My garden has always been a great place for my kids to dig in and get dirty. They help plant and sow, and rarely help in the messy “no fun” work in between. However, I too, rarely partake in that no fun, yet necessary work (primarily weeding) in the garden, and just end up happy with whatever harvest we get. So, this means a bunch of work getting things in the ground in the Spring, and then I mostly let it go til harvest.
After the season wraps up, I complain that it’s not a pretty/aesthetic garden, (it’s not) and the yields are low (they are) but Wendy always relishes in the bounty no matter what, and the kids do as well. They often enjoy much of the harvest while standing out in the garden, well before it makes it into the house. THAT makes it a good garden to me, and I’m fine with that.
This year however, I revamped the entire garden, and will report back on the results in the fall. The raised beds that were put in at least five years ago are now gone. The bagged 3-part “dirt” mix (peat, manure & vermiculite) from those raised beds that I spent lots of money on and hours mixing (following the square foot gardening method) is now blended into the top layer of my garden soil. I’ve reverted to more traditional row style garden following a permaculture approach based on what I learned from the “Back to Eden” movie I saw a few months ago. It is a no-till method, and while I don’t have a tiller anymore anyway, there was a fair amount of dirt moving, mulch spreading etc this season due to the redesign.
My fully automated overhead watering setup is all ripped out and will be converted to a drip system (which will still be fully automated). The automatic timed watering setup makes a huge difference in time spent on keeping it all wet. My hope is that the thick bed of mulch will also lessen the water needs in our otherwise arid Colorado climate.
Finally, I am also experimenting with more seedlings inside prior to the frost dates next month. Tomatoes were always one of several veggies that were bought in large size pots to get a jump on the growing season. While I need to have a better set up for this in the house next year, I’m hoping the time & effort outweigh the expense and convenience of buying from a local greenhouse this year. I’m also growing some more annual flowers from seed, so we’ll see how that goes. Need to have some more flowers around….it helps to keep Wendy happy:)
Backyard gardening, along with other urban-agriculture projects like chickens and beekeeping are finally gaining extreme popularity nationwide….and for good reason. Knowing what you’re eating, where it comes from, educating your kids and saving money are all obvious reasons for this groundswell of popularity today. What we get OUT of our garden is priceless. Beyond the obvious freshest vegetables possible, the list is endless. For starters, I’d say a healthy ache in my back; the best Vitamin D available and a nice tan to boot; fresh air; dirty fingers; smiling kids (it helps to have a trampoline and my new homemade fireplace IN our garden) and as Joel Salatin would say, dancing earthworms. Yes, lots of amazing worms in every shovelful. Even with the raised beds, we have amended with a ton of kitchen and yard compost over the years, as almost no yard waste goes to the landfill.
There is a plethora of ideas available on the web for micro-sized gardens even for the smallest apartment patio or kitchen window, making fresh backyard produce a reality for anyone, anywhere. Here in Colorado, The Grow Haus has a free seed exchange I attended this year and many unique educational tools available, offering community support and produce to low income families. Denver Urban Gardens assists in the organization of many community garden plots all around the metro area, and similar services are available in most urban areas today. If you simply cannot imagine tending your own plot, or do not have the ability to tend a small garden or a few pots of dirt, then seek and find a local CSA and or farmers market. Buying organic, local produce right from the farmer is hands down a better choice than your local conglomerate supermarket. We LOVED Clear Creek Organics last season, but I am committed to more volume from my own plot this year, and did not rejoin again.