Living Whole by Randi Saba Donahue

Harvests for my Home and Heart

Posted March 2, 2011 at 2:00 pm

by Randi Saba Donahue

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Three years ago I discovered edible gardening. It started with a small herb garden on the porch. Even with limited success in that herb garden, it was still fun for me.

In March of 2009, I participated in a course on Permaculture that changed my life and sparked a passion. Eleven days of learning about our relationship with the outdoor environment and the human element within it. I loved every second of that experience, including having to camp by myself. During those days I developed a personal relationship with my outdoor environment, and realized that if I could make an effort to grow even a little of my own food, in return I would get pure nourishment, body and soul. For an impatient person such as myself, this seemed like a daunting task to attempt, and of course I wanted instant results. But at that time I had no idea that my future with edible gardening had so much more in store than a little added self-sufficiency

The first lesson my garden taught me was patience. Two years later, and season by season, I am still learning new lessons. I know that the best things in life don’t happen overnight; they must be planted, fed, watered, given light and attention. Gardening taught me that, but it applies beyond the green. I have had successes and failures in my edible garden, all which have contributed to my constantly rewarding education.


My husband is now a part of the creativity and maintenance involved with our edible landscape. Our two dogs love to lie in sunny garden paths, cautiously avoiding the veggie beds and always waiting patiently for their portion of sugar snap peas. Ours went from a small herb garden on the porch to full kitchen garden, including nine fruit trees, a bed full of blueberry bushes, and a lifetime of fun, nourishment, and learning ahead. Just this month we made the decision that our front yard deserves some edibles, too. We know that our neighbors will love this beautiful part of our landscape. Today, our three-year old neighbor insisted on watering the tomatoes, strawberries, and lemongrass already stationed in the front yard. One day our own children will learn to grow food and play in the dirt as well.



The author's dogs, Finley and Duke in her garden.


Edible gardening may not be for everyone, but it turns out it was for me. My garden brings me sanity on so many levels. A perfect “Cloud 9” for a typical Type A, eternal student, who gets bored easily, hates making decisions, and needs constant newness in her life. Edible gardening is refreshing, and challenging, and oh so colorful! It takes time and creativity to maintain but I have come to truly adore that aspect of it. Gardening has become a passion of mine and I am so thankful for it.

I believe humans need passions and hobbies. We need something selfish to pour our hearts and minds into, something that will give us peace and fulfillment without expecting a paycheck at the end of the week. I hope that you have found something like that in your life. And if you are still searching, there is always a garden waiting to be created on your porch, in your back yard, or on your kitchen window sill. I can guarantee it will take some time and effort. I can guarantee that many plants will be laid to rest along the way. But I can also guarantee that the benefits outweigh the risks, and that you will likely find you love what it can provide for your family and friends.

Bad soil is no excuse, my friends! Lack of space is no excuse, my friends! There are noprerequisites for growing food, and there are no such things as brown thumbs! There are only life lessons, sunshine, and happy taste buds. Happy gardening!

Tips for starting an edible garden: 

  • Start small — very small, like with a basil plant. These require very little care, and make a great addition to pastas and salads. Use basic potting soil, and place in a location that gets four to six hours of sun a day. Basil can be grown indoors.
     
  • Spend some time in your yard to find the sun and notice how long it stays in one spot. The sun sits higher on the horizon as we make our way to summer and lower as we head to the winter solstice in mid-December. In our part of Florida, plants will want some additional shade in the height of summer, so consider this too.
     
  • Consider watering sources and easy access. You want to be able to get to that basil quickly and easily.My rule is to put my most used herbs and veggies in locations where I don’t have to put on my shoes to harvest them quickly as I am cooking.
     
  • If you want to start a full on vegetable garden, focus on a few crops that do well in our area, such as bell peppers, eggplants, and beans, varieties of which can be grown year-round.

     
  • Florida soil contains a great deal of sand and can be lacking in the proper richness, especially as you get closer to the water. My recommendation is to start by planting in pots, or using a bag full of top soil (I use Black Kow, available at most garden centers). Cut just enough of a slit in the bag so the plant can fit snug inside in and then water daily. This is also a great way to test out the location of a future garden without making any permanent changes to your yard.

     
  • Plant items you will eat. It’s tempting to purchase plants or seeds of odd or unique colored veggies, but in the beginning stages, focus on the items you know you and your family will actually consume and enjoy. Then when you get more comfortable, you can introduce new crops to your garden and family.

     
  • MOST OF ALL at this point, don’t fret about bugs and diseases. They happen. If you want to keep your food organic, you need to be okay with an occasional infestation. There are measures you can take to prevent bugs and disease, but that is for another post. For now focus on getting comfortable with the fact that just like in a human lifecycle, plants don’t live forever, even the healthiest of the bunch.




 

 

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