“How fair is a garden amid the toils and passions of existence.”-Benjamin Disraeli
In recent years, the adoption of an independent and sustainable lifestyle has become increasingly attractive to a growing number of people. I am one of the many who seek such a lifestyle and, though I am far from reaching this goal, my journey has begun.
Getting there will be neither quick nor easy, but I’m up for the challenge, and am taking things one step at a time. One project that has recently gripped my attention has been growing a vegetable garden.
“Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.”-Henry David Thoreau
There is something powerful about the practice of planting, nurturing, harvesting, and eating your own food. I love the entire process, but couldn’t partake for the last few years. Since we bought a new home, our summers have been consumed with other projects like installing our lawn, landscaping, etc. It wasn’t until this year that I was able to spend time on my garden.
Setting the stage
We live on less than a quarter acre in the suburbs. As such, we don’t have a lot of space. At our previous house, I just tilled up a big spot in the back yard, brought in some compost, planted my veggies, and called it a day. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t fly in suburbia.
I don’t think that having a tilled-up back yard is against the rules of my homeowners association, but I do know it would attract many unhappy looks from my neighbors. Thus, I decided to install our new garden in pretty little planter boxes.
I started with some very reasonably priced wood. Instead of using a common but expensive garden box wood like redwood, I chose to go with Douglas fir. The boards are much cheaper, but will still last for quite a few years. I ended up building two boxes, one for vegetables and the other for herbs. My veggie box is reasonably large at 4′ x 8′, whereas my herb box is much smaller at 2′ x 4′.
When it came time to plant, I started out in two distinct rows but soon realized that I’d run out of space if I kept up that way. Thus, I started staggering the plants to make them fit. While I managed to fit everything in, I’m guessing that thing might be a bit crowded this year — especially for my tomato plants!
“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.”-Elizabeth Murray
The contents of our garden
The following list provides a rundown of what’s in our garden this year:
- 3 broccoli plants
- 4 Early Girl tomato plants
- 4 Delicious tomato plants
- 2 Cherry tomato plants
- 4 yellow bell pepper plants
- 4 red bell pepper plants
- 1 green zucchini plant
- 1 Jalapeno plant
- 6 green romaine lettuce plants
- 2 basil herbs
- 1 chive herb
- 1 sage herb
- 1 thyme herb
And here are some pictures of the end product:
The benefits of a garden
When I consider all of the benefits of growing these plants, I get very excited. I’m a total garden nerd! Add to that my rain barrels, and I’m in Heaven. Growing your own garden boosts your self-reliance, along with these other awesome advantages:
- Saves you money. The cost of produce is on the rise, and growing your own not only saves you money, it also frees you from the worry of fluctuating prices!
- You control the pesticide use. Can’t afford to buy organic? You can now! This will be our third attempt at a garden, and we have yet to use any chemicals. There are many natural ways to fend off pests and disease. One trick that my wife and I employ is to plant a Marigold border around our garden.
- Fresh and ripe. Store bought produce is often picked before it is ripe. This is done to prevent spoilage and decrease damage. The problem is, picking produce before it is ripe reduces its nutritional value.
- Great taste. The taste of a fresh, organically grown fruit, vegetable, or herb far exceeds that of its store bought counterpart.
- Ability to preserve. Growing your own food gives you an opportunity to preserve your food for use throughout the year. This allows you to enjoy the fruit of your labors even in the dead of winter.
- Education. A garden is a great way to educate your children about health, independence, and hard work.
- Free therapy. Gardens provide you with an opportunity to commune with nature, which is definitely good for the soul.
“A garden is the best alternative therapy.”-Germaine Greer
Growing your own garden provides a glimpse of a simpler life that can be very rewarding. Couple the independence gained with the money saved and you have yourself a very powerful tool. Also, remember that you don’t need a ton of land to have a good garden. Here’s an example of great gardening in a small space.
I’ll be a gardener until the day I die.
What about you? Do you garden? If so…why?