Growing our Own Food on the Front Lawn

“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small-scale, in our own gardens. If only 10 percent of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.” 

~Bill Mollison, Founder of Permaculture

 

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Our front lawn. 9 feet by 40 feet. Soon to be a vegetable garden and a Sensory Garden

  • How much produce can 360 square feet yield?
  • Can this feed a family of 5 for an entire 22 week growing season and beyond?
  • Can growing our own save us money or even make money?

A Garden Starts with Seeds (January 28, 2017)

Planning this year’s garden brings a smile to my face. I loved growing food last year but I didn’t really have a plan. Last year was an experiment to see what would grow and where (in the different microclimates around the house) and what we actually used. I now know that we will use a lot of tomatoes, kale, lettuce, spinach, sorrel, carrots, cucumber, borage (both the fuzzy leaves and the beautiful edible flowers), pumpkins, summer and winter squashes and zucchini. Fresh herbs are essential in our kitchen and this year I am trying a growing them using ‘hugelkultur‘, which is growing food on a mound or what I call ‘herb hill’. Basil, oregano, verbena, thyme, marjoram, flat leaf parsley, cilantro, dill and lemon balm are some of my favorites.

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Dazzling purple borage flowers and sunflowers in our garden last year. Borage refills with nectar every 2 minutes, no wonder the bees were all over it. Photograph by Jane Grueber Copyright 2016

Although I saved many seeds or shook dry seeds directly back into our already existing garden beds, I ordered some new Heritage seeds for our front yard urban garden project. My goal is to save seeds that grow well in our climate.

Heritage Seeds

(vegetables & herbs)

  1. Hopi Red Dye Amaranth – this ancient grain grows well in pots and dried seeds can be easily ground into flour
  2. Calabrese Broccoli
  3. Chieftan Savoy Cabbage
  4. Scarlet Nantes Carrots
  5. Beit Alpha Cucumber
  6. Lacinato Kale
  7. Crisp Mint Lettuce
  8. Black Hungarian Peppers
  9. California Wonder Peppers
  10. Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach
  11. Yokohama Squash
  12. Ronde de Nice Squash
  13. Golden Zucchini

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Sensory Garden

The benefits of ‘sensory gardens’ are well documented and widely written about. They provide calming sanctuary for those suffering from traumatic brain injury, mental health challenges, developmental difficulties, or neurodegenerative diseases to name a few. For the young and young at heart, they provide a welcoming environment for exploration, learning and communing with nature right in the yard.

I want to make a ‘sensory garden’ in our front yard where we can sit and enjoy the power of nature – to take in the smells, sights and sounds of flowers and birds as well as to provide food for our friendly neighbourhood pollinators. I intentionally chose flowers that support the local ecosystem.

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Here are the seed names (shown above from left to right) slated for our sensory garden:

  1. Nastrurtium
  2. Celosia
  3. Coleus
  4. Saphyr blue flax
  5. Morning Glory
  6. Ladybird Poppy
  7. Pandora Poppy
  8. Kong sunflower
  9. Sweat peas
  10. Gaillardia
  11. Indigo Blue Forget-Me-Not
  12. Foxgloves
  13. Hollyhocks
  14. Chinese Lantern
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Mason bee gussying up to some borage. Photograph by Jane Grueber Copyright 2016

This is a list of some of the plants and flowers that bees love and you may want to incorporate into your garden this year:

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  1. Bergamot flower
  2. Dhalia
  3. Forget-me-Not
  4. Joe Pye Weed
  5. Squash Blooms
  6. Bee Plant (Cleome)
  7. Globe Thisle
  8. Giant Hyssop
  9. Honey Suckle
  10. English Lavender
  11. Mullein
  12. Liatris
  13. Paint Brush (Castilleja)
  14. Skullcap
  15. Zinnia
  16. Snapdragons
  17. Pumpkin Bloom
  18. Wallflower
  19. Sunflower

Herbs

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  1. Basil
  2. Caraway
  3. Chamomile
  4. Chives
  5. Cilantro
  6. Dill
  7. Marjoram
  8. Oregano
  9. Mint
  10. Thyme
  11. Rosemary
  12. Sage

Companion Planting

Polyculture, the growing of a wide variety of plants together, was a way to garden in the past and is the way of the future. As we move toward regional food production and consumption, understanding how growing different plant species close together can be beneficial for optimizing flavor, keeping pests naturally at bay and regenerating soil is critical. Particultury if you grow your own. Although the topic of companion planting has always fascinated me, my very limited understand of how it works and what works eluded me. I was so thrilled to find Josie Jeffery’s book “The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting: An Easy, Organic Way to Deter Pests, Prevent Disease, Improve Flavor, and Increase Yields in Your Vegetable Garden.

This book explains optimal techniques for growing a great garden with concision. It details what companion planting is, why you may want to do it and is specifically designed to help gardeners ‘mix and match’ various companion plant pairs and groups to create healthy, harmonious botanical communities that are independent from the need for chemicals or pesticides.

The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting: An Easy, Organic Way to Deter Pests, Prevent Disease, Improve Flavor, and Increase Yields in Your Vegetable Garden

The Mix & Match Guide to Companion Planting: An Easy, Organic Way to Deter Pests, Prevent Disease, Improve Flavor, and Increase Yields in Your Vegetable Garden by Josie Jeffery

Starting a Few Seeds (March 5, 2017)

Over the weekend, we started several seeds indoors so that they are ready to go into the raised garden beds come late April.

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With six 8 foot by 4 foot garden beds to fill, we decided to start quite a few plants now. We will start more in about 3 weeks in order to stretch the yield over a longer period of time. Last year, I put everything in at once and felt the consequences of feast and famine.

This is what we planted:

18 tomato plants

  1. Money Maker Tomato -heavy producer
  2. Bush Beef Steak Tomato – great slicing tomato; sweet flavour
  3. Cherry Tomato Sweetie – plants produce sweet (1 oz) cherry red fruit throughout the summer
  4. Jubilee Tomato – in intermediate beefsteak variety that produces  golden-orange fruit 1/2 lbs in weight

12 Zucchini/Squash

  1. Waltham Butternut Squash – a very heavy producer of bulbous shaped, creamy yellow smooth skinned fruit
  2. Golder Zucchini (C. Pepo)
  3. Yokohama Squash (C. Moschata)
  4. Dark Green Zucchini – easy to grow, plants mature quickly, heavy yield
  5. Spaghetti Squash – winter or storage squash
  6. Ronde De Nice Zucchini (C. Pepo)

12 Cucumbers

  1. Beit Alpha Cucumber

3 Watermelon

  1. Sugar Baby Watermelon – a dependable, easy-to-grow variety that produces round, sweet, crisp melons.

3 Giant Atlantic Dill Pumpkins – produces pumpkins over 3 feet across weighing over 100 lbs

15 Nasturtium

  1. Single Tall Climbing Nastrutium
  2. Alaska Mix – dwarf nasturtium with marbled foliage
  3. Empress of India
  4. Whirlybird
  5. Phoenix

6 Peas

  1. Oregon Sugar Pod – Mild, sweet flavour, heavy yield; delicious raw, steamed, stir-fried or frozen for later use
  2. Lincoln Homesteader Peas – good early crop, heavy yield

6 Beans/Legumes

  1. Tendergreen Bush Beans – great flavour and large yield
  2. Bush Beans – early starters

 

April

My wonderful husband built the six 4′ by 8′ garden beds.

picMonkey0.020307670103340114It took a lot of compost and dirt to fill the beds. Thankfully, we started collecting ‘yard waste’ and composting last fall when the idea of an urban garden began to develop in our minds. We thought, let’s pile this ‘waste’ just in case we need it for some reason.

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