Being stuck at home doesn’t mean you have to stay inside – the current spring weather is perfect for working on the landscape and doing some gardening.
Gardening is a great way to get fresh air, exercise, stay productive, and grow some of your own food.
Herbs, in particular, are great to have in the landscape for many reasons – they are beautiful ornamental plants, attract butterflies and bees, and they can be used for seasoning to make food taste delicious.
Another bonus is that many herbs are deer-resistant!
There are herbs to try for every level of experience, from beginner gardener to advanced.
Access to community gardens has been limited during the pandemic, but people have been reaching out to gardeners and gardening organizations far and wide to learn how to grow their own food… Photo courtesy of King County Parks, Washington.
Urban gardening has taken on a renewed relevance as the coronavirus has declared war on us from Los Angeles to New Orleans; Seattle to Saint Louis. People are reaching out to organizations far and wide about how to grow their own food for a wide array of reasons: concern about food supply chain vulnerabilities, frightened of going to the grocery store for lettuce they could potentially grow themselves, eager to be more self-sufficient or looking to help their neighborhood by donating food to local food banks.
“We need to open our hearts and connect with the struggles of those most vulnerable.” That connection, Fredie believes, can involve carrots, corn, kale, and more. It’s a refrain heard from gardeners across the country. “I think we’ll come out of this,” notes Margee Green, the executive director of Sprout NOLA, a farmer and gardener training program based in New Orleans, “with a lot more people understanding the sacrifices that farm workers make every day and the importance of supporting agriculture that is in harmony with nature, and closer to them.”
Trenton, a city of nearly 85,000 people, contains only one full-service supermarket. It is one New Jersey’s several food deserts, where access to groceries — let alone fresh produce — is scarce.
Now, as the coronavirus pandemic has provided some with more free time and plunged many more into poverty, local community groups and residents are getting their hands dirty to address the problem.
Urban gardens have experienced a boom in community interest and participation in recent months — more people are learning new skills, connecting with their neighbors and, importantly, helping to fill nutritional needs.
This is shaping up to be the year of experimental fall planting.
I generally have pretty good luck growing cucumbers. Between my own harvests (lemon cucumbers are another favorite or mine to grow) and the excess bounty purchased from my Amish friends, I haven't bought a supermarket cucumber in years.
This past spring I started three varieties of cucumber seeds in flats, and for various reasons (the main one being that I probably didn't plant the seeds deep enough and they washed away when I watered them—yeah, duh) I didn't end up with any cucumber plants. Then, again for various reasons, I never got around to starting any more cucumber seeds directly in the ground once the soil had warmed up.
Thankfully some other gardeners around here fared better than I did in the cucumber department, and I was able to buy some nice ones (along with some really bitter ones). But because of the heat and drought (which is what made those bitter ones bitter), the local front yard pop-up produce stands closed down almost as soon as they opened up this year.
Fast forward a couple of months to a desperate me, trying to work on some new summer recipes. I finally broke down and bought some supermarket cucumbers. Blech.
I've already direct seeded two of my 4'x8' raised beds with cool season crops—something I've never done as early as August before—and on a whim, I also stuck half a dozen miniature white cucumber seeds into a bare spot in the homemade greenhouse. A couple of days later, four of them sprouted.
As the demand for sustainable and locally sourced produce in urban areas increases, so does the chance to be a part of the solution. Urban farming, a new development in real estate, brings an opportunity for investors to profit by transforming commercial real estate into urban gardens.
The growing demand for urban farms
Environmentally aware consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about where their food is coming from and the impact our current food production system has on the earth.
On average, food travels 1,000 to 2,000 miles before reaching supermarket shelves, resulting in about 20 to 30 percent of food loss occurring during the transportation process.
According to the Natural Defense Resource Council, the average American meal is sourced from five foreign countries using multiple methods of transportation — resulting in food with lower nutritional value and more carbon emissions being released into the atmosphere.
With heightened consumer awareness of these facts, especially in urban areas, buyers are increasingly seeking local produce grown in a more sustainable, eco-friendly way.
If you want to learn to grow your own food, there’s no better teacher than Ron Finley. Lucky for you, he now offers a MasterClass on gardening — and shared some tips to take to heart.
While California is one of the nation’s leaders in agricultural output, smog-cloaked and concrete-coated Los Angeles is hardly considered representative of the Golden State’s verdancy. But don’t tell that to South Central L.A. native Ron Finley, who in 2010 embarked on a guerrilla gardening project by growing food on the humble strip of soil sitting adjacent to the sidewalk in front of his house. Despite objection from local authorities, Finley persevered with his groundbreaking initiative, and the legend of the Gangsta Gardener was born.
These days, it seems like everyone is jumping into the victory garden trend, enjoying the benefits of a soothing activity in the fresh air while reaping fresh and tasty produce to eat. But even those who don’t have a yard, or just don’t want to get dirt under their nails, can still enjoy the miracle of growing something that’s destined for the dinner table—without even ordering vegetable seeds.
That’s because you can start an indoor garden from your kitchen leftovers. No soil required!
We talked to master gardener Linda Tyson, owner of garden design and maintenance company South Suburban Garden Girl, and Kevin Espiritu, author and the founder of Epic Gardening, to get their tips on growing vegetables without getting down and dirty.
Chives, basil, Greek oregano, lemon thyme, Italian parsley, and lemon balm. It’s the middle of November in zone five Missouri, and five of my six favorite herbs are still thriving in the kitchen garden, despite weeks of heavy frosts and several nights in the 20s. Even some of the heat-loving basil lasted until a week ago, thanks to some old bed sheets and a plastic tarp.
When my publishing network, BlogHer, asked if I was interested in writing an article for their Go Green to Save Money series, I immediately thought of homegrown herbs. They’re easy to grow, cheap to keep, don’t require lots of space or attention, and aren’t usually bothered by diseases and pests. They’re pretty to look at, bursting with flavor, and far fresher than those pricey little packets at the store.