Have a desire to provide healthy local produce for your family but resources are limited in your area or financially it's a struggle? You don't have to be an expert or have experience to use gardening to full fill that desire. Gardening does not only provide food on the table but the satisfaction of the hard labor of love of providing healthy food yourself and knowing exactly what's on and in it.
In my quest to provide my family with healthy foods and my desire to provide as much food from local resources as I can but we live in a small town where there are not many options for healthy local foods, so naturally gardening became a topic of interest. It does not get any more local than your own back yard. This allows me to know exactly what is going into the soil and onto my plants which gives me the ability to not only grow pesticide-free and chemical-free food but also increase the nutritional value by providing high quality soil and compost.
Like many Americans, we live in a suburban neighborhood but are lucky enough to have a large corner lot. I had no experience when I began this journey and I started small with a one or two plants of each of the vegetables and fruits that we liked the best. Each year I expanded a little more as I grew more knowledge and experience. Through this past winter I did some research regarding permaculture and food forests as I wanted to create a garden that would be a little less work, produce more, and be sustainable. I decided to mix in some of the concepts of both permaculture and food forests into my garden design this spring. Continue to the end for resources and links for more info. (Pic is my garden spring 2020.)
To save money where I could, I used reclaimed wood for my garden beds and started my plants early indoors with seeds rather than buying them already started. I also created a simple wood bin for our scrap produce and yard waste which produces a fantastic compost for the garden which is natural, easy to do, and can be added to the garden soil whenever needed. There are many resources on Pinterest for ideas on compost bins and what can and cannot be composted. (Pic is some of my watermelon and pumpkin sprouts, spring 2020.)
This year my variety of plants has grown significantly. We added two peach trees last spring and this spring we added two apple trees, cherry tree, two blue berry bushes, and two black berry bushes. There is a strawberry bed, zucchini, yellow squash, pumpkins, watermelons, garlic, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, kale, lettuce, bell peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, beans, peas, carrots, sunflowers, and many herbs.
The majority of our diet is a plant-based diet but we do still eat minimal dairy and eggs. We decided to add some chickens to our lives to not only provide nutritious eggs but to love and laugh with. Nothing like watching the activity and antics of chicks and chickens. We now have eight baby chicks. Since we live in a neighborhood and they will be backyard chickens, we selected pullets (all female chicks) so that we would not end up with males which we would have to re-home at a later date. Neighbors tend to not appreciate rosters doodling. We choose Plymouth Rocks (the black chicks) and Amber Links due to them being known for the friendly dispositions, hardiness, and quality egg laying. These babies are treated no different than the cats or dog in our family, they are loved and cared for daily.
For me personally, gardening not only provides healthy food on the table and satisfaction of the love and handwork to provide it but it eases my mind to know what is in and on the produce. Gardening gets me out in the sun and fresh air, gets my hands in the soil for some much needed grounding*, and increases my daily physical activity. Gardening is often known to also lower stress and anxiety, there's just something about being in nature even if it's just your backyard.
*Grounding (also known as earthing) refers to contact with the Earth's surface electrons and often involves doing activities that “ground” or electrically reconnect you to the earth. This is normally done by walking barefooted or putting your hands on the Earth (ground). "Subjective reports that walking barefoot on the Earth enhances health and provides feelings of well-being can be found in the literature and practices of diverse cultures from around the world." Some benefits and effects relate to improvements with inflammation, immune responses, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Oschman, J. L., Chevalier, G., & Brown, R. (2015). The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.Journal of inflammation research,8, 83–96. https://doi.org/10.2147/JIR.S69656
Resources and Inspiration:
The plant-based diet | Michael Greger, MD, | TEDxBismarck
How to Start A Food Forest Garden! Organic Gardening
Permaculture: Discovering solutions hidden in nature | Graham Calder | TEDxMontreal
The Power of Permaculture | Ryan Harb | TEDxUtica
On Amazon Prime:
Revolution Food, Living the Change, Farmland, The Organic Life, Hungry for Change, and Plant Pure Nation
Michael Greger's How Not to Die
Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food
Michael Pollan's Cook
The China Study
Pinterest is loaded with information on companion gardening, permaculture, composting, food forest, and holistic chicken care.