Vegetable Gardens are Worth the Growing Pains
May 28, 2013 11:50PM
By Darron Jalbert
For many people, the task of growing their own food seems monumental, yet the rewards are immeasurable. Each year roughly 15 percent of Americans grow food items in backyards and on patios, front lawns and countless other small urban spaces. This percentage is on the rise, too, fueled by increasing distrust of the food supply, fear of food shortages and concerns about chemicals, pesticides and genetically modified foods.
Early in the growing season, backyard gardening can consume considerable amounts of time and energy. As the pioneering American horticulturalist Liberty Hyde Bailey once said, “A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”
The short checklist for gardeners in late spring and early summer includes preparing includes preparing and caring for seedlings, making compost tea, planting the seedlings, protecting plants from cool nights, turning the compost pile and deterring eager crows. The list could stretch for miles, covering the myriad responsibilities that backyard farmers face as they plant cold-resistant vegetables while simultaneously nurturing the heat loving seedlings of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.
The good news is that fear of failure goes hand in hand with being a good farmer. As noted by the English poet Alfred Austin, “There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder.” Fortunately, there are a few time-tested tips for a greater likelihood of success:
• Bring technology to the garden. Carry your smartphone or set up the laptop while you work, and Google any issues or questions that arise. There is a wealth of information online to help you become a better gardener and avoid simple mistakes.
• Grow up! Vertical gardening in any fashion, in any garden, is a way to increase productivity, reduce labor, and avoid spoilage from bugs and rot.
• Mulch before planting. The cheapest and easiest way to reduce water consumption in the garden is to mulch heavily. Straw is the cheapest and easiest option, but others are available.
• Composting is gardening. Another way to reduce waste, promote organic gardening, and keep your soil healthy is to compost all organic material and close the sustainable loop.
• Keep it organic. One misstep with a chemical fertilizer and the garden can suffer, whereas organic techniques are more forgiving.
• Love the garden. Love is respect, intimacy, attention and compromise. The more you bring these things to your garden, the better the results.
Darron Jalbert is the owner and founder of Backyard Veggie Garden and a member of the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts. For more information , call 857-234-2395 or visit BackyardVeggieGarden.com.