“I started my first garden in college when I was about 21. I was studying Environmental studies and Sustainability, so my core interest and understanding of the importance of local and organic food was planted there. Around the same time, I also lost my father to kidney cancer. I hate to say it, but he did not take good care of himself, particularly when it came to food. While losing him so young was utterly devastating, it was also fuel for me to lead a healthier life, and have a different relationship with food than he had. I haven’t stopped gardening since.
At first, I wanted to grow food to help offset my environmental footprint, and to have the “garden to table” experience – knowing exactly where our food comes came and how it was treated. As time went on, gardening has become SO much more than just growing food. Yes, we grow delicious and nutritious food for ourselves, but we also grow food and provide habitat for the local wildlife. The garden is not just for us! Last year, our garden was officially certified as both a wildlife habitat and monarch butterfly waystation. Playing in the garden is also recreation, exercise and therapy. Additionally, it is an amazing way to experience new varieties of fruits and veggies you’d never see in a grocery store.
Our little homestead is located in Grover Beach, on the Central Coast of California. The property is just under a fifth of an acre, but we have removed all of our lawn and even part of the driveway to maximise our space for gardening and keeping backyard chickens. We have 16 raised garden beds between three main garden areas in the front and back yard. In those beds, we grow rotating organic and heirloom vegetables, herbs and companion flowers year-round. We also have more “wild” spaces around the raised beds where we grow various fruit frees, edible shrubs, and of course, plenty of pollinator-friendly perennials and annuals. Some of our favourites include the passionfruit vines, pineapple guava, avocado, loquat, meyer lemon, persimmon, lime, apple, kumquat and several fig trees.
Because we’re fortunate enough to be able to garden year-round, we must take extra care to tend to our soil. Our best practices for soil health include crop rotation, a lot of homemade compost, worm castings, watering with aerated worm compost tea, growing cover crops like fava beans and clover, and adding worms to the soil. Yep, we love worms! We also follow a no-till philosophy.
In regards to “pests”, we pretty much leave them alone, as long as they’re not doing serious damage. We believe an organic garden is an ecosystem of its own. It isn’t meant to be a pristine and aseptic space. If the ecosystem is happy, a lot of the pests are kept in check naturally, like with beneficial insects or wild birds around. When we do need to intervene, we use manual/physical intervention or organic means only. For example, one of the biggest challenges we have on our property is the gophers. They’ll destroy everything if we let them! To tackle this, we have had to line the bottoms of all our raised beds with hardware cloth, and plant all our fruit frees or edible shrubs in large homemade hardware cloth baskets.
The biggest rewards from gardening and farming are meals that are made from 100% homegrown ingredients and the most rewarding part for me is inspiring other humans to grow food! I feel very blessed to be a part of an amazing online gardening/homesteading community on Instagram, who are in all stages and levels of involvement and knowledge. We all share, help and encourage each other to grow new things, celebrate our successes or laugh over our mishaps. It is really something special, and extremely rewarding to know that I am doing my part to help teach and inspire others to get out there – to get dirty, grow some food, play with butterflies, look at flowers a little differently, put raised beds in the middle of their front yard, try fermenting something, or whatever the impression is that sticks! The gardening and local food movement is booming! It’s awesome to be a part of it.”