Hi all,

I’m Jeremy – Meg’s brother – guest blogging for the moment. Meg often writes about local food, mentioning things she’s used from her weekly CSA basket, or desserts from the nearby loco-pops shop in Durham. For me, few things are more satisfying, or local, than pulling some veggies out of your own garden and using them in a meal that day. 

 I’m no gardening expert, but my wife (who is the better of the cooks in the house) and I have been fortunate to have some nice bounties from our backyard gardens over the years.  We’ve had gardens in Davis, CA., Chicago, IL., and currently in Athens, GA. and each one has presented its own challenges and rewards.

 I think that people often feel they don’t have the time, space, or know-how to have a productive garden, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. I’ve just been experimenting through the years, and one thing I always keep in mind is something written by a farmer in a NY Times piece I read last year about the Obama’s plans for a White House veggie garden: plants like to grow, they want to grow, and that’s what they do best. Don’t be intimidated by gardening. All you are doing is trying to help plants do what they do best. Even if you think you don’t know “how”, just try it out…dig a hole, buy a plant from the local gardening store or farmer’s market, give it plenty of water and sun and see how it goes – checking with your local gardening “expert” or internet source as you go.

Baby bell pepper

Baby bell pepper

In terms of space, well, that can be tricky depending on where you live, but we’ve been able to fit our gardens into some pretty small plots, including a 4ft. X 12 ft. slice of our tiny yard in Chicago – and that produced the best sun gold tomatoes we’ve ever had! If you don’t have a yard, try some potted tomato plants or baby bell peppers on your deck, and if you don’t have a deck, you can try some potted herbs on a south-facing windowsill.

Jalapeno

Jalapeno

In terms of time, no worries there either (depending on your goals). I try to limit watering my in-ground plants to once a week, watering long and deep to make the roots grow down. With deep roots, the plants can access the water deeper in the soil and you can reduce the amount of water you use (and the amount of time you’re out there watering)…a drip irrigation system is even better in terms of water savings and time. I water my potted veggie plants a bit more frequently depending on the rain. Other than the initial investment in planting the plants, I rarely need to spend more than fifteen minutes a day making sure the plants aren’t being hammered by pests, are well-watered, are staked to something or in some way supported and generally seem to be happy. This year, we have another small garden where we’re growing bell peppers, Cherokee purple tomatoes, sun gold tomatoes, bell peppers, baby-bell peppers, jalapenos, Serrano peppers, Japanese eggplant, basil, and parsley.

Eggplant

Eggplant

Some of you may be rolling your eyes and saying that I’m making this sound waaaay easier than it is. I’ve been volunteering at an organic farm just outside of Athens  (http://fullmooncoop.org/farm.html) and I’ve seen first hand how much time and effort goes into a full-scale operation. But it doesn’t have to be too complicated when it comes to backyard, front yard, back deck or windowsill gardening. I’ve had my share of frustrations and learning experiences and being hammered by pests (squash vine borers, flea beetles, stink bugs, tomato worms, even squirrels – notice the black mesh netting in some of the pictures), and dealing with plants that just don’t seem to want to produce. Each time, I learn a little bit more through experience or by consulting a book or looking online – there are lots of backyard gardeners who know way more than I do and who are brimming with advice. For instance, I learned that planting cilantro and parsley in full sun in late spring in Georgia isn’t such a good idea – they haven’t done too well in the heat.

Cherokee purple tomato

Cherokee purple tomato

The point is – don’t be intimidated and don’t be afraid to give it a try. There’s no more basic need than food and, like I said, there’s nothing more satisfying than popping a sun gold tomato straight from the vine into your mouth and knowing that you helped that plant make that food…

Serrano pepper

Serrano pepper

Until next time….

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