Edible Gardens – Today’s Dirt, Tomorrow’s Pantry

It seems like you cant go anywhere these days without seeing a long line of restaurants extolling their wonderful farm-to-table menus. The idea of eating fresh, locally grown food has a great deal of appeal. The food seems tastier, the nutrients may be better, you often get the comfort of knowing your meats and eggs were farmed ethically, and as an added bonus, youre helping local farmers stay in business. But farm-to-table restaurants can get expensive and may not be convenient to your location.

What can you do when you want the multiple benefits of eating locally grown food without the cost and travel? Go as local as one can go, and consider the benefits of building your own edible garden.

Edible gardens are certainly nothing new. There was a time in our early history that growing your own food and even raising your own chickens was considered a familys patriotic duty! During the Great Depression, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had a massive educational campaign to teach and encourage people to grow their own food, making better use of backyards and vacant lots. A community-based garden developed in partnership with area schools, churches or city governments can be a great idea if land is very limited, but converting some of your own land to food production may give you the best opportunity to significantly improve your familys diet, reduce food costs, and even help with eventual resale of your property.

The very first step in planning your garden is to check into any local laws or neighborhood restrictions on what you can do with your land. Most neighborhoods will allow gardens in the backyard but may severely restrict what you can do with your front yard, but not all neighborhoods are alike. And even if your HOA allows certain things, local laws may prevent them. For example, in some cities its illegal to gather rain in a rain barrel even if the water will be used to water plants on your own property, or you may be allowed to keep chickens but not a rooster. If you find that your HOA or local laws wont allow what you had envisioned, dont give up immediately. Consider some alternatives that might be allowed, or bring the issue up at the next neighborhood association or city hall meeting. It might be easier than you think to change existing rules.

Once you have a good grasp on what you can and can not do, start doing some research on what types of plants or livestock might be best suited for your specific agricultural zone. The USDA has several good websites to help, or you may get some very good advice from your local nursery. Draw a map of what you want to put and where, taking into account for each area the amount of sun during the day, what sort of drainage issues you might encounter, the proximity to your water faucet for easy watering, and soil quality. It may also help to make several maps, particularly […]

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