Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting Started

So many of my friends feel that growing their own food is an overwhelming task.  There is even a comment on my last entry about needing lessons.  Growing edible plants is not overwhelming and you don't need to be taught how to do it.  It involves four extremely simple steps.

First, acquire some seeds of edible plants.  If you live in Santa Monica ask me, I have some extras.  Or go to the local garden center and buy some of whatever they have left from the 2010 season.  This time of year the plants that I think would do best are peas, lettuces, radishes and turnips.  But don't take lessons from me.  Just get some seeds, any seeds.  That's step one.

Next, put the seeds in soil somewhere.  If you have a yard, maybe dig a little in the soil to loosen it up some.  If you don't have a yard, head down to the garden center and buy a pot and a bag of potting soil.  Just get the seeds in or even just on the soil somewhere.  You probably want to add a little water, but if you are a rebellious type, don't.  The main idea here is that you are the new farmer, you are bringing your own style to the process, you are going to do it your way, you are going to figure things out for yourself.  That's step two.

Now comes the hardest part, for me at least.  Watch.  Watch and see what happens.  Take note of your results.  Some people like to write everything down in a little notebook -- planted October 1; sprouted October 4; harvested Thanksgiving Day, for example -- but you don't have to.  It's your project, your experiment and you are free to shape it in your style.  But growing food takes time.  There are no drive thru gardens.  You have to put your order in months in advance.  That's step three.

Finally, repeat what works, discard what doesn't.  If your tomatoes didn't produce, try squash next year.  If your lettuce got fried by all-time record heat in late September, try eggplant next year.  There are innumerable things that can go wrong in a garden and more than one way for things to go right.  You are the one who is growing food at your precise location, with your precise soil so you will have to be the experiment of one that figures out what works and what doesn't under those conditions.  You can get feedback from other gardeners on sites such as Idigmygarden.com or davesgarden.com, but at the end of the day you will be the expert on what works in your particular conditions.

That's all there is to it.  Follow these four steps and you are a grower.  I am going to offer two hints, however, just to get you off to a happy start.  One:  plant way more seed than you think you need and thin out the excess to give the plants room to grow.  A single tomato plant produces over 10,000 seeds so you can see that nature's way is "Nothing exceeds like excess."  Two:  Set your sights low.  Sure I hope that someday your goal becomes to grow all your own food.  But start out by growing a single head of lettuce, or a week's worth of pea pods.  In no time at all you will progress to feeding your whole block!  If you want to.

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