One area that is dear to my heart is keeping Avalon “green.” To this end it is important to study up on ways to grow organically and sustainably. There will be a lot of information offered here, some of it’s my opinion. A lot of it will be based on studies. Some of it will be controversial. As I’m sure this first subject will be.
I believe in sustaining the biodiversity of the planet. Helping indigenous people to grow more food with better practices and knowledge, but not in trying to manipulate them into growing untested crops. I’m also 100% against genetically engineered crops (GEs or GMOs).
I feel that these seeds have the capacity to wreak havoc in our ecosystem and we have not had any true scientific studies on the possible effects of them on our bodies. Not only that, companies that are creating these crops are taking the seeds to areas of the world where they do not produce well, selling poor un- or undereducated farmers on their advantages, then taking their native seed and patenting it, so they can no longer grow their own crops without “paying the piper.”
To that end I recommend you only buy seeds from companies that have signed the “Safe Seed Pledge.” I’ll put up a list of the companies I can find, but it will not be complete, so if you have a favorite seed company that is not on the list, check with them and see if they are selling any seeds that are GE or sold by companies that create GMOs. Also, do a quick study and you’ll see why I don’t want to support these companies in any form. I’ll step down from my soapbox now.
Better than any Christmas present is the first seed catalog. Filled with a treasure of different varieties of all plant seeds. You can wile away the entire winter looking at the beautiful pictures, your mouth watering for the flavors of freshly picked summer crops.
How to pick seeds? First, what do you want to have in your garden, that can be easily grown from seed. Most veggie and annual flower seeds are very easy to grow. Some fruits, herbs, and perennials are also easy to grow, but there are more of them that require special care to make them sprout. Read up on anything you’re unfamiliar with. Local libraries usually have a lot of books on gardening.
The next factor is what will save you the most money? This is especially important if you have a small space to grow in. The veggies or flowers that are most expensive are the ones to grow. Tomatoes, peppers and melons tend to top the list there; roses and lilies for flowers.
Berry bushes and fruit trees need to be seen as an investment. Find varieties that grow well in your area and that you like the flavor.
After that, experiment. Try something that looks amazing. Last year I tried yard long beans. They’re so amazing to watch grow and the beans were fantastic. So fantastic I’m buying two more varieties this year!
There are many different ways to fund a community garden. You can have dues, do fundraising activities, such a seedling sales and such, or you can even apply for grants.
There are national grants from large organizations, such as National Gardening Association, Home Depot, Fiskars, etc. Local governments, businesses and colleges sometimes offer grants, as well. These sometimes have specific requirements, such as gardens in schools, location in a low income area, etc., but there are many too choose from, and there is probably something that will work for your group.
Sometimes you can get donations, as well. Tools, fertilizers, seeds, etc., can be gotten at a discount or free if you are willing to show the company as a sponsor of your garden. This can be as simple as a small sign at the garden, or including their information in all your marketing materials, including your web site if you have one.
So check around, there’s probably some help in getting your community garden started.
If you truly don’t have any space at all to grow, or that space is too shady to grow anything, look into community gardens. I was shocked to find out that in the large town nearby there are over 40 community gardens. There are some that have certain requirements, but there is something for everybody. There’s usually a small fee involved to help pay for water, garden hoses, fencing if needed, etc., but it can be well worth the small cost to have a larger and better site for planting.
In case you don’t have any community gardens in your area, there are organizations that help you set one up. The American Community Garden Association has a great site to help you found a community garden in your area.
If you only have a small space, such as a porch in an apartment, or you live in a townhouse with just a tiny back open space, then plan accordingly. You’ll have to be very selective about what you grow. If the taste of a sun warmed, heirloom tomato makes your heart sing, then find tomato plants that will work in containers or that are more compact in growth pattern.
You can actually grow quite a lot if you use your space wisely. Of course you have to have good light in the area, which can be a problem with apartment porches. Know how much light the area you want to grow in gets. That will determine a lot about what you can grow.
If you live in an apartment or townhome you may be able to get permission from the owners to plant outside your defined area. Some apartments have let people grow ornamentals in the small garden outside the front door, but they didn’t want vegetables because of pest and mess considerations. You may even be able to establish a community garden in your compound, if you can get enough support and there is space.
A major consideration, especially for hardscaping, is making sure you’ve got the proper permits, and you are locating it legally. There are utility easements that have to be considered, set backs from property lines that must be met, safety issues with underground and overhead utilities to consider. You don’t want to have to tear down or relocate something after you’ve put it in. That could be very costly.
If you have a septic system you need to know what you can grow over the area, and how far away invasive plants (trees, shrubs, etc.) should be located. The last thing you want to do is ruin your very expensive septic field, or have to cut down and destroy plants when the field needs to be reworked, which does happen after some time to all septic systems.
Contact your local permitting office for information on items that need permits or have setbacks. The permitting office may be able to offer information about the septic system and how close things can be grown. If not call several local septic contractors to see what they recommend.
There are different ways to bring your plan to completion. However, the main consideration is, what can you manage easily? If you’re a brand new gardener starting small is the best idea. Put in one or two of the main gardens you want and learn how much work it takes to maintain them. Tackle one hardscape project and judge from that how to allot time to complete others.
Money is another deciding factor. What can you afford to do? Also, what will give you the most pleasure or satisfaction? If your dream includes some major hardscape ideas, look at whether you can do them in sections, in order to be able to start on them. If you have a deck, patio and water feature all mixed into one area, could you just do the patio, or put in the water feature first, etc. If you dream of being able to feed your family from your own lot, then start with learning how to grow food crops.
OK, you want to have your own Avalon, but your yard is a shambles and you don’t know what to do. First, put together a plan of all the things you want in your yard. Be as specific as possible: ornamentals, vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, etc. Then list the specific ornamentals, vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, etc. that you want to include. If there are certain plants you can’t live without, make sure they’re on the list, too. Maybe you’re an iris lover, or can’t imagine a yard without apples trees, etc.
Make a list of hardscape items, too. This includes fences, raised beds, porches, patios, decks, water features, outbuildings, etc. Do not let money be a deciding factor at this point. Just list everything you’ve ever wanted in your yard. Dream big.
The next step is to layout a plan for what you want. Make sure you keep in mind such things as, existing trees and where they shade during the various seasons, septic fields, property lines, location of underground and overhead utilities, when doing this. Nothing can throw a wrench into the works more than finding out you’ve located you water feature in the middle of you leach field or some such major blunder.