For Non-Gardeners: No Excuses! The Pandemic’s the Time!

Now is the time to face reality that a tiny virus has turned our world upside down. Get ready for some big changes, especially in our food systems. The US is starting to experience a “hungry crisis” with food banks running out of food and some basics (like potatoes) in short supply. Small farmers are struggling because restaurants and farmers markets are closing. Two steps you can take NOW: find a way to buy produce from small-scale local farmers and get out of your house and start growing some of your food.

Starting a garden in a time of “lock down” is an excellent way to relieve anxiety. It will help you feel that you are starting to take control of things. The reasons to grow your food now are obvious: pending food shortages and rising food prices. Homegrown produce is tasty and healthy and supplements the other parts of your diet. And, as a food producer, you will be part of a new sustainable local food system.

Gardening needs not to be complicated or difficult, if and only if, you really set your mind to it. Here are some simple guidelines for starting:

  1. keep it simple – start out with three or four vegetables and learn about them as much as you can. Seed catalogs are very helpful. (Redwood Seeds, Territorial, High Mowing, Johnny’s, Peaceful Valley)
  2. learn from more experienced gardeners, friends, neighbors who grow food.
  3. follow the 4 Rs to keep costs low – reuse, repurpose, recycle, repair.
  4. plan – choose the vegetables that you especially like to eat, that are easy to grow and those you can store, can, dry or freeze. Try experimenting with one or two new varieties each year.

For those who have never gardened, I’ve answered all your excuses:

  • No space:– a 10 x 10 space will grow about $700 worth of veggies. Replace some of your expensive non productive lawn with an edible garden.
  • No ground, only patio or cement sidewalks: Build 4’x8’x2′ boxes on top of cement or use straw bales (go on line to see how) or use big pots on patios.
  • Bad soil, garden space has bad soil; too rocky or all clay: Build beds on top of existing ground by adding compost and manure and/or make “fertility holes” by digging out the rocks and filling the hole with compost and fertilizer.
  • Don’t know how: Experience is a good teacher. So, finding a garden mentor is a fast way to learn. Books and seed catalogs are useful references, not teachers. From the internet you can learn how to start seeds indoors, how to transplant, direct seed, water, fertilize, compost and mulch.
  • Live in apartments: Join the nearest community garden or organize one for you complex.
  • Too expensive/No money for fences or water pipes: Cooperate with others in the neighborhood or join a community garden.
  • Too much shade or sun: Learn what grows in shade (like lettuces, spinach, chard, etc.) and hot weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, squashes etc.
  • Too old or ill to dig in the garden: This is my problem, so I work with neighbors, hire youngsters and relatives.

If I haven’t covered your excuse, send it to me. Maybe, we together can come up with a solution.

Wayne Kessler

Following his grandfather's advice, "Grow food. People always need food," has led Wayne to a lifetime of cultivating and processing food. He spends much of his time encouraging people to become more food independent by growing their own.

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