Grow Your Own … Veggies, of course!
(This post was previously published as a blog entry at http://www.aztext.com)
There’s never been a better time to plant a vegetable garden, or at least to start planning a garden for this spring.
The typical North American diet is one rich in fossil fuels. Many of our crops are grown with natural gas based fertilizers and diesel fuel is used in the tractors that plant and harvest our food. Diesel-fueled trucks are used for transport, and refrigeration and packaging also use energy. When you add it all up the fossil fuel inputs into our diet are enormous. With oil at over $100 per barrel and North American natural gas producers telling us we’re rapidly depleting our remaining reserves, the percentage of our incomes that we devote to food is increasing and will continue to rise. Recent droughts, perhaps due to climate changes, are reducing grain harvests, causing our stocks of these staples to be at their lowest levels in many years. Increased interest in biofuels is creating a greater market for corn and soybeans. All of these factors are combining to drive up the price of food.
There is one way to offset some of this food sticker shock, and that’s to start growing some of your own. Whether it’s in your backyard, or at a local rental garden plot in your city, it’s time you took control of what’s on your dinner plate. Gardening is phenomenally popular, but many North American gardeners tend to focus on flowers, which don’t add to your families’ food security or help your monthly budget.
There is also tremendous media attention to the concept of eating more locally, often referred to as “the 100 mile diet”, where you try and offset some of the miles your food travels. The estimates vary, but you’ll find many of the components of your average North American meal have traveled between 1,000 and 2,500 miles which means that it has a tremendous impact on the planet in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions created to get it to your plate.
So the planet needs you to grow some of your own food, and so does your bank account. But where to begin?
Our “Seven Easy Steps to Your Own Backyard Produce Department” DVD takes you through everything you need to know to get started. Plus we show the beauty and joy of that final harvest to help motivate you.
We start off by discussing how to turn your lawn into a garden. There’s a lot of different ways, some which will allow you to cancel your health club membership, and some which will mean less sweat invested. “From lawn to lettuce in one easy lesson!”
We also get you started right now planning the garden and ordering your seeds. While those dollar store seeds may seem cheap, there is no savings if they don’t germinate. We recommend some popular and dependable seed catalogs, and then show you how to get a head start by starting seedlings inside, while the snows and winds are still blowing.
Once it’s warm enough we show how to plant those seedlings you started, and then strategies for planting the seeds from the seed company to maximize your yield. We also include important techniques for some of the essentials you’ll need to plant, like potatoes and carrots which that will store so well.
As the summer goes on we discuss tips to keep your plants thriving. We also talk about ideas for where to get your water from, especially if you’re in a location that faces water challenges. “Weeding, Watering & What Works!”
At the same time you’ll be getting ready to start feasting on some of your bounty, insects and pests will be one step ahead of you and will be doing their best to make sure they get their shot first. So we show you tried and true organic techniques to tackle pest issues. From swatting potato bugs with badminton racquets, to walking on egg shells (the insects that is), the little devils won’t stand a chance in your garden.
Finally, we show you how to harvest and more importantly, store your garden’s bounty. It’s great to have vegetables for a couple of months in the summer, but with cold frames and mulching, you’ll learn how to start harvesting early and keep harvesting past frosts. Plus, you’ll learn the best way to save so many of the staples like onions and potatoes that will keep and feed you in the winter months.
I planted my first garden when I was 16. I turned over some sod in our suburban subdivision, where the topsoil had been stripped away and what was left was a clay subsoil, better suited for making pots than planting potatoes. It didn’t matter where I was living, even when I was renting apartments, I always had a garden plot, often rented in the city I was living in. Now living off the electricity grid, I’ve come to appreciate how much energy is used in pressurizing the water that flows out of a garden hose. With a finite amount of electricity I’ve learned every trick in the book for not wasting a drop of water in our vegetable garden.
Of the numerous things that have brought joy to my life, there is nothing like dragging a wagon full of fresh vegetables out of the garden to have for dinner and to share with friends. Thirty years later I have not lost any of that enthusiasm for vegetable gardening, and I’m confident that zeal will inspire you, at a time when it’s so important you start taking control of some of your food and lower your carbon footprint as an added bonus. All aboard the veggie express. Bon appetit !
For more photos of the garden and to order the Gardening DVD, click here: