Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Function Comes First

In response to people who are under the impression that they have to have "the perfect setup" in order to grow plants, I'd like to share some tips we've learned from our "setup" so far.  Keep in mind that we are not big-time market gardeners, so we do not need sparkly new things, we need functioning, any-age things!

Please don't get hung up in the details, the most important things for plants are soil, water, sun, and occasionally protection (hello, giant hail/wind storm).  Also, try to remember that plants have been around a long time, you are much newer to watching them grow than they are to growing...it'll be OK - so long as you read the tag or label that comes with them and follow it.  Just because you don't have a huge space of your own doesn't mean that you can't have a garden either.  People who truly want to do something can always find a way - sometimes it just takes a while to figure out the path.

Next month, we'll be hosting a planting box workshop of sorts.  We will provide resources for adults and small children to grow a tiny bit of food on their step at home.  They'll assemble their own boxes (we'll help of course) and - hopefully - will learn that gardening is mostly a matter of doing, not of science.

Try not to get caught up in buying the snazziest this or that unless you're food-gardening mostly for fun.  If you're doing it to save money and eat well, investing a chunk of change up front isn't in your best interest.

Learn how to ask people to sell or give obviously un-used items, such as:

a stack of boards nearly hidden by grass "out back" that would be awesome for raised beds
a roll of wire that you could use to trellis plants
a wheelbarrow in need of a bolt or two, or maybe a wheel (replacement parts are cheap usually)
shovels without handles
framed windows (hello protection for your plants - free!)
random piles of dirt from projects dug years ago (to fill a raised bed or planting box)
horses/chickens/cows with a shed of some sort - there's good fertilizer in there and it's probably broken down already (especially if they have chickens)! 

Most of these items can be found at homes/properties that have been owned by the same person for a long, long time.  This stuff collects and they are usually thrilled to have someone use it.  "Waste not, want not" and all.  This also applies to shared fences (train some peas or beans there and you get what's on your side, they get whats on theirs, then you clean up!), open space on the corner down the street, extra space in your neighbors backyard...offer to share the bounty and the water bill, and I'd bet on them letting you use their space to produce food.  Most people, given the option, will not pass up fresh anything...unless it's squash season and they have already been hit by desperately overloaded gardener-friends.  Lock your doors.  Anyways, the point is, don't be afraid to ask!  For the most part, as long as you respect people's privacy and property, you can find a place suitable for at least a bit of a garden.  And if you use your head, you can get started for a very small price!

P.S.  And as I've learned from Rick, keep your eyes open at the dump!  If you're lucky enough to have a FreeCycle in your area, ask for supplies on there!  It's a wonderful resource!