I’m a city girl through and through, so when my husband suggested we begin growing our own food, I knew I’d be completely out of my element. I had never even been able to keep a plant alive inside of our house! He was persistent, and with random bacterial breakouts threatening my salads, I became a reluctant gardener.
We started small, at first, planting herbs in potted containers on our patio from small plants we bought from a local nursery and the farmer’s market. They flourished, as did my interest and confidence and we began studying horticulture from the local extension office (not as scary as it seems). The following season, we started our seeds in egg crates, we put two raised “flower” beds in our backyard and since then, we have been able to feed our family for weeks if not months out of the year.
Knowing that we can grow our own food, is so empowering! Our kids our proud of their efforts too and enjoy planting (what kid doesn’t enjoy digging?) and harvesting. The food is so much more delicious—it is crisp, flavorful, and bold. We no longer have to worry about what our vegetables have been sprayed with, how long ago it was harvested or where it came from—because we are overseeing it!
As in most aspects of our lives, we’ve had a few set backs: beetles attacking our cucumbers, running out of water in our rain barrel, or the ever dreaded blossom rot. But I have to agree with renowned gardener and author, Janet Kilburn Phillips, “There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.” I most definitely do not have a green thumb so we use these challenges as a learning opportunity and grow.
Here are a few of the tools I swear by:
1. Gloves. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than ruining a French Manicure…or touching an unknown substance. I’m more likely to use a cute pair that are specifically designed for me, and my kids and husband are much less likely to use them and then lose one.
2. Rain barrel. I like to believe I can live off of the grid (minus the French Manicure of course), so utilizing rain water from my roof just makes watering our garden feel more GREEN. We have graduated to self watering beds, however, Kansas summers still make this a necessity.
3. Compost. We made our own compost bin from a huge pickle barrel for the outside, and bought a nice shiny bin with charcoal liner to neutralize smells for our kitchen. Any unused portion of vegetable (minus seeds), paper shreds, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc. we throw into our compost.
4. Mason jars. Canning takes our gardening to an entirely different level and yields us the best salsa and spaghetti sauce ever! If I can’t freeze it, I make a plan to can.
5. Sharing. We plant an extra row for neighbors, food banks, our sanitation specialist, our post office worker and work clients.
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