Thinking about planting a garden this year? If you have ever tasted a ripe tomato right off the vine, chances are you want to grow your own. Living in Berks County allows us to have direct access to many seasonal items grown less than ten miles radius from where you live, but maybe the time is right to bring it a little bit closer to home. You may feel limited by the amount of yard space that you have or the elaborate landscape architecture and greenhouse designs that we all admire on home improvement shows and Instagram accounts. The truth is simple: if you want to grow your own food, you can!
We have seen just about it all through this pandemic! From fire escapes holding five-gallon buckets to upside down hanging tomato plants, your space is not the reason to ditch the dirt and by a CSA* share from your favorite local farm. You can be creative and artistic in the space and materials that you have to grow your own food. In fact, a good way to focus on “upcycling” just in time to celebrate Earth Day is to rummage through some items in your home that could become makeshift container gardens! Items that have proper drainage and growing medium are a must, but you can create quite the oasis through repurposing. If you have a specific look that you are striving for, there are plenty of options in your local hardware stores and online to build the perfect greenhouse effect that fits your space and taste. Try replacing some patio containers with mint varieties (spearmint, pineapple, chocolate, peppermint to name a few!) and nasturtium, border rows along walkways with perennial herbs like lavender, rosemary and chamomile, and decorative aspects like planting a seasonal squash patch instead of buying pumpkins and gourds for the fall!
Choose the right type of plants
Ever heard of Cinderella Eggplant? It’s just the right fit to grow in a container! Most plants have a variety that will work well to adapt them from a traditional growing model and space. Make sure to choose indeterminate tomato varieties that will keep producing throughout the seasons. These can take up less space while providing smaller fruits and a more compact root system. Herbs and edible flowers do quite well in containers or modified spaces and the mobility of not having them in the ground means you can start them inside, take them out, and bring them back in for year-round growing and garnish. Get creative in the plants you choose!
Join in a community network for support
If there is one thing we have learned this year, it’s that we are stronger together! Some exceptional resources and groups have emerged on social media platforms, blogs, websites where we can join in to learn, ask questions, and find a new recipe for the high yield of zucchini that you have coming. Garden swaps are a great way to share and spread the love between mutual growers. You’ll make some new friends, taste some new veggies, and expand your growing variety. There are many ways to #cultivatecommunity by growing your own food.
Enjoy the trials, tribulations and treats. You don’t have to have an expansive yard to find the benefits of growing your own food. Taking the time to start seeds and nurture your plants will nurture your own soul. There is no greater reward than the taste of spring, summer and fall. There is a true sense of pride and confidence one can find by gardening. In a time where we may feel so disconnected from ourselves and our community, simple gardening can help us find common ground, ground ourselves and encourage healthy seasonal eating and lifestyle choices. Challenge yourself this year by growing something new or anything at all. Your friends and family will appreciate the fruits of your labor.
*Community Supported Agriculture