Before terms like self-isolation and social distancing where apart of our daily dialogue, I was able to speak at the Kansas City Garden Symposium with Brie Arthur (and Jeff Epping of Olbrich Gardens and Alan Branhagen of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum), and heard Brie’s talk on the Foodscape Revolution. For an hour I listened to her give valid reason after reason for adding edibles directly into our landscape beds along with our ornamentals. I left the talk a converted designer begin to rethink our family’s approach to what we grow at home and how I can make an impact for clients.
Then we entered Stay at Home at the onset of spring, and it feels like everyone is looking to their gardens and adding some edibles or cut flowers in some manner. Which for the gardening community could not make us happier. Our vendor partners have reported great online sales and seed companies are out of stock. Happy more people are finding the enjoyment of gardening.
I will admit that growing edibles is not a major interest of mine, however I am fortunate to know some amazing folks that are and share that knowledge via blogs, Instagram, YouTube and in books. So if you are looking out your window right now thinking “how can I impact my food chain and learn how to grow some of your own food this year,” here are some of the best sources I know.
GOING BACK TO SCHOOL. Lets face it we have all gone back to school with the kids transferring to online learning, but it you want to add learning about growing in your home vegetable garden from a structured online class at a good value, I recommend Brie’s Homegrown Garden classes through Creative Home U (currently $49). You will go through seven courses with quizzes and a structured environment, but at your own pace. You can augment your learning with a copy of Brie’s book, Foodscape Revolution and then review with her many online resources on her website.
NO GARDEN, NO PROBLEM. If you are looking at your garden thinking you have no place for installing a vegetable garden, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Raised Bed Revolution by Tara Nolan. Not everyone has the ability to plant directly into the ground either from contaminated soils or living in a concrete jungle. Tara’s book provides the directions for building your own raised garden beds that will last season after season no matter where you live. The book includes details for models you can purchase if not handy in building yourself. She has ideas for growing just lettuces or larger scale beds.
HOW DO YOU GROW ________? If you are looking for just about any topic on how to grow an edible, start seeds indoors with no judgement, CaliKim (featured in the photo above) and The Rusted Garden (Gary Pilarchik) are my go to sources. They have Youtube videos you can search for your every need and are great at answering questions through social media if you cannot find the information you need. CaliKim also has a great book to keep handy (Organic Gardening for Everyone. Homegrown Vegetables Made Easy – No Experience Required!) Gary has a wonderful blog and website where you can purchase his seeds, supplies, and get details on how to make amazing things like Aspirin Spray for your tomatoes. Below are photos from Gary’s personal garden from previous years.
ACROSS THE POND EDIBLES. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that I believe every gardener should subscribe to Gardens Illustrated Magazine. The magazine just released a supplemental issue A year in the Edible Garden, which I would normally pick up at our local Barnes & Noble. However since our local store is not stocking magazines I had to order a copy off ebay. (there are two copies left if anyone else wants to go this route). Odds are the solutions included in the magazine are beyond what I am able to execute this year, but it is great for thinking differently about edibles, most often in a more beautiful way than I have in the past. If you are able to get a copy, buy two. One for you and another to gift to a gardener friend that also needs some beautiful distraction.
GETTING YOUR SEEDS. I know we are all isolating at home and online ordering is very easy, but online seed sources are selling out of a lot of seeds already in the frenzy. I would recommend you make a list of what you would like to grow and contact your local garden center to see what seeds they have in supply. Most local stores have set up methods to order over the phone, pay and get your purchases delivered to your car or have limited occupancy numbers you can go in. This is an easy way to support local and get a head start on your summer edible growing. CaliKim and Gary both have seen collections you can shop. We were able to also pick up some seeds from our local grocery store during a food run.
MY EDIBLE GARDEN PLAN. This year our plan is to move our vegetables closer to the house in animal stock containers. We had the containers from our previous house, but have not used since we moved. A few years ago we built a fenced garden across the street at my father-in-law’s workshop. It is a great south facing vegetable garden with a large building wall providing radiant heat and a tall fence surrounding. The only problem is proximity to the house. It is across the street so we cannot send the kids over on their own and it is harder squeeze in a quick weeding after work. We are going to move the more frequently harvested vegetables like lettuces and tomatoes in the tanks at our house and then less maintenance vegetables like potatoes and onions across the street. We are also going to add more cutting flowers across the street like sunflowers and zinnias. It is more work managing two locations, however since we will all be spending more time at home this summer, it will be worth it to get higher yields of home grown vegetables.
This is not the best photo, but you see the status of our vegetable garden a few seasons in. Some of the cedar has started to grey off and everything is staying safe from our large deer herd. We learned to not plant tomatillos because they never go away and you can only make so much salsa verde. We have been stock piling glass jars, so the plan is to harvest and jar as many items we can to share with friends and family. We have not done much of this in the past, but if we use all the space we have it will be a bumper crop year.
These are photos of us building the fenced vegetable garden at my father-in-laws workshop. It does not look this nice right now, the space is a constant weed patrol. Currently the garden is over run with some raspberry shrubs we planted that could stand for a strong cut back.
Once I have more time to find old photos I can share the process of building our garden and the fence design. It is about 4 years old this season and it has held up really well. I found a family of bunnies living next to the building’s downspout so I think our fence is going to be challenged this year.