Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Grow food not junk

My husband and I have chosen to retire in his hometown of Lafayette, Indiana.  Indiana has some pretty nice people and Lafayette, though it is a big city, has a small town atmosphere to it.  We like the cultural diversity and we like the fact that important things like stores, restaurants, parks, etc. are conveniently close to us.  Nothing is more than a ten minute drive for us.  We live in the city, but our house is on a corner lot on a dead end street.  The front yard faces the city street, but our backyard is almost like living in the country.  Our backyard is quiet and a perfect spot to sit and watch the birds who frequent our many bird feeders.

We have noticed that most of our neighbors have backyards too.  Steve and I decided to turn part of our backyard into something useful.  Rather than mow a lot of grass, we feel it is much more productive as a vegetable garden.  Most of our neighbors, like us, are not real well off.  We have been wondering why they too, have not turned their yards into a useful garden.  The price of meat and produce in the local grocery stores isn't getting cheaper, so there is nothing more satisfying than the feeling of feeding yourself and your family.  

We have looked down our street since we moved in and we notice a lot of neighbors do not like to mow grass, they allow it to get quite tall and to the point of the city having to send them letters to mow it.  We wonder why this is.  One, or more neighbors, have even taken to placing junk not just in their backyards, but also on the street.  We mean junk, stuff that neighborhood kids could very well get hurt on.

 This is so totally uncalled for

I don't care how someone was brought up.  Hoarding junk on the street and in your backyard for all to see, making your neighborhood look rundown, is not acceptable.  We may all be a bit poor in this neighborhood, but we don't have to wear signs advertising we are poor and for too many, smack of ill breeding to boot.  It's what my Mom used to call: "Pooping where you eat."  Stop it!  Steve and I hate to mow grass too and besides, we cannot eat grass and we view it as useless.

Many people are going to say: "But I don't know how to grow vegetables, I have no tiller, my soil is poor."  Well the list of excuses can go on and on.  How do Steve and I do it?

The soil in our backyard is clay only about four inches down.  We looked on Craig's List and found a person who will till any size garden plot for only $45.  We had checked rentals of tillers and the price was as follows: $45 for delivery of a tiller, $45 a day for the use of it and $45 for the rental people to pick it up.  Hell no!  So the $45 we spend for the gentleman to come till it up with his tractor, was well worth it.  If you do it right, the $45 tilling is a one time expense. After it was tilled, we knew we had to build up our soil in order for anything to grow.  We decided to do French Intensive raised bed gardening.  We piled the pulverized soil into six mounds and we purchased organic fertilizer at $1.09 a bag.   We bought six bags (one for each raised bed) for a little over $12 total.  

Raised beds work very well for keeping the fertilizer just where you will grow plants.  This way not one drop of it gets wasted on walking paths.  Raised beds stay light and airy and are so much easier to weed and to water.  

 Our raised bed garden, picture taken today.

We cannot afford to continue to buy organic fertilizer so I place all of our used coffee grounds, along with any green organic scraps, into an old coffee can and when full, I spread it around plants, covering it with soil as I go.  We now have turned bad soil into a good growing medium, full of worms.  Oh, did I mention that with enough worms, you need to till or fertilize much less because they will do the work for you, making your job much easier.

Even if you live in an apartment building, you can grow a lot of food in containers.  Almost anything can be painted and used for growing vegetable or herb plants.  Even on a small scale, you will save money at the grocery store with each less fresh food item you would normally buy.

 Our zucchini plants in full bloom

 Our cantaloupe plants from seeds.  We have an entire row of them.  Melons now cost $4.00 each in the stores.  The seed packets cost us just 10 cents each.

 Beautiful tomato plants.  A friend of Steve's gave us six of the plants.  But we do have two volunteer plants as big as these, growing also.  You can direct seed tomato plants in good soil, for about 10 cents for an entire pack of seeds.

 Nothing is more satisfying than sitting on our back porch watching the vegetables grow.

Zinnias in the front yard.  Another 10 cent seed packet.

We were reading, today, that someone broke into a community garden, in Lafayette, near the Boys and Girls club and stole a bunch of vegetable plants.  Seriously?  Is this how people are being brought up these days?  Grow your own in your own backyard.  Anyone can do this, no excuses.  Give it a try.  Beats the heck out of mowing useless grass.