Food Growers Blog
Hello! I thought I’d take a moment to let you know what I’ve been up to lately: Getting ready to garden!
The Coronavirus pandemic and stay-home orders in my home state of Illinois provided ample opportunity to think about and prepare for gardening in a big way this year. I know many people are gardening for the first time this year and I hope I can help! Growing food is something I've been passionate about because it has so many benefits:
- It can help you eat healthier by incorporating more nutritious vegetables (and maybe even fruits) into your diet. Having fresh produce available in your own backyard makes healthy eating much more convenient.
- It gives you greater food security and self-reliance. Vegetable gardening can be relatively inexpensive and yield lots of produce to feed your family now and into the winter months. You have control: You know where it your food came from, what methods were used to grow it, and you don't have to travel to get it. As we navigate the early days of a pandemic, there have been moments where our food supply seemed uncertain. Going to the store was less desirable. Fortunately, many of us have the ability to grow food in our own backyards (or on balconies) to supplement what we can buy in the store.
- It's fun and educational. Knowing where food comes from is so important for both adults and kids in our modern culture, where it's so easy to be disconnected from nature. For someone who has only had bagged baby carrots from the grocery store, a carrot pulled from the earth can be a revelation of sight, smell and taste!
- It's good for your health. Gardening, plants and soil have been proven beneficial for physical and mental health. At the very least, gardening is a stress reliever, and we all need that! My garden feels like a very safe, peaceful and beautiful space to me and it truly helps my well-being.
I’ve been growing vegetables organically for many years, and had a raised bed garden built in my backyard about five years ago. Some of my favorite veggies to grow include kale, swiss chard (pictured above), tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, bell peppers and herbs. Over the years I've also grown potatoes, tomatillos, radishes, zucchini, garlic, onions, canteloupe, raspberries...and more. My garden always includes some flowers too, to attract pollinators and for their beauty.
This year, I’m thrilled to be providing a demonstration garden for The GardenWorks Project, a local organization that builds veggie gardens and teaches gardening skills for people in need. I've been supporting this organization for awhile because I love the idea of helping people gain more control over their own food supply! This season I’ll be planting a garden identical to the ones Gardenworks provides its clients, and documenting the garden's progress throughout the growing season to create a visual reference for those who are new to gardening. Look forward to some regular blogs about that! Here's a look at the garden space I will be growing for Gardenworks--a 4x8-foot raised bed.
Although it's still a bit early for the growing season here in Illinois, here's what I've been doing lately in the garden:
- Starting some seedlings indoors. Marigolds, kale, tomatoes, peppers and more. I keep my seeds "filed" in a shoebox in a dry place indoors in winter.
- Cleaning up my garden beds outdoors. I was thrilled to find lots and lots of earthworms in my garden beds - a great sign of soil health!
- Outdoors, I started some cold-weather seeds in pots and one of my raised beds including lettuce, kale, spinach and beets. Some of those first sprouts are already showing up! Meanwhile I'm anticipating a battle with the bunnies this year...I already found a bunny nest in my strawberry bed! I don't mind them too much, except when they chomp all my tender seedlings.
I'll also be adding a layer of compost to the beds to add back nutrients into the soil that were used up in the last growing season.
Every year in the garden is different. Sometimes spring starts off cold and wet. Sometimes summer brings a drought. Sometimes strange insects (or bunnies) chew up all your seedlings. But there are many opportunities to persevere and enjoy good food that you grew yourself. I'm looking forward to sharing this summer's journey with you!