Thursday, April 12, 2012

Not Exactly the Gardening Post You Were Hoping For...

Birthday Week has been a whirlwind of 
delicious cakes, wonderful gifts and a not enough
free time to sit down and write. 

Tonight I'm headed north for a few days in the woods.
 Without electricity I won't get much bloggin' done. 
I had hoped to make an easy, informative post
about how to get down and dirty with what you have
in your own back yard... but am running out of time! 
This quick post will help you get started with gardening.
You have to be self-motivated to be successful.
I'm including two books that I think everyone should 
flip through, or sit down and read if you're serious 
about figuring out this food-growing thing for yourself.

You do NOT need to have a back yard in order to grow food.
You do, however, need sunlight. Even if you're in a basement
apartment, I bet your landlord would let you have a few
well-tended pots beside your door, or even near the
parking lot, if that's where the sunlight is.
If you do live in an apartment, I specifically
recommend that you read The Urban Homestead,
which I talk more about below. It'll change the way
you view your living situation and ability to be independent.

If you don't want to bother with books (why not?!)
then here's what you can do today, or this weekend:

Till up a small, sunny area in your back yard,
or fill a few pots/planters with dirt. Mix in some good
mulch/compost, available from a friendly neighbor
or at various garden supply stores.
Make sure to get something organic. 
You don't want those chemicals
all over your food, do you? 

Buy some spinach, lettuce and radish seeds.
Now's the time of year to put them into the ground.
My favorites are America Spinach and loose-leaf lettuces.
I suggest you avoid he head variety of lettuce. It takes too long.
Feeling adventurous?  Get some Rainbow Swiss Chard, too!
Salad greens grow quickly and will continue to produce
until the end of June, if the weather holds out. 

Just follow the directions on the seed packets. 
They'll tell you how deep each seed should be planted, 
how much sun it needs and how long it'll take 
to germinate, or grow. Save any seeds you don't 
plant now, as they have a second growing 
season in early fall, when the weather cools off a bit.

Things like tomatoes, peppers and most flowers are
almost ready to be planted, but not yet! 
One cold night will set you back weeks if you 
plant too soon. It's frustrating. Trust me.

The most common way of "messing up" your garden
is to forget to water it. It happens to the best of us,
and you'll feel like a jerk-face when you see
your little plants all wilted and thirsty.

Think of your garden as a pet that needs attention.
Spend 5 - 15 minutes a day tending to it. 
Water it, weed it, and maybe sing to it a little.
It's therapeutic, cheap and easy.

If you're only willing to look at one book... I recommend
that you get over yourself and take a look at both of the

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
is where you should start if your goal is to grow enough
food to eat and enjoy all summer and into the fall.

If you read the book and do what Mel says  you  
can't screw this up. The square-foot method is
the simplest way to for a beginner to grow a small,
beautiful, super-productive and varied garden.
It does require a small investment of money, and a
larger investment of time. But then again, all forms of
gardening take time and (some) money. In the long
run you'll save money, as you'll be eating the food you grow!
Plus, you'll be a healthy eater, grazing in your back yard.

 My dad recommended Square Foot Gardening to Sean 
a few years ago. That summer my generous Aunt Sue lent us some 
space in her back yard, since we had zero yard space of our own. 

Since then, we've convinced two of our friends to try it, 
and they've also been very successful. We still use the 
square-foot method today, and have been eating delicious 
home-grown salads of spinach, chard and lettuce 
for WEEKS, even though it's mid-April!

The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen
is the book that  Sean refers to as his Bible, and for good reason. 
It is, as the subtitle suggests, a guide to "Self-Sufficient Living in
 the Heart of the City." This attractive little book was the 
first thing I brought home from Curious. It is chock-full of
various ways you can live more sustainably
and happily without becoming a hermit in the woods. It covers all 
sorts of topics, like raising chickens and rabbits,
soap making, cooking, rain barrels, efficient home upgrades,
gardening, and how to fight the system. We haven't used
every idea they offer, but have taken much of it to heart.

If you would like to purchase any of these titles, 
I would consider it a personal favor if you used a local, 
independent book shop to do so.

Amazon is not a good option. Not at all.
I won't rant about the evils of the book world today, though.

Don't want to buy them?
Get them FOR FREE from a library, instead!
If your local library does not have an available copy,
ask your (fabulous) librarian about the free
 MEL and Inter-Library Loan programs.
They can order the book from another library and
it will arrive within the next week or two. 

 Most of the information in these books is also
available for free online! Try searching "square foot gardening"
on YouTube. Another fantastic, invaluable resource we
couldn't do without is Mother Earth News Magazine.
Their entire archive (over 40 years worth of amazing articles)
is available for free on their website. 
Check it out!

Posts like this lead me consider signing up for Google AdSense.
It  would give me a few pennies for every person who clicks the link 
to the books and other items I mention in this blog. 
So tempting...

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