I think the most important part of growing at least a little of our own food is building and maintaining a connection with the soil and the earth. Even if you only grow a few herb plants in small pots on the window sill, there is then a constant reminder that food comes from the earth and not from a grocery store.
The flavor and texture of eating vegetables at their peak, minutes after being picked, is usually enough to convince anyone to set aside a few pots for food and/or kitchen herbs. Farmers’ market produce might come close but most grocery stores provide a poor imitation of really fresh, healthy vegetables and greens. Growing even a little food at home also builds well deserved respect for the farmers that spend their lives growing food for us.
Large spaces and great soil are not needed for backyard vegetable and herb gardens. Our biggest area is a 4’x8′ raised bed made from stacked 2×3’s. Organic potting and garden soils are now widely available at nurseries along with organic composts and mulches.
Plants are constantly harvested from the raised bed. As they mature and become less productive, they are replaced with different seedlings. In Florida, peas do well along the fence during the winter cool season and climbing beans replace them for the summer heat.
Most of the backyard garden is in pots. Five gallon buckets make great containers for tomato plants and large peppers. Kitchen herbs grow in a wide variety of smaller pots. Carrots, beets, fennel, lettuce and most other food plants can be grown quite easily in pots. We have large oak and China-berry trees around the house and it is nice being able to move the plants as new leaves block the sun in the spring.
We now have sweet basil, purple basil, sage, oregano, thyme, mint, cilantro and lavender for potted kitchen herbs. Red leaf lettuce, red romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, green romaine, yellow and red chard, broccoli and snap peas occupy the raised bed. Three varieties of tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, kale, collards, carrots, spinach and more lettuce grow in more pots. It is enough to supply all of our salad needs with enough left to trade with the neighbors for things we don’t grow ourselves.
So start growing your own. Get involved. Find out why “foodies” make such a big deal out of really fresh, locally grown vegetables. If we are what we eat, and I believe that is true, we should all be involved in the process of feeding ourselves. Don’t leave it up to the government or multinational corporations to decide what you should eat. Take control of your own food.
Bountiful thanks to my wonderful wife for doing a large portion of the daily maintenance(watering, harvesting, etc…), seed planting, transplanting, and harvesting for our backyard garden so that I can focus on other things. I estimate we spend 1-1 1/2 hours per day total time on the food garden, about the same as the interior housework(dishes, floors, laundry, etc…) takes and well worth every minute.