Friday, February 25, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Spring is creeping in here in Tennessee. We had a very cold winter with higher than average snowfall and it seemed like it was dragging on and on, when suddenly the cold snap broke and my daffodils are surfacing! Happy sigh!

This year, my husband and I are tackling something I've wanted to do for years and can finally do, thanks to the wonders of being homeowners and having a decent yard: we're going to start growing FOOD in significant quantities. The thing that really mobilized us to undertake food growing was the recent decision by the government to deregulate GMO alfalfa, which is likely to have far reaching repercussions on our food supply, including our organic food.

Apparently, we're on the same wavelength as a lot of other folks: several of my friends are starting veggie gardens, my mom signed up for a plot in a nearby community garden and Robb Wolf recently had a great post on Liberty Gardens. I've been really inspired by my pal Anthony Anderson, the Raw Model, who has dedicated his life to spreading the message of empowerment through food growing!

So, we've got the beds plotted out and we've got the seeds ordered and now we just have to figure out how to do all of it, since we're total novices! All I can say is THANK GOODNESS for the internet! I have a number of online friends who have experience growing food and I've found so many great websites and books, not the least of which is the very handy site GrowVeg.com

We checked out some books from the library, including Lasagna Gardening, since I want to build healthy, low maintenance soil. I'm going to be reading up on soil enriching methods as well as permaculture, food forests, companion planting and seed saving.

We're going to be growing a variety of foods, all from heirloom seeds purchased mostly from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, including several tomato varieties, lettuces (including Miner's Lettuce), root veggies such as the fun, yellow Jaune Obtuse du Doubs Carrot, parsnips and white salsify, belgian endive, fennel, celeriac (which I love to make soup from), swiss chard, kale, a few cucumber varieties, vegetable marrow (instead of zucchini), leeks, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.
Later we will plant winter squashes (I LOVE hubbard and butternut squash!) and fall/winter greens.
We plan on planting flowers like candytuft and marigolds, as well as fragrant herbs to help with pest control, as well as beautify our beds. My yard is a rabbit haven, so we want to protect our lettuces with "cages". I wish I could train my cat to go on rabbit patrol, heheh.

We also have several blueberry bushes that should be ready to start bearing fruit this year and a solitary plum tree, which I'm pretty sure needs a friend. We want to add some more stone fruit trees like apricots or peaches, as well as bushes with edible fruit, such as elderberries. In the wooded portion of the yard, we will plant raspberries and stinging nettles.

We have one rain barrel already and we're going to set up more so that we have a natural watering system. My hubby has his eye on one of those round compost tumblers with the hand crank. Down the road, we intend on installing a greenhouse to extend our growing seasons. I think I see chickens in our future, too... that's the beauty of having a ginormous yard. Why not take advantage of it?

I can hardly believe it's really happening. I feel intimidated but so excited! I'm excited about having fresh food that I have total quality control over and I'm excited at all the money I'll save, not having to spend 3-4 bucks on a bunch of chard or several bucks on an expensive (and heavy) heirloom tomato from the farmer's market or Whole Foods.

Wish me luck (and pass along any great garden tips you have;)
-Erin (the soon-to-be "Urbane Homesteader";)


  1. we had our first garden last summer! It is fun and super tasty. There is nothing like a homegrown tomato in my book! Lots of luck and have fun doing it!

  2. Hey Erin,

    It sounds like you have a really good plan. I would say, focus 90% of your efforts on soil improvement and you will be on your way. Consider sweet potatoes as well (they would likely be a good fit for TN).


  3. Thanks, guys!
    Tim- I had forgotten about sweet potatoes! Yes, I do think they'd do well in TN (and I love them;) Thanks for the tip. We had a huge fallen log in our yard that my hubby finally chopped up and removed and it had mostly decomposed into soil. I can't wait to use that in the soil mix!

  4. Good Luck Erin! I bought myself a few acres for this very reason! Have been working on the soil and land over the summer and will get into planting various veges throughout autumn.

    I tell you what its a great feeling! you are going to love it!

    Take care and best of luck!

  5. Thanks Rob! It feels great to be out working in my yard (talk about good Primal exercise;)and being more involved in my food supply.