It might seem counterintuitive for someone who’s about to plant 18 acres with nearly 200 varieties of vegetables and herbs to say this, but I urge you to grow your own garden this year.
I believe it’s important for CSA members to try to grow food at home. You’ll do plenty of what I like to call “rigorous product testing” when you put in your volunteer hours on the farm, but everybody should taste a tomato that they have grown outside his or her back door.
A home garden can be so many things. A place to take the time to nurture life; a source of the fruit of your labor to share with others; a place to grow your favorites or even to grow things I don’t grow. Just one example is strawberries which are too labor-intensive for us here. Virginia, the coordinator of our Essex County distribution site, is putting in two strawberry beds in her yard. She’s also got a fig tree, which is good because I gave up on growing figs after trying for about 4 years here in zone 5. (I may try to barter one or two.) Your children are always welcome to help out when you come to Upper Meadows and your home garden can be a wonderful place for them to learn what it takes every day to grow fresh food. Growing at home can be a fun adventure as well as a source of accomplishment. Virginia is putting up a bean teepee like one she saw at the Rutgers agricultural experiment station last year, and planting it with 5 varieties of climbing beans–a colorful blooming clubhouse that the boys can eat!
This low tech pursuit can be both therapeutic and fun. All you really need is a shovel to turn the soil, a garden rake to smooth it out and your seeds. I know that this doesn’t sound exciting if you are into GEAR but you don’t need all the bells and whistles to garden successfully. It is best to start with a small area, even mixed in along your foundation with your ornamental plants or a small spot with good sun. It is best to start with easier things to grow so I would suggest summer squash and peas, radishes and maybe some greens like kale or bok choi. OF course, don’t be afraid of trying to grow your favorite veggie. You will be motivated to do a little more if the reward is likely to be a favorite.
There are some wonderful resources for starting home gardens at your library and on line. Of course if you would like we can add a home garden forum for folks to share ideas and tips. Here is where we buy seeds to help you get started; Fedco, High Mowing Seeds, Seeds of Change, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Johnny’s Selected Seed. I must say that seed catalogs make me want to buy more and plant more but a garden is truly where less is more. Make sure to leave twice as much room as you think you need between those nice little seeds and cute plant sets that you put in or you will end up needing to tear something out for any of them to do well. Water is a critical part of gardening and many of the home gardening catalogs also have drip irrigation systems that are a smaller version of the one we use here on the farm.
I hope you’ll share news and pictures of your home garden with our CSA community.