One of our main goals for the adventure toward sustainability over the next two years is to grow a significant percent of the food we eat right here in our own backyard (10%-20%). We want to do this for several reasons.
1. We really want to know where our food comes from, what chemicals are used (or not used) on it, how it is packaged (or not packaged), how far it travels to our table, and that it is wholesome and nutritious, and not genetically engineered.
2. It gives you a connection to the environment to watch something grow from a seed you planted; it just feels good to garden.
3. Home grown food tastes delicious and you can grow varieties that you can’t find in the store (like purple cauliflower and red green beans).
4. Organic vegetables can be expensive to buy…growing our own will save us money (granted I spend more money on my garden than most people because I love gardening, but if I wasn’t growing food, I would be growing flowers or ornamentals in their place, so I don’t think of my tools, soil prep, or beds for food as an additional cost, in fact, I think of growing food as offsetting the cost of my hobby of gardening)
So you may have realized I am a plant person. I’m actually a landscape architect by profession, so I spend a lot of time thinking about plants. I started my own garden (mostly ornamentals) shortly after we bought our home, with the major portion of the backyard landscaping completed in 2004. I put in retaining walls, patio’s, prepared great planting beds, etc. But a couple of years ago I decided to start doing more vegetable gardening. I have 4 raised beds, approximately 6’x8’ that I grew a mixture of ornamentals, herbs and vegetables in. I have had a fair amount of success, but did it mostly for pleasure, and didn’t quantify much of what I was doing. Last year (2009) was the first year I decided to weigh the food I produced…with a total of 100lbs, which sounds like a lot, but half of it was zucchini (note to self, 50 lbs of zucchini is too much for 2 people!!!) 2009 was also the year I started planting some fruit trees and shrubs including 2 apple trees, an Asian pear, hardy kiwi, blueberries and a white currant.
This year (2010) the goal is to grow 10% of our food, which by estimates of how much the average American eats, I figure to be 300 lbs for my husband and I. By next year I want to be closer to 20% (it takes several years for the fruit trees to produce, so I am hoping that when they do, that will push my food production up quite a bit)
I have some experience growing vegetables, and some experience growing fruit…and a knowledge base in gardening and plants, so I consider my skill level to be above average, and am optimistic I can reach my goals.
I will quantify everything so you can follow our progress. So many blogs leave out that critical information, focusing more on the what and how to garden….I want you to benefit from my mistakes, so you don’t end up with 50 lbs of zucchini!!! I’ll tell you how much I plant, how much I harvest, how much gets used vs. given away (or composted…hope not). This record keeping will help me as well, because I want to tailor what I grow to what we actually can eat.