Reality of Gardening, is it Worth it?
After growing food in the Earth Box for several seasons, we moved into a rental with a yard. The area is over run with deer, so there was an area already fenced off that was doing a great job of keeping the sea of weeds safe! The garden had been untouched for years, maybe decades. To make matters worse, the area was on a hill side. Our landlord swore that the soil was great and that we could be growing delicious food in no time. So I got suckered in by the idea of this magnificent garden and never grocery shopping ever again.
Damn, was I wrong.
After back-breaking work to dig up all of the weeds and breaking up the clay, we thought we were good to go. A little sprinkle of organic planting mix and starter fertilizer, love of course. Nope, not even close. The plants above ground were attacked by insects and mildew while the plants underground served up a buffet for moles, rats, and other insects. We had to over water because the soil drainage was poor. Most of the water drained down the hill and and wasted a precious resource. We did get a little bit of food, but nothing that any sane person would consider worth the effort.
Gardening can be great when you live in a favorable climate with quality soil and minimal pests and disease. Now for a reality check. Most of us might have the climate, at least for part of the year, but our soil quality is low or downright terrible (my case) coupled with tons of pests and disease. There is no sugar coating this fact: for most, gardening is tough work and can be expensive if you are starting from scratch.
There is also something to be said about the joys of picking dinner from the backyard, reducing our carbon foot print and creating less of an impact on the environment while taking ownership in our food production system. America has grown into one big suburbia, which means the majority of us have access to growing space. So lets put that space to work.
The biggest lesson I have learned is that you can’t half-ass gardening. Either you are all in, or not at all. Think Vegas (my home town) and casinos; max bet. Any grey area you find in between is just a a waste of your time, money and resources. One of my favorite inspirations for gardening is an episode from the Rich Roll Pod Cast with the “Soil Whisperer” Hendrikus Schraven. I suffered some defeating low blows in my first season of attempting to garden and had all but given up. This podcast inspired me to dust myself off, try again, and do it right. So I recommend anyone interested in gardening to listen to the show. The information is nothing short of amazing!
So do your homework first! This means that you can’t go to the local nursery on a whim, buy a tray of plants and stick them in the ground. Do some research and find out what type of soil you have, the Ph and how to amend it for the plants you intend to grow. Know what climate zone you are in and how much sun you get in different parts of your yard. Amend the soil to at least 12 inches, the deeper the better. Now get ready for the long haul and be patient.
Gardening is an investment and it may take a few seasons of planting cover crops and building the soil before you are even ready for vegetables. Get some books and research organic gardening and figure out how you intend to build your small eco-system from irrigation, composting, pest control and crop rotation to develop a self sustaining chemical free system. Trust me, it sounds like a lot, but this work put in up front will save you time, money, and major frustrations in the long run. Remember, as an airline crew member traveling a lot, you want to maximize your enjoyment at home, not waste it.
Through this, you will gain a new-found respect for the true heroes of our country; organic farmers.
In the mean time, check out our information on growing using the Earth Box. This will help get you by until your garden is operational, or if you find yourself without the space for a garden.
For many of us, your best bet is to construct raised planter beds to make growing veggies easier and efficient. Raised planter beds allow you to improve soil drainage, control weeds and pests, save water and increase growing seasons. This is my recommendation. Need help on how to build them? Check my post on Raised Beds, Built Right for all of the help you need for a successful start up.
I have learned a lot about what it really takes to grow organic food and so will you. You will find a new respect for great organic produce. It’s a different story when you are actually involved with making the decisions to treat certain pests and disease or fertilizing with chemicals. When you take ownership of researching the chemicals and their environmental costs as well as known and unknown health implications, as well as ways to avoid their use, you bring about a greater awareness and accountability to our environment and what you feed to yourself and your family. We all have a lot to learn and it starts by getting a little dirty!
Amidst all of the set backs and growing pains (pun intended), I am as motivated as ever!
Image by: Simon Howden