the cost of unscathed, ‘perfect-looking’ fruit.  In pursuit of this ideal, we’ve lost a sense of what good fruit might actually look like, cosmetic imperfections and all.” (pg 98)

Greenhorns: The Next Generation of American Farmers <br>50 Dispatches from the New Farmers' Movement by Zoe Ida Bradbury (2012-05-08)

Greenhorns: The Next Generation of American Farmers <br>50 Dispatches from the New Farmers’ Movement by Zoe Ida Bradbury (2012-05-08)

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Can’t Grow? Help instead!

I am a huge advocate of growing our own food, regenerating soil, getting the whole family involved in the process, sharing the food we grow with neighbours and others who face food insecurity.

I am a big believer in ‘real food is medicine‘  – preventative medicine. The more we are in tune with Nature and eat what Nature provides, the more we may improve our body’s functioning, mental clarity and overall well-being.

If you are not able to grow your own, support those who can and who are growing their own.

  • Contribute water to the community garden,
  • Buy seeds for those who share their garden bounty with you,
  • Share saved seeds,
  • Buy a bag of organic worm castings to help your neighbour’s garden grow,
  • Volunteer to glean your neighbour’s apple, cherry or pear trees.
  • Learn about regenerative gardening and growing practices (e.g, permaculture) See the short video below…education is power.

Teach your whole family to be a part of the locally sourced, regenerative gardening/farming and organic food solution in what ever way, big or small. Teach your children about the importance of healthy soil, rampant food insecurity and how to create meaningful change in this world.

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

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Inspirational Monday ~ Mini-Farm Your Front Lawn

I woke up this morning to a great post written and illustrated by two women, Jennifer Luxton and Erin Sagen, titled Comic: Why You Should Turn Your Yard Into a Mini-Farm. Take the time to read it and get inspired to do things differently.

They wrote this article for YES! Magazine to incite people to ditch the 40.3 million acres of front lawns in the Continental US and to grow food, herbs and ‘weeds’ that are beneficial for humans, animals and the planet. I couldn’t agree more. Re-creating the vast suburban luscious greens lawns into mini-farms is the future of locally sourced, nutrient dense food as well as a way to create food security.

To get you started, here are some ideas for growing delicious edibles that are also wonderful for honeybees, bumblebees and other beneficial insects.

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Herbs and Edible Flowers to Grow from YOUGROWGIRL!

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

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Creating Urban Food Policy in Every City ~ A Good Read

Food Politics is one of my favorite blogs out there. It addresses the business that the food we eat truly is. Marion Nestle suggested a great read on her blog today about the development of Urban Food Policy – it’s about time.

Enjoy her brief blog post and links and pick up the book “What Makes Urban Food Policy Happen?” that highlights five successful urban policy case studies from around the world.

This book is a must read for those (like me) who want to create an Urban Food Policy in every town – rethinking the way we grow, transport, process and buy food.

 

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

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Inspirational Wednesday ~ 4 Good Reads for Your Health

“Create the Visions that are Dancing in Your Soul”

The following reads may seem somewhat random, but I believe that logic does flow here. Having read recent statistics cited by the Canadian Cancer Society that 1 in 2 people will get a diagnosis of cancer in their life time and 1 in 4 will die of the disease, I feel strongly compelled to help in some way.  These numbers basically mean that every family will be affected in some way.

When I watched a family member succumb to this disease several years ago, I felt like I received a great big kick square in the ass, an acute wake-up call, to change the path I was walking on. This website about plant-based eating, food security and the appreciation of nature became a small part of my vision.

As a family we began to shift toward prevention and using food as medicine instead of irritant.  We began to grow some of our own food, teaching our kids to grow and appreciate the simple, rich taste of real food and to become empathetic stewards of the environment.

Two years later, we are in the process of moving to a new location where we can start growing nutrient dense foods on a larger scale, using a ‘grow-it-forward’ system to provide these foods to people with chronic or terminal conditions (who often cannot afford these foods) who choose to use food as a part of their holistic healing process. Ultimately, I envision our small family farm as an NPO that serves the local region.

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The following information is critical to our everyday choices as consumers. With knowledge comes power; the power to choose where and how we spend our money. Turning from consumer to producer (just on your kitchen counter) can change the world.

4 GOOD READS

  1. There are many wonderful books on how to grow your own inside your home and here is one of my favorites. It is filled with wonderful ideas for how to grow and use what you grow.

Indoor Edible Garden: Creative Ways to Grow Herbs, Fruits, and Vegetables in Your Home

Indoor Edible Garden: Creative Ways to Grow Herbs, Fruits, and Vegetables in Your Home

2. American College for Advancement In Medicine

The American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to educating physicians and other health care professionals on the safe and effective application of integrative medicine. ACAM’s healthcare model focuses on prevention of illness and a strive for total wellness.

3.  Worm Composting Canada

This may seem like a random addition to this list; however, worm poo (worm castings) is optimal food for your plants (indoors and out without the need to use synthetic chemicals to fertilize AND a great way to use up your kitchen scraps). The Worm Guy has a very useful and reader friendly guide on how to start your very own vermicompost.

4. The University of Minnesota Extension has an article about the application of glyphosate titled, Recommended Application of Glyphosate in Pre-Harvest Management of Wheat – information for commercial wheat farmers. This is an important read for all consumers.

To put the University of Minnesota information into perspective, please watch What’s with Wheat? The documentary is available on Netflix Canada and US that sheds light on the common and prolific use of glyphosate and the implications for our health.

 

 

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

features image courtesy of Pexels.com

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Growing Urban ~ Early July

The summer and the entire growing season is going by so quickly. The garden changes almost daily and we are fully enjoying our harvest. Lettuces and spinach make for simple, flavor-filled salads. We shuck peas for breakfast, snack on strawberries, radishes and broccoli. We infuse our drinks with fragrant herbs and patiently await the arrival of our tomatoes and cucumbers. There’s nothing like a fresh salsa or bruschetta on a hot summer day.

Here are some photographs from our garden and its progress. I am really loving the companion plants we put in this year. Not only are they distracting pests of all sorts from the crops, they are a joy to look at.

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It looks like a busy place but among all those companion plants, there are fruits and vegetables.

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Giant dill that is now taller than our scarecrow.

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Runaway cauliflower. If not harvested at the right time, it goes on to create little florets that are not very tasty.

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As someone who loves cakes, I have been thoroughly enjoying the edible flowers in the garden as well. Flowers add such a lovely touch to the top of any cake without the need to go heavy on the icing.

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These cake topping beauties attract bees. Borage flowers, the dashing blue stars, refill with nectar every two minutes and have a way of keeping the bees’ attention. I have been on a mission to capture a bee in action for some time. They flutter from flower to flower and are surprisingly difficult to capture.

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I am in the process of starting up a larger Urban Garden Farm. I want to focus on growing specific greens and herbs that are known to be especially powerful for healing, or helping to ameliorate symptoms of, chronic conditions.

So now I am on a mission to find a polytunnel that will be a good fit for our back yard and for growing food free of chemicals or any off-farm inputs.

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

 

 

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Urban Garden Harvest ~ Early June

It is early June and here are some of the delicious vegetables coming out of our urban garden. Our first harvest included Cherry Belle Radishes, lettuce, spinach and all kinds of herbs including dill, cilantro, parsley, lemon balm, bergamot, lemon verbena, marjoram, thyme, oregano, holy basil, and rosemary.

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The kids enjoyed harvesting the radishes, big and small. They are excited about growing their own food. Planting, watering, harvesting and taking care of a garden are a good life skill that may just come in handy.  When we started our Urban Garden in the Front Yard, we wanted it to be a full contact sport.

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Different kinds of lettuce and spinach are in full force. I love running out the front door and chopping fresh veggies and herbs for a nice salad to go with dinner or as a big part of dinner. The lettuce and spinach regrow relatively quickly so we are able to enjoy a lovely salad everyday. There is something wonderful about eating produce cut minutes before it is consumed.

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Below is a sample of the salads we have been making over the last few weeks.

Radishes, spinach, lettuce and dwarf kale. Fresh dill, holy basil, lemon verbena, cilantro and parsley make it into the salad, too.

I keep the vinaigrette simple, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, 1 table spoon of Balsamic Vinegar, 1 tablespoon of real Maple Syrup.

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Strawberries are almost ready. They will make a fantastic addition to salads. That is, if they don’t get eaten up first.

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Nasturtium flowers are edible and add a lovely decoration and taste to any salad. Here is our fist flower.

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

All photographs are original by Jane Grueber.

 

 

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Front-Yard Urban Garden ~ May Update

Now that May is half over and all our garden beds have been filled with vegetables, fruit and herbs, it is time to pause and take stock of what is actually growing and to reflect on why we are growing our own and sharing it with others.

~~~

Why a Front Yard Garden?

This is our front yard. We decided to trade our weed-filled front lawn for six 4′ by 8′ raised garden beds filled with organic soil and home-made compost.

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This is our experiment. We want to know how much food we can grow and whether this set up can provide enough for our family of five for a 22 week growing period and beyond.

My hope is that we grow enough produce for our family AND to share with our neighbours as well as those who face household food insecurity in our community.

Read more about our front yard urban garden project here.

What is Household Food Insecurity? 

Not enough nutritious food on the table even though paychecks are coming in? Yes, this does exist in Canada. It is worse in some parts, such as the Northern Territories where two-thirds of children have very limited access to nutritious foods.

On Vancouver Island, where we live, research shows that 25 per cent of families experience some form of household food insecurity and have difficulty putting nutritious meals on the table as their money runs out long before their next paycheck.

Malnutrition in children and adults leads to poor health and mental health outcomes. Developmental difficulties as well as chronic conditions are directly linked to household food insecurity and increased health care costs.

Read more about Household Food Insecurity here.

Nutritious foods sold in ‘Farm Stores’ and Farmers’ Markets are expensive and out of reach for many working families and individuals attempting to manage chronic conditions through better nutrition.

Read more about Household Food Insecurity here.

These challenges are real. They are also opportunities. Growing our own as a way to gain independence and create greater food security in our community is indeed a revolutionary act.  Thankfully, there are many people around the world engaged in such subversive grassroots action. Our family is on a mission to Grow, Share and Thrive.

This is our first year. Our total investment in this front yard urban garden was $1600 CND. This is two months worth of groceries for us.  I know that this seems like a large sum (we saved and used many creative shortcuts). But this is a one time investment. Next year, our own compost and saved seeds will decrease the cost significantly. I see this as an investment that will pay off in the long run and benefit many.

My hope is to help others set up similar operations in their front yards; to provide them with free seeds, free seedlings, free compost (or help them create their own compost), to help them put together garden beds the most cost-effective way possible as well as an easy drip watering system that saves time and money.

I am heartened that people are interested in what we are doing. This year, we were able to give our neighbours tomato and strawberry seedlings as well as unused seeds to help them start their own urban gardens. Naturally, the biggest barrier to growing one’s own is time.

We specifically set up our urban operation to be non-time consuming. Once seeds and plants are in place, it’s water tap on, water tap off. Done.

Want to start your own urban garden? Read more about how to get started here.

Get even more inspiration for growing your own here.

What’s Growing in the Garden?

Cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, radishes, peas, beans, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, squashes of all sorts, watermelon, strawberries, sorrel, garlic, cabbage as well as 32 different herbs and perennials.

Here are some pepper blossoms. They are so delicate. We started the seeds for these from an organic green pepper we purchased at a local store (one way to get seeds). We started the seeds in used organic coffee grounds on our kitchen counter.

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They start out so little.

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Here is some dwarf kale.

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Cauliflower which loved the cooler, damp weather that we had until yesterday when the sun found us.

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This is a Gala Apple Tree. We got the seed from an store bought apple and started it in used organic coffee grounds on our counter. It’s two feet tall now. We have three of these started and have high hopes for adding to our fruit forest in our backyard.

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These wonderful Cherry Belle Radishes are almost ready to be harvested.

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Our first strawberry. Small but sweet and juicy.

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My favorite flowers of all time with the fuzziest leaves ever are back. Borage has reseeded itself and is now growing wildly in all garden beds. The start-shaped flowers are wonderful for bees as they refill with nectar every 2 minutes. Another great nectar producer is Comfrey which refills every 45 minutes.

The fuzzy leaves of this plant are very edible and when I’m out of spinach, I substitute borage leaves when making palak paneer.

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

All photography by Jane Grueber

 

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Want to Start your own Urban Garden? Get Inspired with These Essential Reads

When it comes to urban gardening and urban farming, it is clear that there is a lot going on.

“For the reasons of personal health, personal empowerment and the simple joy of growing, every person in every city needs the opportunity to grow at least some of their own food.” ~ Paul Peacock, author of The Urban Farmer’s Handbook

For those who are thinking about starting your own urban garden or even farm, here are a few books that are essential reads. They are filled with much inspiration and down right practical advice on how to get started and what to do with all those crops. I love these books. Our local library carries them and now they are a permanent part of my growing urban garden library.

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Our urban garden

In addition, community and non-profit groups are also essential for pushing change and working toward a more sustainable future.  Want to get involved or start your own? Here are some excellent examples of the food revolution:

  1. Food Secure Canada (foodsecurecanada.org)
  2.  Urban Farms/Non-Profit Organizations across Canada:
  3. Global Food Security (foodsecurity.ac.uk)
  4. Slow Food (slowfood.com)
  5. Global Eco-Village Network (gen.ecovillage.org)
  6. Transition Towns (transitiontowns.org)

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Essential Reads for the Urban Garden Revolutionary

Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of Your Money, Space and Stuff

Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of Your Money, Space and Stuff

“More of us are rethinking how and where food can be grown, leading to a surge in innovation and ingenuity. It;s a movement toward simplification and getting back to the land while incorporating modern technology to facilitate the process. The challenge is how to optimize this on a functional, daily basis. Modern life is too full-full of possessions, activities, news, and information. We have electronic screens in our homes, our offices, our cars, and even our pockets. Everywhere we turn, advertisements tout products that we ‘need’ to make us happy and fulfilled…More and more, people are seeking less and less-fewer objects, fewer activities, less (or at least better) news, more concise information.” ~ Kelly Wood, author of Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of your Money, Space, and Stuff

 

The Urban Farmer's Handbook

The Urban Farmer’s Handbook

“Food should be free. If I do my part I should hope that this planet of ours will sustain me. Indeed, experience says that it does, particularly in a climate that is neither too hot nor too cold, and has plenty of water. But I can hardly take advantaged of it because I am poor, although in the west I am comparatively well off.” ~ Paul Peacock, author of The Urban Farmer’s Handbook

 

The Essential Urban Farmer

The Essential Urban Farmer

“Urban farming is a way for people of all income levels to eat fresh, local, organic food.  I knew that I didn’t have enough money to buy organic produce or meat, and so I decided to raise it myself…Due to low incomes and lack of access to grocery stores, urban people fail to get the healthy nutrition they need.  A few packets of seeds costing less than twenty dollars can produce enough vegetables for a years worth of eating.” ~ Novella Carpenter, co-author of The Essential Urban Farmer

 

The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities

The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities

‘Government has its role, but all deep change starts with changing our own thoughts and actions. We each make daily choices about what we eat, and we each have the power to change those choices. Governments, corporations, farmers, grocery stores, school cafeterias and restaurants all respond to the aggregated demand of individual people. When we change, they will too.” ~ Peter Lander, author of The Urban Food Revolution

The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities

The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities

The Food Activist Handbook: Big & Small Things You Can Do to Help Provide Fresh, Healthy Food for Your Community

The Food Activist Handbook: Big & Small Things You Can Do to Help Provide Fresh, Healthy Food for Your Community

Urban Agriculture: Ideas and Designs for the New Food Revolution

Urban Agriculture: Ideas and Designs for the New Food Revolution

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

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Growing Urban ~ Raised Garden Beds are Ready

Where we live, a shovel going into the soil does not make it far. The clang of rocks and a sudden stop don’t make the ground a hospitable place for growing food without much augmentation and work to get the soil conditions right. I am not the patient type.

RELATED: Read more about our Urban Garden Project here.

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Our front yard last fall

My wonderful husband was charged with creating raised garden beds for our front lawn so that we could start our urban garden all on a Colt 45 budget. He went to the local saw mill and purchased 36 – 1 by 6 inch rough-sawn red cedar boards and five 4 by 4 inch posts (dimensional posts). In a couple of days, he built six 4 by 8 foot garden beds at a cost of $42 dollars each. The average retail price is over $200 dollars each.

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Our front yard Spring 2017

Although I filled the first garden bed with our own compost as well as purchased organic compost, it took a lot of dirt to fill one garden bed. To fill the other five, we will order some organic manure and soil from a local supplier.

Starting a garden this size is certainly an investment in the future. We have done it with budget at the front-of-mind. Sourcing wood directly from a local saw mill (there are plenty here on Vancouver Island), purchasing half-dead annuals and perennials at hugely discounted prices and using saved seeds from last year’s gardening exploits.

Herbs for the Garden

I have to admit I invested in some amazing medicinal herbs/vegetables from a local farm – Hazelwood Herb Farm. They are mostly perennials:

  1. American Arnica
  2. Betony
  3. Bistort (Shakeroot)
  4. Burdock
  5. German Chamomile
  6. Hedge Hyssop
  7. Horehound
  8. Lovage
  9. Lemon Balm
  10. White Yarrow
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Herbs purchased from Hazelwood Herb Farm

Upon the suggestion of Hazelwood Herb Farm, I ordered a copy of Jekka’s Complete Herb Book and await its arrival so that I can learn more about the world of medicinal herbs. If I’m going to grow all this stuff, it behooves me to know what it’s for, right?

Jekka’s Complete Herb Book

 

All that money and effort will hopefully pay off over the next 5 to 10 years as the perennials become established and annuals reseed themselves. I am motivated by the hope and promise of fresh, organically grown produce, including culinary and medicinal herbs. My sense of joy and inspiration are renewed with all the possibilities growing (or about to grow) in our urban garden.

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First Raised Bed is ready to Grow

Sowing Seeds

Our first raised garden bed now contains the following seeds and plants started on April 5, 2017:

  1. Hedge Hyssop (plant)
  2. German Chamomile (plant)
  3. White Yarrow (plant)
  4. Gaillardia (seeds)
  5. Sunflowers (seeds)
  6. Radishes (heritage seeds)
  7. Carrots (heritage seeds)
  8. Kale (heritage seeds)
  9. Cauliflower (heritage seeds)
  10. Cabbage (heritage seeds)
  11. Spinach (heritage seeds)
  12. Lettuce (heritage seeds)
  13. Peas/Beans (heritage seeds)
  14. Cucumbers (soon to be transplanted)
  15. Various Squashes (soon to be transplanted)

I ordered heritage seeds from West Coast Seeds and Heritage Harvest Seeds.

~Grow~Share~Thrive~ 

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Growing Urban ~ Here We Grow

All photographs by Jane Grueber Copyright 2017

Here we go. Finally the time has come to get our food garden plans underway on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. It is so wonderful to see people sharing their joy of growing food on social media. Their joy and enthusiasm are highly contagious and fill me with inspiration for 2017. I am inspired by the principles of Permaculture (being fully aware that it is so much more than ‘gardening’) and appreciate Geoff Lawton’s inclusive invitation to his Permaculture Circle to those who are just starting out or perma-curious as well as those for whom it’s old hat.

Last year, we started growing our own food in our back and side yard for fun. It was a way to show our three kids where food comes from and how to grow it. After seeing and tasting the results of what benign neglect in a garden can produce, I was eager to grow more of our own. Our front lawn has a usable area of about 360 square feet (9 feet by 40 feet). We have planted fruit shrubs among the existing decorative bushes and trees and it is now time to turn the grass into a vegetable garden.

Read more about our Front Yard Urban Garden Project here.

This year, we have decided to conduct an experiment in our very sunny front yard which has thus far been a haven for weeds, dandelions and moss. The plan is to set up garden beds using  compost, yard ‘waste’ and mulch to grow vegetables, herbs and companion plants in semi-accordance with Permaculture principles that I have managed to glean from various sources.

On a side note, our fenced backyard is well on its way to becoming a self-sustaining fruit forest (tall native fruit trees, native fruit shrubs underneath, perennial herbs and flowers, etc.) where the deer and bears can’t get at them while still affording some room for three young kids to roam.

Read more about inspiring examples of Urban Agriculture here.

At the end of this experiment, I want to be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much produce can a roughly 360 square foot garden yield?
  • Can a front yard garden feed a family of 5 for an entire 22 week growing season and beyond?
  • Can we grow enough food to share with others?
  • Can growing our own save us money overall?
  • Can we set up a viable (and deer proof) garden with minimal investment of time and money?
  • Is the effort to grow our own food worth it? (or is it just easier to go to a store and buy)
  • Can we help other busy families and neighbours set up and grow their own food with minimal cost through sharing of resources, seeds, and skills?

Read more about Creating Food Security in your small circle here.

With six 8 foot by 4 foot garden beds to fill (to be built), we decided to start a few plants in the house now. We will start more in about 3 weeks in order to stretch the yield over a longer period of time. Last year, I put everything in at once and felt the consequences of feast and famine later.

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My hope is that once the weather gets warmer in April, these seedling will be ready to go.

We also have plenty of seeds saved from last year which will go directly into the ground.

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This is what we planted so far:

18 tomato plants

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  1. Money Maker Tomato – heavy producer
  2. Bush Beef Steak Tomato – great slicing tomato; sweet flavour
  3. Cherry Tomato Sweetie – plants produce sweet (1 oz) cherry red fruit throughout the summer
  4. Jubilee Tomato – in intermediate beefsteak variety that produces golden-orange fruit 1/2 lbs in weight

12 Zucchini/Squash

  1. Waltham Butternut Squash – a very heavy producer of bulbous shaped, creamy yellow smooth skinned fruit
  2. Golden Zucchini (C. Pepo)
  3. Yokohama Squash (C. Moschata)
  4. Dark Green Zucchini – easy to grow, plants mature quickly, heavy yield
  5. Spaghetti Squash – winter or storage squash
  6. Ronde De Nice Zucchini (C. Pepo)

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12 Cucumbers

  1. Beit Alpha Cucumber

3 Watermelon

  1. Sugar Baby Watermelon – a dependable, easy-to-grow variety that produces round, sweet, crisp melons.

3 Giant Atlantic Dill Pumpkins – produces pumpkins over 3 feet across weighing over 100 lbs

15 Nasturtium

  1. Single Tall Climbing nasturtium
  2. Alaska Mix – dwarf nasturtium with marbled foliage
  3. Empress of India
  4. Whirlybird
  5. Phoenix

6 Peas

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  1. Oregon Sugar Pod – Mild, sweet flavour, heavy yield
  2. Lincoln Homesteader Peas – good early crop, heavy yield

6 Beans/Legumes

  1. Tendergreen Bush Beans – great flavour and large yield
  2. Bush Beans – early starters

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

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Turbo the Dog sniffing Bush Beans

 

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Growing Urban ~ Progress on our Front Yard Garden

“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small-scale, in our own gardens. If only 10 percent of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.” 

~Bill Mollison, Founder of Permaculture

January is almost over, the snow bells are in bloom and spring is around the corner. It is so exciting to start working on our urban garden in earnest.

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This is our green (and somewhat weedy) front lawn. 9 feet by 40 feet. Soon to be a Vegetable Garden, a Bourgeoning Ecosystem and a Sensory Garden.

Growing Urban

  • How much produce can 360 square feet yield?
  • Can this feed a family of 5 for an entire 22 week growing season and beyond?
  • Can growing our own save us money or even make money?
  • Can this small garden also provide fresh produce for our neighbors?

Thinking & Acting Locally

If we think globally and realize our interconnectedness, we will realize how important it is to act locally. While working to change the political and economic situation which creates the causes of hunger in our communities and internationally, we must also cultivate grassroots food projects which help people build food security.

The most powerful grassroots force is communities coming together to take back some control over their access to a variety of nutrient-dense food.

Food security and the food system affect everyone in some way. As the world population increases (currently around 7.5 billion), new solutions to hunger including the maldistribution of available food and the cost of large-scale agricultural production (economic, environmental, physiological and social) will most certainly need to be addressed some time soon.

The terms local, sustainable, locavore and others are relatively new, at times, misunderstood and even ridiculed. But if we truly look at and honestly assess the impact that our shopping/consumer patterns are having on the entire system, we would walk away knowing that seeking out local, small-scale food producers or growing our own is an integral part of the solution.

“Grassroots projects in and of themselves do not change the forces that create  high unemployment and inadequate social assistance rates. However, people’s lives are improved immediately through these projects by reducing food insecurity and enabling people to experience the power of working in coalition with others. It then becomes possible for them to envision themselves as activists for social change, working to create a just society in which hunger no longer exists. It is their critical perspective and understanding of the food system ‘from below’ which can shape a compelling vision and effective action for change.” Laura Kalina, Building Food Security in Canada: From Hunger to Sustainable Food Systems: A Community Guide, Second Edition, pg. 19

A Garden Starts with Seeds

Planning this year’s garden brings a smile to my face. Growing our own food last year was a liberating and joyful process, but I didn’t really have a plan. Last year was an experiment to see what would grow and where (in the different microclimates around the house) and what we actually used in the kitchen. We used a lot of tomatoes, kale, lettuce, spinach, sorrel, carrots, cucumber, borage (both the fuzzy leaves and the beautiful edible flowers), pumpkins, summer and winter squashes and zucchini.

Fresh herbs are essential in our kitchen and this year I am growing them using ‘hugelkultur‘, which is growing food on a mound or what I call my ‘herb hill’. Basil, oregano, verbena, thyme, marjoram, flat leaf parsley, cilantro, dill and lemon balm are some of my favorites.

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Dazzling purple borage flowers and sunflowers in our garden last year. Borage refills with nectar every 2 minutes, no wonder the bees were all over it. Photograph by Jane Grueber Copyright 2016

Although I saved many seeds or shook dry seeds directly back into our already existing garden beds, I ordered some new Heritage seeds for our front yard urban garden project. My goal is to save most, if not all, seeds that grow well in our climate each season.

List of Heritage Seeds (vegetables & herbs):

  1. Hopi Red Dye Amaranth – this ancient grain grows well in pots and dried seeds can be easily ground into flour
  2. Calabrese Broccoli
  3. Chieftan Savoy Cabbage
  4. Scarlet Nantes Carrots
  5. Beit Alpha Cucumber
  6. Lacinato Kale
  7. Crisp Mint Lettuce
  8. Black Hungarian Peppers
  9. California Wonder Peppers
  10. Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach
  11. Yokohama Squash
  12. Ronde de Nice Squash
  13. Golden Zucchini

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~Grow with the Flow~

Resources

Kalina, Laura (2001).  Building Food Security in Canada: From Hunger to Sustainable Food Systems: A Community Guide, Second Edition.

 

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Inspirational Tuesday ~ 4 People Who Make the World a Better Place

Here are some amazing people in the world of permaculture, gardening and urban agriculture whose stories and creative endeavors are truly inspirational. They share their knowledge, experience and skills to make the world a better place. I hope that you too find inspiration here and some kernel of information to take with you on your journey  of living a life well nourished.

  1. Geoff Lawton – he and his team have just launched a ‘Permaculture Village‘ online.

    Although not new to Permies, the work of Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton were new to me. I came across their work during an online Homesteading Summit in November. I happened to watch a lecture by Geoff and later watched one of his videos on how he and his team turned the most arid land – a small part of the Jordanian desert that was below sea level, high in salt content and bone-dry – into arable, productive land through the use of permaculture principles. They used nature’s design and patterns to regenerate the soil and grow a food forest that feeds and supports the local community.

    Watch this transformation for your self (video is 3.5 minutes long)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FK0XFvxGxU

“I envisioned a place where anyone and everyone with an interest in Permaculture – young, old, beginner, experienced – could enter, lose themselves in a sea of Permaculture resources, and engage with others who share a similar passion.

A place that could serve as a modest “haven” online, away from the pessimism and negativity encroaching around us; one that would nurture our best selves, and help us actualize the things promised by Permaculture.

A place whose only price of admission is curiosity, civility, and compassion for each other and the earth entrusted to us.” ~ Geoff Lawton

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2. Marisha Auerbach is an ubran agriculture revolutionary hailing from Portland, Oregon. Her website Permaculture Rising  is a hub of practical information for anyone interested in growing their own. See how she has turned her urban home into a food growing haven.

In the following video, Marisha talks about seed saving – why saving seeds helps the local food system in the face of climate change and why heritage open-pollinated seeds are desirable.

“[It is important to]build seed banks locally so that we have great genetics to support our diet as the climate changes. Having seeds that are adapted for our area [ensures] they can survive in the area and provide nourishment.”  ~ Marisha Auerbach

3.  Stacey Murphy is an engineer turned backyard gardener who has taught me much about increasing my crop yield while keeping gardening low maintenance and mostly hassle free. Get her farmyard bootcamp resources to help you increase your yield this year.

Check out Stacey’s YouTube Channel for practical information on how to increase your yield in 2017, tips for growing great tomatoes and three mistakes to avoid to get the best basil crop ever. Basil is my most beloved herb but it is also the bane of my existence.

Download Stacey’s latest book and watch the video on making herbal oils in your own kitchen. It is one thing to grow these natural healing plants but it is another to utilize them in a way that extends their healing power beyond the growing season.

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4. Colette O’Neill is surely a Goddess in her own celestial right, living in her truth and spreading light. Her Bealtaine Cottage is the ‘Home of Goddess Permaculture and Earth Healing’ in the West of Ireland.

She lives at Bealtaine by herself along with her animals amidst her permaculture haven. Colette has single-handedly transformed an unwanted piece of land into a fertile sanctuary that nourishes her body and soul. I love to follow her adventures and musings on her blog, listen to her soothing voice on podcasts and admire the infinite beauty of Bealtaine Cottage on her joyful videos.

“This is about one woman deciding to do something very dramatic and revolutionary in Ireland…taking three acres of wet, rushy, north-facing land and planting trees like her life depended on it…it does!” ~ Colette O’Neill

 

~Share the Love~