Thursday, June 8, 2017

Forget the Park ... Grow the Food

This graphic is bothersome. 

I don't know if it's true or not - the part about Russia, I mean, because I've never been to Russia.  But the part about the USA is probably true. 

What's bothersome is that I often hear laments about how we can't eat "good" food and how food is so expensive, and lots of other commentaries about the state of our food security in the US; and, then, I see graphics like that one ... and I look at the yards surrounding all of these homes while I'm passing through my local communities.  

What I see are a lot of wide open spaces with neatly mowed grass and a few non-fruiting trees.   Most of the time the yards are so big that they have to be mowed with a riding mower.   I always imagine what that big, old, grassy field would look like with a garden. 

While I'm all for aesthetics, it just seems a little more important, to me, especially in light of the conversations I hear as mentioned above (high cost of food; inability to eat "organic" because of the cost; the high cost of health care; the high incidence of diet-related health issues), to put aside the desire to have a manicured grassy field in favor of growing something one's family can eat.   Frankly, unless one has grazing animals, there's not a lot of need for a big field of grassy yard.  It's actually, kind of, cumbersome and difficult to manage.

I know I've mentioned a few times that I don't have a lawn mower, and that I "manage" what little grass there is in my yard using a weed-whacker with a very limited battery life.  My yard almost never looks neat.  I would apologize to my neighbors, but honestly, I'm not sorry.  My goal is not to have a park-like landscape, but rather to grow something that will sustain my family.

So, what I have looks more like this:
Potatoes growing in old feed bags

Carrots (need to be thinned and weeded :))


My "forest garden" with an understory of herbs (mostly mint and lemon balm), a shrub layer of hazel nut, an apple tree for the middle story, and the old maple cluster for the upper story. 
Herbs for seasoning and teas; hazel nuts; apples; and maple syrup!
The entire garden from the ground up is edible.


One of my 4'x 8' beds - this one with broccoli (it's still early in the season :)). 
My plan is to grow cucumbers on the trellis between the beds. 

Strawbale garden.  It's still early.  I have tomatoes and will also be planting peppers.

One of my several herb gardens. 
The plant in the back right is catmint.  My cat sleeps in this garden bed.
In the background is the Jerusalem artichoke bed, that needs to be thinned a little.

My front porch container garden. 
My yard isn't all that pretty - at least compared to a carefully manicured and landscaped English Garden - but it is very green with a lot of things growing, and it also does something more positive for my mental health and well-being. 
Aside from the fact that gardening is a very health-promoting hobby, it can also provide peace of mind.  During war times in the mid-2oth Century, people planted Victory Gardens - which gave them some control over their available calories, because in some places rationing meant certain foods were scarce.  During the Great Depression of the 1930s, those who fared best were the ones who were growing food.  They didn't have money, but they did eat.
In 2008, we experienced a small, short-lived economic crisis here in the US.  It was worse overseas.  Some European countries, like Greece, suffered a complete economic collapse.  Russia, Argentina, and Cuba went through a similar crisis in the 1990s.  Venezuela is in the midst of their own economic crisis right now.
In reading accounts from these places written by the survivors, the one common thread is that people who fare the best are the ones who could provide some of their own sustenance - i.e. those who had a garden. 
There are so many reasons to have a food garden ... and so few to have a lawn. 
Now, if you'll excuse me, I should go outside.  It's a lovely day ... and those peppers aren't going to plant themselves.


  1. I think this is so important! Any amount one can grow contributes to well-being, sense of self-industry and health. My DH thinks I grow "too much" at this point, but as long as I am able, I am fine with growing enough to give away! Today, I have soooo much self-seeded organic cilantro, some is going to some chefs in the area. You are welcome to some with the honey! For the life of me, I cannot grow carrots...

    1. I wish I could say that I grew "too much" :). My neighbors would be thrilled to be the recipients of my excess - and if they didn't want it, the food pantry would be happy for it ;).

      I'm hoping for a bumper crop of zucchini this year. I'm thinking sweet zucchini relish and pickles.

  2. I hate lawns...if your kid's soccer team needs a place to practice, fine. Otherwise, that's a waste of good growing space! Before we moved, I was slowly converting our (small) lawn into edibles. Each spring, I took another couple of feet around the edges, making the borders wider to hold more blueberry bushes, cabbages, herbs, etc. I had the front down to about 100 sq feet of grass, and the back was all veggies and fruit. Most of my neighbors didn't even realize how much of my pretty borders were edible or medicinal. ;o)

    1. Sounds like you had a gorgeous lawn! I would love to see something like that in my area. I guess people just don't understand how little work a well planned perennial garden is compared to having to mow the lawn all of the time :).

    2. Gorgeous "yard" - not lawn ;).