Like all homesteaders, we try to grow as much of our own food as we can, but for now, our “city garden” is in the backyard of our house in the city. On the upside, four years ago, we had no garden at all. Eddie had to talk me into gardening. I was not in the right heartset (as compared to mindset) yet. Now I have both. It is not much but our city garden is enough for us, our neighbors, and my canning and drying habit. (Yes, “puttin’ it by” is habit-forming. Once you start, you can’t stop, but that is another post.)
Lucky for me, Eddie had already been composting for years before we met. So I walked into perfect ready-made garden soil in this spot where he once had a garden a few years back. Working full time in the city though was not particularly conducive to maintaining a well-tended garden. Until Eddie brought me into the loop, this little city garden sat dormant, sad, pathetic, lonely, and completely overrun with weeds for quite some time. I once suggested that we kill off all the weeds, grass seed it, and turn it into a bigger lawn for our three dogs. But that was NOT in Eddie’s plan. Eddie wanted his city garden back. So he prodded and poked me about it until I caved and gave gardening a try. Not because I wanted to (grooooan …. that is what produce departments are for, right?) but because I honored and respected him. So I did it. He created a monster. Now, my city garden is the place where I am happiest. Granted, he was supposed to help. He takes care of all the annual backbreaking stuff, and I am the one who does most of the daily tending and harvest processing so it all works out. But make a return to the produce department? Not if I can grow it in my city garden.
Anyway, 50+ years old and I knew NOTHING about gardening when I (well, we) started. All I knew was how to plant mums (dig a hole, shove them in) and start a lawnmower (push this little dohicky a few times, pull the string, and push it around the yard). And that is not gardening. That is yard maintenance. My point is that if I can do it … anybody can. Sure, it was a huge undertaking and I had to do some research. So here is my best advice:
- Start small … maybe just a few containers on the porch. Keep your family & work schedule in mind. Be cautious about biting off more than you can chew.
- Get your kids involved. Make it a fun, family function. Lots of ways to do that! (There will be posts on that!)
- There is no substitute for good research. Read. Read a lot. Winter is great for that.
- Plant only things you like to eat. Don’t waste precious real estate or containers for things you are just going to end up composting or giving away.
- Plant only things that you can either eat right away or “put by” for winter. (A post on your options for that is coming soon! When to freeze vs. when to dehydrate, etc.)
- Buy materials, supplies, and seeds OFF SEASON … when they are cheapest.
- Love your city garden. If you don’t love it … find another hobby.
About that research; cannot stress that enough. Eddie taught me all he could. Mostly, he taught me about composting and seed starting. It was something, but it was not enough. So I went online. I have taught myself all about companion planting, organic practices, heirloom & hybrid seeds vs. GMO (great article on that topic here), and rotation … everything I can get my hands on. If you are eager to learn more about city gardening too, go to our Awesome Resources page and our Pinterest boards. There is a ton of great information to be had. I cannot get my hands on enough learning material on the topic of gardening. Specifically, organic gardening. It has all paid off. I am very proud of how far we came in just a couple years. This photo was the bounty from just one morning in late June of 2012, and we were just getting started. I was freezing, dehydrating, and canning like crazy and still had to give a lot away.
Our neighbors all think we are crazy! But a few tomatoes, a half pound of green beans, and fresh lettuce from June to October seems to quell their irritation over the lack of prettified landscaping in our yard. Besides, a city garden sure beats the weed bed we were once growing. I think they are just glad that THAT is finally gone.
Thanks to all our favorite bloggers and pinners for getting me up to speed and making me realize that in spite of the city house we must live in for now, we are still homesteaders at heart.