Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Start Growing What You Eat

In honor of all this lovely, almost summer weather, it only seemed natural to write my first post on gardening and "growing what you eat". It was my first veggie garden four years ago that started me on this crazy journey of getting the most out of life as simply as possible.

Both my health and the environment are important to me, so buying organic and locally when possible seems obvious. But lets be real, switching over to all organic can be expensive. When your on a budget and you have the option to buy tomatoes at 99 cents a pound or $2.99 or more a pound, the need for organics can become less important. But when you grow your own tomatoes, you could have organic tomatoes for a fraction of the cost.

There is nothing like walking into your garden, picking something and bringing it straight to the kitchen for dinner. It doesn't get any more fresh or local than that! And all that time you spent getting your garden started can save you trips to the grocery store.

My vegetable garden has evolved over the years, from a couple raised beds in the back yard to an almost entirely edible front yard with an array of container gardening on the patio and front porch. Now the water that was used to water the front lawn is going into a plant that serves a purpose. To feed me! And with a little bit of careful planning, your garden can be a beautiful edible landscape.

Raised beds are a great way to not only make gardening easy but it also keeps them looking nice neat and contained.

M Brace

We found the M Brace in a Better Homes and Garden magazine and checked out the website. They have all sorts of designs for the M Brace and various other metal work designs to bring a little art to your garden. We noticed that the company was located in a town just 30 minutes from us, so we called and asked if we could pick them up instead of order them online to save us a few bucks. Jill, the owner of Art of the Garden, agreed to fit us into her busy schedule and off we were the next morning to pick up our new Braces to make our beds. What we thought would be a quick stop at Jill's home, where she runs her business, turned into over an hour stay. Jill was such a delight! She showed us her own garden, which was just beautiful! We chatted with her about gardening, art, traveling and just life in general. She has one of those personalities that is just so energetic and full of life, it wears off on you just talking to her.


The M Braces are these great little braces that allow you to make your own raised bed in literally MINUTES! No tools required!!! WHAT?! Yes, you heard me right. A child could put it together, and in fact they do. Jill does events all over the Bay area and the Valley teaching children where their food comes from and has children making their own raised beds.

All you do is buy a set of 4 Braces, (she even has reversed ones if you want to make an "L" shaped bed) figure out the size you want your bed, go to a Home Depot or other hardware store where they can cut the wood for you, and slip two 2x6 boards on each side right into the braces, as shown in the photo above. Thats it! Fill it up with dirt and your ready to plant!

Planting things in containers can make edible gardening aesthetically pleasing on a patio. Blueberry bushes do well in a large container and are very beautiful plants. They produce delicate little flowers in the spring, turning into beautiful purple fruit.  

A more affordable way to have a container garden is to use 5 gallon buckets. Just make sure you drill some holes in the bottom so water can drain from it.

Getting creative with what you have and what you find around the house or at garage sales also makes gardening more affordable. I use the left over part of the fence as a trellis for cucumbers and an old metal tub as a container with a young okra plant in it.

When starting plants from seeds, you can find unique varieties that you might now find as starters in the nursery. Above is a Scarlet Runner Bean. They produce beautiful little red flowers that will turn into snap beans. These vining beans will grow using the fence as a trellis. Using different varieties of plants is a great way to turn a front yard garden into a beautiful edible landscape. The okra I planted has large white flowers and big red okra pods. Tomatoes and peppers come in all different colors and shapes.

Above is some artichokes that I picked today from the garden. Yum!