Friday, April 24, 2015

Is your dream to go from this kind of yard:
Right after cutting down the Arborvitae hedge that separated the front yard from the side yard
To this kind of yard?

But you have never grown anything more than a houseplant.  Or had patio tomatoes once or twice.  But you want to be serious about growing your own food and utilizing your outdoor space (rented or owned) to do so.  How do you do it?

Last weekend one of my young neighbors saw me out in the yard planting some starts, and called out to me, “How do you grow all this?”.  She said they had tried to plant a few things the year before, but the plants all died, or were dug up by an animal, and nothing worked.  We talked for a bit then, and she came over the following weekend and spent some time with me.  I realized talking to her how difficult this all might seem to someone who has no background in gardening.  

I was fortunate to have parents and grandparents who gardened, canned and preserved produce, and received a lot of my training growing up.  I had children who were also interested in eating fresh vegetables and fruit, who did school projects in hydroponics, grew their own herbs, studied books about permaculture, food forests, and other terms I am not familiar with – who I have learned from.  

Hydroponic lettuce (in gutters)

But my neighbor was asking me basic questions like, “how do you know how much to water?”  What kind of soil should I use?  Should I build raised beds or not?  There is no easy answer, because it depends on your own particular situation.  Do you own or rent?  What is the PH of your soil?  What kinds of plants do you want to grow?  How much should you grow?  Enough to just eat fresh, or enough to eat fresh and can too?

You can spend several hundred dollars on buying gardening books ( or wait in line for them at the library).  The books my son needed to purchase for his permaculture certification alone were several hundred dollars.  Then you need to read through all of them, digest all the info and apply it to your situation.  You can get a soil test kit, or send away for a soil test, but then you have to interpret the results and figure out how to make the changes that need to be made.

Or, you can hire a gardening coach to do an assessment and help you create a plan for what you want to do.  If you don’t have prior experience in gardening and are serious about growing your own food, you will ultimately save a lot of time and money by doing this.  If you live in the Western Washington State, I can recommend a start-up company that does this.  I have to admit that they are related to me – they are my daughter, her husband and my son.  They all have other jobs, but they are so passionate about helping other people to be self-sufficient in growing their own food, whether they live in town or the country.  

My son-in-law has a degree in Forest and Land management with a specialization in Agroforestry, soils and plant propagation. 

My son is a Seattle-based permaculture designer with a focus on water management, native plants and wildlife gardens and urban food forests.  

My daughter is the result of multi-generational gardeners – experienced in home food gardens, preserving foods, cooking from garden to plate – if it can be grown, she can figure out how to use it.

They have experience in hydroponics and soil gardening and greenhouse management.
They are currently advertising on Craigslist in Skagit County:

So if this is the year that you want to start to do something like this, before you run out and start buying books, or plants – consider getting yourself a coach.  Think of it like this; if you were totally out of shape, and needed to start a fitness regimen, you would get better results and lessen the risk of injury by hiring a fitness coach.  Same thing here.  

I am fortunate that I had the benefit of their expertise to help set up my garden.  My daughter and son-in-law lived with me for two of the years he was going to Oregon State for his forestry degree.  I had both their help in setting up my gardening area.  
My son-in-law removing boxwood hedge

Hedge replacement - great fence, and everbearing Raspberries

 My son has blessed me with his expertise in permaculture and done the pruning of my fruit trees. 
 My daughter has been a constant help to me with planting, picking, canning and someone to bounce ideas off of.

 So when you look at pictures of my garden in this blog, this isn’t something that I have just done on my own.  I have had three of the best garden coaches there are to help me.

I love my garden!  It is an inspiration to my neighbors, feeds my family, friends and neighbors, and is a constant source of satisfaction, wonder and delight!

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